SPOTLIGHT ON: Tony Ruperto
Mary Prenon | August 9, 2021
Acting to Ensure Equity for All
It may be fitting that Tony Ruperto was selected to co-chair HGAR’s new Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee as he himself experienced some age discrimination when he first started in the industry at 21. Now seven years in the business, this enthusiastic young sales agent at J. Philip Real Estate in Briarcliff Manor has been steadily growing his residential real estate business and finding success.
Ruperto started his real estate career right after graduating from SUNY Oneonta. “It was very difficult the first couple of years,” he recalled. “A lot of people didn’t want to work with me because they thought I was too young.”
Starting out with a major in chemical engineering, Ruperto later switched to theater and now holds a B.S. in Theater Arts. “I was involved with high school theater and I just thrived in the theater community at college,” he said. “In fact, the first show I auditioned for in my freshman year, I ended up getting the lead role! It was the ‘Drowsy Chaperone’ and that moment was an eye-opener for me.”
However, after graduation, Ruperto realized he needed to rely on something more than theater to earn a living. “I needed money and I started to look around for some other options,” he said. “So, I thought about real estate and the fact that hours are flexible and it gives me the opportunity to interact with other people and be my own boss.” Soon afterward, he joined J. Philip Real Estate.
Recalling his first year, Ruperto admits it was “terrible,” with only three to five deals. “All my friends were 21 and they weren’t buying houses. I really didn’t make a lot of money.”
After giving it a shot for a few years, Ruperto decided to move to Philadelphia for a year where he worked with a commercial real estate broker. After that, he made a move across the Atlantic to Italy, where he taught English as a second language. Fluent in Italian, Ruperto felt comfortable communicating in a foreign country. “I guess I had my ‘quarter-life crisis,” he joked. “I just picked up and got on a plane.”
Ruperto stayed with family and at Air BnBs, traveling through Florence, Rome, Bologna, and Verona. “My father was born in Italy, so I did have some relatives there,” he noted. Eventually, he decided to return to the U.S., and now lives in Beacon with his partner, Brian. “If I didn’t come home, we would have never met, so I’m glad I did.”
Back working with J. Philip, Ruperto joined a team to gain more “hands-on” experience. He credits fellow Realtor Tom Ricapito with mentoring him. “I learned so much from someone who has been in the business for a long time,” he added. “I was able to absorb just about everything about real estate.”
When he was ready to go on his own, Ruperto found that he had much more confidence and more clients were ready to work with him. “I think all of my experiences, including traveling to Italy and teaching there really helped me to be able to better relate to people,” he said.
Ruperto has also become very involved with the association and was among the first graduates of HGAR’s new Leadership Accelerator Program. “It was a huge help to me and I don’t know if I’d be writing my blog now without it,” he said in a recent “Shout Out” about the program.
In fact, it was former HGAR President and major LAP developer Gail Fattizzi who first reached out to Ruperto to serve on a task force to create the association’s new Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) Committee. Now in its first year of operation, the committee comprises 20 people, with Ruperto and Christina Stevens of Laujel Realty Corp. in the Bronx as its co-chairs.
Ruperto explains that the DEI Committee varies from HGAR’s Fair Housing Committee in that it goes further than working to ensuring fairness for protected classes, including race, color, national origin, religion, sex, disability and familial status. “We’re looking at various issues, including implicit bias and laying the groundwork on how we can improve the system,” he said. “Unfortunately, bias still exists on all levels. On the surface, it can seem like everyone is treated equally, but that’s not always the case.”
When he’s not selling or listing homes, Ruperto can be found in the kitchen cooking and baking. He became a vegetarian five years ago, so he’s always trying out new recipes. He also loves hiking and traveling. As for the theater, Ruperto admits he hasn’t done any shows since college. “I would like to pursue that again some time, but I’m really loving what I’m doing right now,” he said.