Sunday, September 30, 2007

Robert D. Cook— Robert D. Cook Properties/Houston Association of Realtors® 2007 Chairman

Photography by: J. Heiliger Photography

A Free-Wheeling Experience with the H.A.R. Chairman of the Board
By Woodie Stephenson

The Houston Association of Realtor’s 2007 Chairman of the Board, Robert D. Cook, is a man of experience. The Houston real-estate leader has served as Broker for his own property company and risen through the ranks to the highest volunteer position in the Houston Association of Realtors®. A man of insight and experience, Rob has always been one to emphasize the importance of the experience, taking in the details and enjoying each opportunity life gives you. Whether he is driving through the countryside feeling the wind cut against his face as the leaves rustle underneath the wheels of his motorcycle or attending important meetings to benefit Houston’s Realtors and consumers, Rob takes in the experiences life provides him.

Rob, the son of a career Navy father, was born in Monroe, Louisiana but moved with his family to Hayward, California in the East Bay Area where he experienced his first childhood memories. Rob remembers his childhood being an exciting time full of moves across California and Guam.

“I’ve moved no less than 50 times in my life,” Rob recalls, who is more than happy to have called Houston home for over 25 years.

After his father’s retirement from the Navy, the Cook family returned to their Louisiana hometown where Rob finished his final year of high school and enrolled in North-East Louisiana University. Upon his completion of college, Rob was awarded a degree in Art Advertising and promptly went to work for a major retailer in their management program. After moves to San Angelo, and Austin, Rob landed in Houston where he was influenced by a close friend’s father to pursue a real estate license.

Rob began his new career working in leasing management for a small shopping-center developer. He was soon coaxed over to Johnson Randolph Mortgage where he set up a small, commercial-management company setting up loans and utilizing his experience in leasing and management. Finding himself very interested in home building, Rob entered into a partnership with Belcourt Homes only to buy out his partner and find success developing the still desolate areas of Sweetwater, Hall Lake, and Richmond until the 80s recession hit the market hard.

“As we used to say back then,” Rob recalls, “I didn’t quit the business, the business quit me as it did a lot of people.”

Adapting to the changing market, Rob began listing properties for the FDIC in the residential-foreclosure business selling individual homes as well as entire subdivisions and tracts of land. Once the market began to correct itself in the late 80s, Rob felt he had the necessary experience to make the formal transition from working in commercial to residential real estate.

After a two-year stint as at Beth Wolff & Associates Rob took his most ambitious challenge at the time, starting his own independent real estate firm, the still thriving Robert Cook Properties. It was around this time that Rob became directly involved with the formation of Houston’s HIREBA (Houston Independent Real Estate Broker Association.) HIREBA offered a forum and voice for Houston’s many independent firms to look after their best interests and serve the community. Serving as President for many years, Rob focused on bolstering his background and education with a number of designations including his CRS, ABR, GRI, and CSP.

“I felt that attaining designations would not only give me credibility,” Rob says, “but a great background and education, which is necessary to truly be a leader in any field.”

Rob soon became interested and involved as a volunteer in the Houston Association of Realtors (HAR) as they were restructuring their governance. Polarized around issues that were recreating HAR’s policies in favor of firms of all sizes, Rob liked what he saw and became involved in virtually every facet of HAR serving on several committees and advisory groups. His passion and involvement in HAR landed Rob important roles that eventually led to his election as Chairman of the Board for 2007, a great achievement. Rob also serves as Regional Vice-President for TAR and a Director for NAR. Rob believes that HAR’s willingness to adapt to technology and the real estate market’s evolution has allowed the association to become an indispensable resource to today’s market.

“There are 26,000 Realtors® in the Houston area,” Rob shares, “We offer our members amazing resources and HAR has become a vital and integral part of the day-to-day operations of their businesses.” We have departments for Accounting, Association Events, Communication, Education, Governmental and Political Affairs, Graphics, Member Services, MLS and Web Development all with amazing staff.

HAR’s website, the association’s most developed resource, went online in 1997 with the aid of pioneers like George Stephens, Bill Jones, Robin Mueck and Bob Hale. Since then, the site has generated over one-billion hits and over 920,000 unique users during March of this year, which is the 10th anniversary of the public website. Ranked among the top 25 in the nation, and by far the most trafficked site in Houston, features home listings in 7 different languages and offers today’s agent and consumer an unparalleled tool.

“The website is by far our association’s crown jewel,” Rob says, “It is so powerful it has become a public utility—there are no advertisements and to use our site consumers and Realtors don’t even need to register or enter their email information.”

HAR, which many agents consider the backbone of Houston’s real estate community, is much more than just a website. The association’s offices on the Southwest Freeway, Montgomery County, Ft. Bend County and Bay Area host an incredible staff that works hard to serve Realtors as well as the public. The association’s huge network of support staff and volunteers protect agents, serve as a liaison to the public, affect public policy, teach classes, and maintain the immense technology systems hosted at the office.

Rob’s associates at HAR could not be more proud of the accomplishments he has managed during his tenure as chairman. Bob Hale, President and CEO of HAR, believes Rob has accomplished feats that will improve the association for years to come.

“Rob began his year with a focus on enhancing the Realtor experience for both our 26,000 members and their clients,” says Hale, “Rob has been tremendously influential in making members of HAR better feel they are truly part of a valuable community. He has also been extremely accessible, as he regularly attends and speaks at area networking meetings, writes his chairman’s column for Houston Realtor magazine, and instituted a new, first-time feature Ask Rob, which answers member questions. As an independent broker, he prides himself on being representative of all; small, medium and large. HAR will be much better off for years to come as a result of his thoughtful leadership."

When Rob’s not busy serving as Chairman of the Board or managing his own real estate firm, the thrill-seeking daredevil enjoys skydiving and riding his five motorcycles. The Harley-enthusiast recently completed a 9-state-ride in the New England area with Marketlink-associate Jim Ross. The pair ended up in Washington D.C. for the past year’s legislative session.

“I’ve had motorcycles since I was 16-years-old—15 of them—” Rob says, “so I’m not middle-age crazy, I’ve always been crazy. I’m partial to Harleys but anything with a motor and two wheels works for me.”

The Houston Association of Realtors invests their time educating today’s consumer and Realtor. If HAR wants to send one message to the public, it is that consumers should use a Realtor. The association’s advertising and public service stress the importance of using a professional who has pledged to adhere to the Realtor’s strict code of ethics. The message Rob most wants to get across to the real estate community is one of openness and participation.

“We have always been about inclusion,” Rob says of his organization, “Many people become disenfranchised with associations, but here, at HAR, we encourage, invite, and cajole new agents to take a look at our association in order to get a greater understanding of what it is we do.”

Rob’s main goal during his tenure of volunteering with HAR has been to increase the transparency of the association by breaking down the barriers that keep people from becoming involved. HAR meeting are now open to any member who wishes to attend.

“There is nothing that goes on in the executive committee or directorship that isn’t open,” Rob says, “We want everyone to feel like they are a partner in the organization and that they are a part of the overall experience.”

Chairman – Elect Michael Levitin is impressed with Rob’s ability to bring the various Houston real-estate communities together through the HAR forum.

“Rob has a background from a small brokerage,” Levitin says, “and he has made sure that everyone feels welcome being involved in HAR. He has invited Galvestonians, and the Hispanic, African-American, and Asian real-estate communities to become more involved. His message has been one of inclusion, transparency, and encouraging diversity. As the future Chairman of the Board, I plan on following his example.”

HAR, which has always been on the leading edge of trends, has taken notice of important issues during Rob’s period of influence. Rob, who says he doesn’t want to ignore changing trends in the industry, has worked with HAR staff and members to design a Realtor rating system to soon become a facet of the association’s website. Although Rob has been able to accomplish much during his term, he commends the fine leadership at HAR for setting up the groundwork.

“Bob Hale, our CEO, was ranked recently among the Top-25 most influential people nationally in real estate,” Rob says, “Our association has taken the direction it has because of his vision and under his leadership we will continue to grow and prosper.”

Although Rob’s stint as chairman will expire at year’s end, he plans to continue his involvement in the association’s boards and committees; however, Rob hasn’t forgotten that he has his own buyers and sellers to get back to at his property company. Most of all, for the humble chairman, life is all about the experience.

“The further I go up the ranks the humbler I get because each time I get a step higher, I stop and ask myself, ‘Wow, how did I get here?’” Rob jokes, “Recently, I came up with a slogan on experience to fit the theme of one of my speeches. It goes: ‘Ride the experience, and experience the ride.’ I tried to sell the slogan to Harley Motorcycles, but they didn’t want it. I don’t know what they were thinking.”

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The 2007 H.A.R. EXPO…Be There! "Jungle Adventure"

It’s October and that means it’s time for our terrific H.A.R. Expo! Actually, this year the Expo is scheduled for Thursday, October 11th from 4pm-8pm at the Reliant Center but, our October issue is always the “Expo Issue, so here we are.

As is our tradition at REAL ESTATE EXECUTIVE Magazine, we break from our format of honoring a top producer (nominated by the Publishers Advisory Board) and dedicate our front cover and cover story to our current H.A.R. Chairperson. Following that tradition, we are proud to shine the spotlight on Rob Cook, our 2007 H.A.R. Chair and Broker/Owner of Robert D. Cook Properties. Rob is also a member of the Publishers Advisory Board.

The Texas Association of Realtors® Convention & EXPO was just a few weeks ago (September 7-10) in Galveston and I can not think of a better location for that event. Galveston is so much more than a beach. With the island only a short 45 minute to an hour drive, Barbara and I often drive down there for dinner and a walk on The Strand.

Real Estate Executive was attendance at the show and dressed in matching Aloha shirts and carried out the “Island theme” at the booth with our decorations and door prizes (picture show above).

I would be remiss if I did not some of the many Galveston merchants who made our weekend in Galveston even more special. First, Barbara and I want to thank Mr. Jeff Taylor and Ms. Annabelle Dupont of the Flagship Hotel and their staff, could not do enough to insure that our stay perfect! Bill Garcia with Sunset Florists let us shrink wrap the “Island Treasure Chest” door prize that Barbara created and when I noticed that I had a flat tire after we arrived there (and I was there in a suit) changed my tire for me while Barbara worked on the door prize. What a great guy and a great florist! One of our favorite restaurants is Rudy & Pacos. What a first class place with incredible food and first class service! Owner Francisco Vargas always outdoes himself taking care of his guests! Barbara has been a huge fan of the restaurant and Francisco’s for a long time. Don’t miss having lunch or dinner with Francisco next time you are on the island.

Back to the magazine, we have several of the “Best of the Best” of Houston’s real estate service providers that we are spotlighting in this issue.

In our “Builder of the Month”, we are very pleased to welcome back Gateway Homes, LTD. We first featured Gateway in our March 2005 issue and are very pleased to have the opportunity to update their story this month.

In the first of our two “Company Profiles”, we feature Re/Fund Realty & Mortgage Services. Re/Fund Realty and Mortgage, offers a unique bundled-services approach that meets homebuyers’, Realtors’, and loan officers’ demands for integrity and value.

In our second “Company Profile”, we are proud to feature our friends and North American Title North American Title Company (“NATC”) is one of the largest real estate settlement services organizations in the United States handling both residential and commercial transactions and has locations from coast-to-coast in 15 of the fastest growing states. Give them a call and let them handle your next transaction! You will be glad that you did!

Also in this issue are two special inserts. Federal Schedulers/AccuShow are quickly becoming the “yardstick” by which all other scheduling companies should be judged and our friends and Allied Home Warranty. Allied is home based here in Texas and have built quite a reputation for excellence in service in a very short period of time.

If you are heading to the HAR Expo on October 11th, please stop by the REE booth (#120) to say “Aloha!”. My staff and I will all be there!

As always, good reading, good sales!


Steve Levine

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Friday, September 28, 2007

9/25 - "Movers and Shakers" - REE Publisher Steve Levine Goes on TV

The "Movers and Shakers" TV segment airs on the "Houston Manufacturers" show on Phonoscope TV every Tuesday at 10am on-line and live downtown Houston on Business Channel 11. Steve was invited by Kevin Price, the show host, to appear with his business partner Andy Valadez of Marketing Dynamics and Michael Gray of Exit Realty Complete. Andy and Steve recently formed a joint venture Steve Levine Real Estate Media, LLC and have garnered the attention of Houston media with the access to great guests who offer their expertise for the public at large. The simple model started with this blog, a cover story guest appearance on the "Houston Home Show" radio program with Kevin Price and Mark Jeffrey and then an extension to the "Movers and Shakers" with more in development. Stay tuned. See the segment here: Real Estate

On the set of the "Houston Manufacturers" TV Show

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Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Real Estate Executive magazine and Crew Go on the Air with KNTH 1070AM

Sunday, 9/23 at 3PM Live. Steve Levine, Publisher of Real Estate Executive magazine was invited by Blake Barnett, show host, to bring his guests to the station for a lively discussion about real estate issues. Cover story honoree Vickie Milano of Keller Williams at The Woodlands attened, as did Chris Nooney, Division Vice President, of CTX Mortgage, and a scheduled guest Tim Crockett ov C-C Development, Inc.

Part I: Blake Barnett, Host of "Points on the Board" Introduces Steve Levine

Part II: Blake Interviews Vickie Milano About Selling for the Senior Market and the Qualities of a Good Realtor (Or in Vickie's Case a Great Realtor)

Part III: Caller Answers the Trivia Question - "What was the name of the home in the movie 'Gone with the Wind'".

Part IV: Blake Talks With Chris Nooney About Local and National Mortgage Issues

Part V: Chris Nooney Takes a Caller (call-in voice not heard in studio) and a Discussion of the Exciting World of Real Estate

Part VI: Vickie Talks About The Woodlands Market

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Saturday, September 22, 2007

9/23 - Sunday at 3PM on 1070 AM - Houston Market

Tune in this Sunday to hear Steve Levine, Publisher of Real Estate Executive magazine, Chris Nooney of CTX Mortgage and and Vickie Milano of Keller Williams The Woodlands talk about everything real estate.

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Tuesday, September 18, 2007

9/14 - Tim Sojka Radio Interview on the Houston Home Show

Tim Sojka of Keller Williams goes on the air with Steve Levine, Kevin Price, and Mark Jeffrey, ( the Houston Home Show which airs on radio CNN 650AM at 7am to 8am each Friday morning. Tim was the recent cover story honoree (September).

Part I: Introduction to the show and guest welcome

Part II: Marketing a Home for Clients and On-line Selling

Part III: Steve discusses Tim's Selection and the Magazine Selection Process

Part IV: The Real Estate Market Assesment, Tim's View of the Future

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Sunday, September 16, 2007

Making History! Real Estate Executive Magazine Goes on TV

Left to right: Kevin Price (Houston Media Group), Andy Valadez (Marketing Dynamics), Steve Levine (Real Estate Executive), and Michael Gray (Exit Complete Realty)

Steve jokes with his business partner Andy Valadez about being the "talent". Steve Levine was recently invited to be a part of the "Movers and Shakers" segment hosted by radio, web, and TV personality Kevin Price. The "Movers and Shakers" segment airs on TV and on the web via Phonoscope Business Channel 11 and the Houston Manufacturers (archived on-line). The show broadcasts each Tuesday at 10AM CST (on-line and on cable). Mr. Price also co-hosts a show with Mark Jeffrey of UBuildIt and has Steve appear as a regular guest each second Friday of each month along with a cover honorary. The Houston Home Show (radio program) now airs each Friday on CNN 650AM at 7am. You can hear some of those interviews at this blog (search the directory below under "radio"). We will post the actual TV segment with Steve Levine on-line when it becomes available.

Kevin Price's radio programs "The Houston Business Hour" now air, M-F on CNN 650 AM, from 7am to 8am. Mr. Price is also working on a local network TV deal that will add to his impressive media platforms.

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Real Estate Executive's Sales & Marketing Team Catches “Island Fever” at The 2007 T.A.R. Expo in Galveston

REE Publisher Steve Levine and the magazines sales and marketing team were in full force in Galveston the weekend of September 7th-9th , 2007 for this year’s Texas Association of Realtors Convention and Expo.

Welcoming tradeshow attendees in their matching Aloha shirts were Publisher Steve Levine, Associate Publisher Barbara Davis Levine, Account Executives David Bejar, Rick & Karen Vowell and Marketing & PR Representative Carlen Santa Cruz.

REE’s booth was totally “decked out” in the Island motif and the two door prizes (one for attendees and the other for exhibitors) were Island theme as well. Ms. Kathy Rue of Heritage Texas won the “Island Spa Package” and Darren Williams of Two Men and A Truck International won the “Island Treasure Chest”

Dropping by REE’s booth and posing for the REE camera were Rob Cook/Robert D. Cook Properties & REE Advisory Board Member, Rita Santamaria/Champions School of Real Estate & REE Advisory Board Member, Deidra Odom & Mindy Yantz of North American Title & REE Clients (see North American Title’s feature article in this issue), Gene Feigelson of RE/MAX Galleria, Loyce Ellis/First American Home Warranty and Realm Real Estate Professional’s Neil, Anita, Eric & Lisa Reed.

If you missed out on REE’s “Island Hospitality”, come visit us at booth 120 at the HAR Expo on October 11th at the Reliant Center.

We’ll see you there!


Diedra Odom & Mindy Yantz were on hand at the show and found the time to visit us at the booth

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