SPOTLIGHT ON: Ron Garafalo - Downsizing Brings Opportunities
Mary Prenon | October 2016
Being downsized from a corporate position with a large company does have its advantages sometimes. Just ask Ron Garafalo, an associate broker with John J. Lease Realtors in Middletown, who is celebrating his 16th year as a Realtor.
“It was back in 2000 when Nestle Foods decided to reduce its workforce,” said Garafalo. “I was one of 1,600 people who had a job one day and then didn’t the next day!”
Garafalo grew up around Hackensack, NJ and attended Rutgers University, where he majored in business and economics. He had worked in a corporate environment for many years before landing at Nestle Foods in Purchase. His sales management positions for the food giant often sent him traveling throughout the country. “Real estate was something I was always interested in and when I was downsized, I thought it would be the perfect time to get into a different type of a sales career,” he recalled.
He quickly earned his real estate license and took advantage of the opportunity to spend more time with his two young children. “Real estate gave me the ability to do things like little league coaching, becoming a Boy Scout leader, and much more,” he said.
An Orange County native, he began working as an agent with Coldwell Banker in Middletown and within a few years he was managing the office. “It was the biggest office in the county at the time, and I got involved with doing a lot of training for the company.”
Around the same time, Garafalo became a director with the former Orange County Association of Realtors (OCAR) and also earned his New York State teaching license.
A few years later, he left Coldwell Banker to start his own real estate agency—Real Estate United in Middletown. He and his business partners grew it to be one of the largest offices in Orange County, with more than 50 agents. However, after five years, the partners decided to go their separate ways and Garafalo joined John J. Lease Realtors in Middletown.
He was there for a year before taking a management position with BHG Rand Realty in Goshen. “I had an opportunity to use my corporate background and I wanted to get back to that type of structure,” he said.
Garafalo spent the next four years there, and also became part of the executive board, and then president of the former OCAR. In 2011 and 2012, he played an active role in OCAR’s merger with the former Rockland County Board of Realtors and the former Westchester/Putnam Association of Realtors that together formed the Hudson Gateway Association of Realtors.
“I enjoyed that a lot—it was very exciting and a big undertaking,” he remembered. “I liked working with everyone and always saw it as a very positive thing for all involved. There is strength in numbers and now we’re all bigger and stronger than ever.”
Just about a month ago, Garafalo rejoined John J. Lease Realtors when a management position opened at the Middletown office. “I’ve known John for years, I respect him and I like working with him. With this position, I also have much more ability to have an effect on how the company operates,” he explained.
He continues to teach classes for HGAR at its Goshen location. Courses include Ethics, Fair Housing and Licensing. “I think having a corporate background is important for real estate,” he said. “We’re dealing with people who are making the biggest investment of their lives and we need to always act in an ethical and professional manner.”
Garafalo sits on the HGAR Board of Directors and will be a NYSAR Director next year. In his spare time, he enjoys playing golf with his son Nick, now 21. “He always beats me, but I still like to play,” he admitted. His daughter, Meagan, is now 26. Garafalo also ran his first half marathon in Goshen recently.
One of his most vivid memories from selling real estate was working with a young couple from New York City who had come to see a house in the suburbs. The family dog, a Doberman pincher, was supposed to be caged during the showing. Garafalo walked into the house with the couple and did not see the dog anywhere. Suddenly, the canine spied them from down the hallway and chased all three of them out of the house! “We just about made it out of there,” recalled Garafalo. “As for the couple, they decided to stay in the city. I guess they had enough of the burbs!”
Looking back, Garafalo says he doesn’t miss all those years in corporate America. “Real estate is a great career. I’ve worked with hundreds of agents over the years and the ones who are the most successful are the ones who get the right training and support. There’s a lot of opportunities for those who want to work hard,” he said.
As to what he likes best about real estate, Garafalo points to training new agents. “Some of them become the top producers in the area and helping them to grow their business and career is very rewarding,” he said.