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Realtor’s Row

There’s a Lawyer in the House

By Robin Jovanovich

When Houlihan Lawrence was searching for the right professional to replace Judiann Smith, who was retiring as manager of the Rye brokerage office at the end of last month, they looked no further than around the corner of Elm Place. When they asked longtime real estate attorney John Gardner if he’d be interested in the job, Gardner was thrilled.

The unflappable man in the pinstriped suit who has had an office in downtown Rye for 25 years knows the local residential real estate territory well, having done “thousands of closings and been a part of billions of dollars in transactions” over that time.

While Gardner knows that his appointment represents a big change — he’s an outsider, an attorney not a realtor, and his predecessors have all been women — he says there is nothing that could possibly come up that he hasn’t seen and dealt with before.

He’s only been at his new job for three weeks, but the transition has been seamless. (“It helped that I brought staffer Aisling Geraghty with me from the law firm.)

When asked how she liked working for a man, longtime agent Lisa Murphy raised her eyebrows, smiled, and replied, “We have a male manager?”

What Gardner loves about his colleagues is that they are smart and excited to increase their knowledge base. In an interview on Wednesday in his office, he said, “This morning we had a meeting on legal issues — pre-date letters, purchase assignments — and they were curious and very much engaged in the discussion.”

He added, “Our agents have distinguished themselves, which is one of the biggest reasons Houlihan is the number one residential real estate company in Westchester. My goal is to make sure they continue to distinguish themselves.”

How is he going to accomplish that? “I have gone and will continue to go to broker open houses with them. I encourage every agent to see and discuss the inventory, so that we can bounce ideas off one another.” Gardner continued, “We’re going to do all kinds of training so that we can be more responsive to the questions of informed buyers — and we’re going to have fun doing it.”

For starters, Gardner just instituted “Yappy Hour”. “Over a weekly lunch we’re going to open up the discussion.” Expect a lot of little changes and additions and seeing more Houlihan Lawrence agents out and about in the Rye-Harrison-Purchase community.”

Coming from a different place, a different vantage point is an asset, noted Gardner thoughtfully. “But I am also someone with vast experience and contacts in the industry and I think I will be a resource for the agents.”

Gardner, whose father was an attorney, grew up in Larchmont, moved to Greenwich when he was in high school, matriculated from Iona Prep, and lives with his wife Karen and four children in Pelham, where for the last seven years he has been a town justice.

“I will continue to serve as a judge, but I am giving up my law practice, which is being absorbed by George Grossman, whom I’ve known and worked with for years,” Gardner said.

As an attorney, John Gardner, now 57, typically worked a 12-hour day. “With my two youngest children still at home, I want to be home for dinner more often, and I’m as excited about that prospect as I am about having another run and taking Houlihan to even greater heights.”

John Gardner flanked by four Houlihan Lawrence agents outside the back entrance of the Rye office.

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