“Residential real estate has always been female friendly,” explains Diane Ramirez, president of Halstead Property LLC since 1999.
As head of 400 agents in seven offices throughout Manhattan and Brooklyn, Ramirez is a prime example of a woman who’s found success in the residential real estate business. She began her real estate career in 1973 in Palm Beach, Fla., where she continues to maintain her license, and in 1975, she returned to her hometown of New York with her husband and two children. She obtained her New York real estate license and worked at a competing firm until joining forces with Clark Halstead, the founder of Halstead Property.
Ramirez worked as a selling broker with Halstead Property from the time it was founded in 1984 until 1987. She quickly raced to the top 5 percent of the firm’s brokers during those years, winning various sales and listings awards, as well as the Real Estate Board of New York’s “Deal of the Year” award in 1988.
Though women today are still not as prevalent as men in the chief executive roles at many major real estate brokerage companies, Ramirez recalls an industry full of women even in the 1970s.
“Back in the 1970s, when I began in New York, many of the brokers were women who had husbands on the commercial side,” she said. “There wasn’t that much product because it was before the co-op conversion period of the 1980s. It was really the white-gloved buildings you had to sell. It was a very different, much smaller environment. But the majority of the agents were women.”
In 1987, Ramirez moved up to the management role of director of sales for Halstead. Six years later she was promoted to executive director of sales, and was named president in 1999. She was a partner and board member until the firm was acquired by Terra Holdings in April 2001.
Ramirez has worked in two historically hot, yet very different real estate markets: Florida and New York City. And over the years she’s witnessed a vastly changing New York market.
“Florida is very much like a typical suburban marketplace; whereas New York used to be just a weekday marketplace,” she said. “It has only been in the last decade that the open house concept came about. Most buildings before that time wouldn’t allow you to show apartments on the weekend. In the ’90s, it became a buyer’s market and sellers wanted to be able to show an apartment whenever the buyer was interested in looking.”
Brokerage firms also were a lot different when Ramirez’ career began. Super-sized firms didn’t really exist before Elliman, Corcoran and Halstead came about, she said. “A large firm back then had a couple of hundred agents. Now, large is really large.”
Though Ramirez’ career began in Florida, it’s easy to see that her energy and legacy today reside in New York. In addition to heading up a large brokerage firm, Ramirez is an active member of the Real Estate Board of New York, where she serves on the board of governors and as co-chair on the board of directors of the residential division. She also serves on the “Deal of the Year” committee and its investment advisory sub-committee.
Like many New Yorkers, Ramirez remembers the tragedies of Sept. 11, 2001, like a “death in the family.” The real estate market was at a standstill, she recalled, but the can-do attitude of New Yorkers became evident as the market began to move forward again.
“Lower Manhattan was slower to return due to many reasons — lack of access and just a normal concern about living near the site of the World Trade Center,” she said. “The rest of the city had vibrancy and a feeling of ‘Let’s do whatever we can’ to be part of this great city. Within a year, the downtown market had caught up. I’ve always said New York had a heart; now we have a soul as well.”
Some other commitments that keep Ramirez busy include serving as voting member of the residential brokerage division, Interfirm Forum, which she co-chaired from 1996-98. She is currently a committee member on admissions and has served on the ethics committee and education committee (co-chair from 1994-1996). She is a member of the Real Estate Brokerage Managers Council – the professional organization of business management, which serves real estate brokerage owners and managers, and in 1996 earned the industry-recognized CRB designation.
And even with all of her professional real estate involvement, Ramirez finds time to work with fundraising organizations such as the American Cancer Society’s efforts for the creation of the new Hope Lodge in Manhattan. She also works as an organizer for the “Making Strides Against Breast Cancer Walk,” and she and her husband, Sam Ramirez, are long-standing supporters of the Valerie Fund in New Jersey.
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