Many real estate professionals around the country are in mourning today after Joseph Ferrara, a trailblazer for blogging and social media in the industry, died from a malignant brain tumor. He was 55.
Ferrara, known to his friends as "Joe," passed away last night in a Pennsylvania hospice with his wife, Sandra, at his side. He had been diagnosed with brain cancer in mid-March and had been fighting the disease through chemotherapy and radiation treatments, according to Scott Forcino, Ferrara’s friend and business partner at Real Estate Advocates Inc., a lawyer-based brokerage company they founded last year.
Ferrara was also the publisher of the Sellsius real estate marketing and technology blog, an Inman News technology columnist, a real estate broker and attorney, and founder of TheClozing.com, which aggregates real estate news from mainstream media and social media.
Ferrara and his wife both grew up in Staten Island, N.Y. He graduated from Monsignor Farrell High School in Staten Island in 1973 and earned a degree in accounting and financial management at Pace University in 1978.
Shortly thereafter, he received a law degree at the University of Houston. He worked as a real estate and intellectual law attorney and was a partner at Posner & Ferrara for more than 22 years, until December 2005. He launched Sellsius in January 2006.
Ferrara is survived by his wife of 30 years, Sandra, and his son, Joseph Ferrara Jr. A wake will be held for him on Friday, Aug. 6, from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. at Fitzgerald Sommer Funeral Home: 17 South Delaware Ave., Yardley, Pa. 10967. The burial ceremony will take place at 10 a.m. Saturday at St. Ann Catholic Church in Bristol, Pa.
Jay Thompson, a Phoenix real estate blogger and a friend of Ferrara’s, began a fundraising campaign for Ferrara’s medical expenses a couple of months ago.
"Joe Ferrara was one of the most gifted men I’ve ever known. Not just intellectually, but morally as well. He was truly a world-class human being with a heart second to none. The world is an emptier place without him — but a better place because of him. I miss him already," Thompson said.
The fundraising campaign collected $6,875; donations are still being accepted at joe-ferrara.com. In a statement relayed by Forcino, Mrs. Ferrara thanked well-wishers and donors to the fund.
"Thanks for all the outpouring of concern and feelings. The money raised and contributed by the members of the real estate world actually paid for Joe’s nursing. It went for nothing else and it was basically in the appropriate amount that he needed."
Some friends of Ferrara remembered him on a blogtalkradio session this morning. Many brought up his pioneering 2007 Blog Tour USA, when Ferrara and his then-business partner Rudy Bachraty drove across the country meeting with real estate bloggers. Ferrara was instrumental in bringing bloggers together in person for the first time, speakers said.
"When Joe and Rudy took that coast-to-coast tour in 2007 they helped us all get to know each other. Joe was a natural leader," fellow Inman News columnist Teresa Boardman told Inman News.
"I knew Joe well. He was smart and had a wicked sense of humor. He had a passion for truth, transparency and justice, and always helped the underdog. He was always there for advice, and I loved arguing with him, too," she added.
While a formidable opponent in a debate, he was kind-hearted and loved people, his friends and colleagues told blogtalk listeners.
"He always made people feel like they were the most important person in the world no matter who they are," Boardman said.
Kris Berg, also a fellow Inman News columnist, met Ferrara online first through their respective blogs, around 2006.
"Joe was one of the finest people I have ever been privileged to know and call a friend. He was unconditionally supportive and quick to give positive feedback and encouragement, yet just as quick to call me to the carpet when he felt my tone or message was straying. To all of us in the online real estate community, he was giving of his time, of his intellect and of himself," Berg said.
"A breath of fresh air in our uber-competitive industry, he did not have an arrogant or self-righteous bone in his body but only wanted to inspire us all to be better and do better. And he did. His honesty, wit, passion and compassion will be missed."
Amy Chorew, a real estate technology strategy trainer, met Ferrara at a Real Estate Connect conference in New York three years ago and, as many people who met him said, had an instant connection.
"We have sat on panels together, and best of all, Joe and I had discussions offline on issues that I was addressing in my classes about the ethical and moral content of being ‘in the space.’ A lawyer who gave me free advice. A beautiful soul. I am crying today," Chorew said.
Dozens of industry colleagues also remembered him on Twitter and Facebook, sharing memories and photos.
"Joe, my law partner, was like a brother to me. This tiny planet of ours will be a much poorer place without his incredible sense of humor, endless kindness, and eclectic creativity. Taken by cancer much too young," wrote Gerald Posner on the Friends of Joe Ferrara Facebook page.
"Never would have thought I could feel so much for someone I never met. Condolences to his family and friends," said Daniel Hunter, a Florida Realtor.
"(Rest in peace) Joe – thank you for all you have done for us," said Tom Ferry, a real estate coach.
"I will remember Joe Ferrara with love and gratitude for his legacy to the real estate industry. Heartfelt condolences to his family," tweeted Realtor and blogger Frances Flynn Thorsen.
"Joe will be sorely missed. Long live the king!" said Laurie Manny, a California Realtor.
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