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Howard Hanna Agent Makes History as First Black President of Pennsylvania Realtors Association

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette printed the article below about Howard Hanna agent Preston Moore. We are honored to have him as a part of the Howard Hanna family. Congratulations!

Breaking barriers

Pittsburgh man makes history as first Black president of Pennsylvania Realtors Association

Early in his career as a real estate agent, Preston Moore landed many of his clients by simply being in the office.

“People would come in, and if you were sitting there, that’s your client,” he said. “Or, if they called in, that’s your client.”

In the more than two decades since Mr. Moore began working in Howard Hanna Real Estate’s Hampton office, customer activity has shifted mostly online.

But he’s still in the office most days.

And those years of dedication have paid off: the Homewood native made history last month when he became the first Black president of the 100-year-old Pennsylvania Association of Realtors (PAR).

Annie Hanna Cestra, executive vice president and chief operating officer of Hanna Holdings Inc., led the installation ceremony that members held for Mr. Moore at the Hilton Harrisburg on Jan. 29.

“Preston Moore’s appointment as the first Black president of the Pennsylvania Association of Realtors is a testament to both his outstanding leadership and commitment to excellence,” Ms. Cestra said. “Preston’s dedication to fostering a more inclusive community makes us immensely proud to have him in the Howard Hanna family.”

‘Why not me?’

Mr. Moore and his wife, Marlaine, live in Indiana Township in the Fox Chapel School District. He earned his real estate license in 2002 and has worked in Howard Hanna’s Hampton office for his entire 22-year career in real estate.

As president of the state organization, he’ll spend a lot more time on the road visiting the 37 local associations, giving speeches across the state, providing members with important industry information and representing Pennsylvania Realtors at national events.

While his travel expenses are covered by PAR, the position is unpaid.

Mr. Moore said he aspired to the leadership role out of a sense of duty.

“Someone has to do it,” he said. “Why not me? … It’s an honor to serve PAR as its first Black president. I hope I can serve as an example to other members of color and encourage more diversity in our industry.”

Real estate is a second career for Mr. Moore, who when asked his age will only admit to being in his 70s. He spent 20 years in accounting and banking. He worked at Ernst & Young as an auditor after graduating from Purdue University with a degree in economics and later was employed at Mellon Bank as an analyst.

“I’m a numbers guy. Don’t ask me how to spell words,” he said.

When he decided to walk away from the financial industry, he said, the thinking back then was that anyone leaving banking had only two options — stockbroker or real estate agent.

“And I knew I wasn’t going to be a stockbroker,” he said. “So, it was real estate.”

His next-door neighbor happened to be a vice president at Howard Hanna Real Estate Services. He said his neighbor encouraged him to get a real estate license and then recommended that Hampton would be a better office to set up shop than Fox Chapel.

“Fox Chapel has its own dynamics because of the wealth that’s there,” Mr. Moore said. “Hampton has wealth, but there’s more variables in the equation here. It has worked out well. I’ve liked being in this office. I’ve been here 20 years.

Importance of not giving up

Mr. Moore lists houses and represents buyers wherever his clients are, with recent deals in Canonsburg, Wilkinsburg, Squirrel Hill and as far north as Cranberry.

His highest production years in real estate were in the early 2000s, prior to the Great Recession of 2008, when he was closing between 10 and 12 transactions per year, he said. Then the foreclosure crisis sucked a lot of wind out of Pittsburgh’s housing market, causing lean years for real estate agents here and across the country.

Interest rates began to lower, reviving some real estate sales. However, the industry only became more competitive as agents flooded in. Meanwhile, the inventory of homes for sale kept shrinking, and home shopping traffic shifted online following the pandemic shutdown.

Mr. Moore said his sales have taken a hit coming out of the pandemic, although he started strong with six total transactions in 2020.

West Penn Multi-List data shows Mr. Moore closed four home sale transactions in 2023 for a total of $1.4 million sales volume; two transactions in 2022 for a total $625,000 sales volume; and two transactions in 2021 for $751,000 total sales volume.

According to the Washington, D.C.-based Consumer Federation of America, about half of real estate agents nationwide made zero sales or just one sale in the 12-month period between late 2022 and late 2023, and 70% had five or fewer sales. Low sales are mostly due to a perfect storm of too many licensed real estate agents and too few homes for sale, according to the CFA.

For Mr. Moore, real estate is a passion — but not his primary source of income.

While working in the financial industry, he purchased rental properties that he still owns in Wilkinsburg and the West End. He advises aspiring real estate professionals to also think beyond the industry.

“It would be best to have a backup income before you get started in real estate,” Mr. Moore said. “It’s strictly commission. You only get paid whenever you have a closing.

“But the other thing is not to give up. It might be difficult in the beginning.”

Lessons in leadership

Mr. Moore was the oldest of four boys. He and his wife have four adult children and eight grandchildren.

He grew up in Homewood and said his early childhood memories include watching his father write down the household bills at the dining room table. He said his father was his greatest inspiration for setting high standards.

“I never forgot that,” said the Westinghouse High School graduate.

“And I pay my bills. I mainly followed him.”

In his role as president of the Pennsylvania Association of Realtors, Mr. Moore’s impact on the industry extends beyond individual transactions.

He wants to address broader topics, including generational wealth and increasing minority homeownership. He belongs to trade associations that represent Black real estate brokers, as well as groups representing Hispanic, Asian and LGBTQ real estate professionals — all of which seek ways to help people from those communities buy more homes.

Another career milestone: Mr. Moore was the second person of color to serve as president of the Realtors Association of Metropolitan Pittsburgh in 2015.

All it takes is moving one step ahead, he said. And a willingness to lead.

“You have to have people willing to run for positions,” he said. “That’s the hardest part.”

Tim Grant: tgrant@post-gazette.com or 412-779-5834

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Last modified: February 26, 2024