SPOTLIGHT ON: 2016 Realtor of the Year Gary Leogrande
Mary Prenon | November 2016
After spending more than 30 years in real estate, Gary Leogrande, broker for Keller Williams New York Realty in White Plains, was still quite surprised to be named the 2016 HGAR “Realtor of the Year” at Member Appreciation Day last month.
“Sometimes over the years, I’d be sitting in the audience and thinking, ‘well maybe it’ll be me this year,’ but I didn’t know until halfway through the description this time that it actually could be me,” he admitted. “I was so very surprised and excited.”
Leogrande has been actively involved in the Association, serving on more than 20 different committees throughout the years. Some of those include Professional Standards, Rules, Broker/Owner/Manager, Long Range Planning, Finance, Public Records, Technology, as well as the Board of Directors for both the Association and the MLS. In fact, he served as President of the MLS for three years.
Leogrande grew up in White Plains and attended the University of Denver for a couple of years before coming back to his roots. After earning a Bachelor of Fine Arts from the School of Visual Arts in Manhattan, he began his career in advertising, working as a photographer.
However, it was his next career as a carpenter that got Leogrande interested in selling homes instead of building them. Leogrande and a business partner ran a carpentry business for 10 years, working on art galleries and home renovations. “I remember doing a major renovation of a large Victorian in Westport, CT and when we were finished, the owner talked about selling it,” he recalled. “That got me thinking about real estate and how interesting it could be. While I enjoyed working hands-on, working with people seemed to be a more long-lasting career for me.”
He eventually attended real estate school in the evenings, earning his license in 1986, and then quitting the carpentry business “cold turkey.” I made very little money the first year,” he quipped. “At first, the market was hot, but then it plummeted. I had to tough it out and go through some savings.”
Working with Weichert Realtors in White Plains, Leogrande became an associate broker during his second year in the business. In 1990, he joined Nelson-Vrooman Associates in White Plains, where he stayed for 15 years. “It was a small office—very comfortable and very ethical,” he said. “It was the type of place where you could leave a $100 bill on the desk and it would still be there six months later.”
It was 2005 when he first heard about Keller Williams. Later that year, he launched the first Keller Williams location in the Westchester County. “It was a new and exciting opportunity and I’m still here today, 11 years later,” he said.
Today, Leogrande’ s office has 150 agents working with homebuyers and sellers from all over Westchester County. “I think one of the biggest changes I’ve seen from when I first started is the level of complexity for each deal,” he said. “When I started selling houses, we didn’t necessarily have to worry about things like C/Os, but now Realtors have to be much more aware of this and other things like title and mortgage issues. Agents have to work much closer with homeowners and all the parties involved.”
Leogrande also pointed out that while the Internet is a great source of referrals, listing information on some websites is not always factual. “It can be off on all kinds of things from taxes to square footage, “he added. “I don’t think the Internet is ever going to knock us out of the transaction.”
Always an advocate for homeowners and real estate professionals, Leogrande got involved with the Association about 20 years ago when it was the former Westchester County Board of Realtors. He began teaching orientation classes, and then became a certified instructor for subjects like Ethics, Fair Housing, Buyer Representation and more.
Later, he became an Association director and then switched to the MLS Board, serving as its president in 2010, 2011 and 2012.
“This business is always exciting—never boring,” he said. “It’s quite similar to being in art school because you constantly have to see things in a different way and be very creative when you’re trying to get things accomplished.”
In addition to his Association activities, Leogrande is very involved with the KW Cares non-profit organization that provides donations to any Keller Williams agents who are in need. “This could be anything from helping someone with hospital expenses to weather damages to any other emergencies.”
In his free time, Leogrande enjoys hiking, skiing and going to concerts. “I like going to small venues and seeing new artists as they begin to grow over time,” he said. “It’s much like what I do every day—teaching and nurturing new agents to help them become successful. There’s so much satisfaction in that.”