By: Roger Grody
When she and Clark Halstead founded Halstead Property in 1984, Diane M. Ramirez envisioned three storefront offices across Manhattan. As the firm’s Chairman and CEO, she now oversees an organization with nearly three dozen offices throughout the New York metropolitan area, a staff of 1,200 professionals and a global reach.
Ramirez began her real estate career in Palm Beach, Florida, where her investment banker husband was opening an office. “I loved real estate from the start,” reports Ramirez, who notes her appreciation for the industry intensified when she returned to her native New York. “In Palm Beach I dipped my toe into the water, but in New York I jumped into the deep end of the pool,” quips Ramirez, who quickly became one of the city’s most respected luxury brokers.
At a time when the entire luxury real estate market was operated from Manhattan’s Upper East Side, Halstead branched out to the West Side and Downtown as well. The firm was also committed to interacting with clients in storefront offices, something unheard of in New York at the time. “We wanted to go into storefronts because we wanted to be a part of the community,” says Ramirez, and also reports her firm was among the first to embrace technology. Halstead pioneered the use of computers when they were still exotic novelties and mobile phones when they were much too large to fit into any pocket. Today, the CEO reports Halstead remains a technology pioneer, investing in sophisticated analytics, drone photography and virtual reality.
Ramirez reports the luxury market in New York has changed dramatically since she co-founded Halstead, primarily because of how the city itself has evolved. “In 1984, New York was a very important city, but not really the kind of town international clients ever thought of buying in,” she recounts, contrasting that with today’s market in which the entire world competes for Manhattan real estate.
Ramirez has always enjoyed the personal side of the business, stating, “As an agent, you build incredibly intimate relationships with clients and their families,” adding, “You really connect with people, learning their wishes and dreams.” As an executive, that same joy is realized through counseling and mentoring her agents and brokers. In 2001, Halstead Property was acquired by Terra Holdings, which fueled further growth via acquisition throughout New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. Halstead’s chief executive is quite selective about office opportunities, stating, “I work very hard to preserve the culture of the company, so there has to be a synergy between Halstead and potential offices.” Ramirez notes that virtually all of the firm’s 33 offices are still based in storefronts, fully integrated into their neighborhoods.
A proud New Yorker, Ramirez has been widely recognized for her commitment to service and charity. A member of the Real Estate Board of New York (where she serves on the Board of Governors), she received the agency’s Kenneth R. Gerrety Humanitarian Award for her contributions to the community. She serves on the Board of Directors of Leading Real Estate Companies of the World, which honored her with its prestigious Leadership Award. Ramirez’s entire family was recently presented with the Family Spirit Award from Little Sisters of the Assumption (LSA) Family Health Service, dedicated to serving underserved households in East Harlem.
Ramirez’s personal passion for community service is instilled in her staff and colleagues through a corporate foundation called Halstead Helping Hands. On select Saturdays throughout the year, several dozen Halstead agents can be found painting a classroom in Bedford-Stuyvesant or cleaning up a neglected park in the Bronx.
Ramirez and husband Samuel have two children, Samuel, Jr. and Christa, and five grandchildren. She enjoys reading, tennis and golf, and indicative of her overall.