NEFAR’S 2023 president says real estate is a people business

Connecting with customers and the community are Diana Galavis’ goals during her one-year term.

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  • | 12:00 a.m. January 30, 2023
Diana Galavis, 2023 Northeast Florida Association of Realtors President
Diana Galavis, 2023 Northeast Florida Association of Realtors President
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ore to being a real estate agent than showing houses and signing contracts.

The 2023 Northeast Florida Association of Realtors president believes the profession may be the most people-intense of people businesses.

An associate broker with Watson Realty Corp. for 12 years, she has learned more about people during that time than about selling houses, she said.

When asked about memorable sales, she does not talk about numbers. She remembers relationships.

While driving to look at houses, a stressed-out client complained of a headache and needing a coffee. Galavis stopped the house search and set her sights on a coffee shop.

After a sale, a homebuyer, who was a newcomer to Jacksonville, reached out to ask whether she could use Galavis as her child’s emergency contact. Galavis, the mother of a 9-year-old son, agreed.

She recalled the time very expectant parents moved to Jacksonville. Her task was to find a house for them before the baby was born. They closed the day before the birth.

“I handed them their keys at the hospital the next day after the baby was born,” she said.

Galavis, 41, is the youngest NEFAR president. 

She and her husband, Carlos, co-owned a construction company and a couple of other businesses in the Dominican Republic. They spent the early part of their 16-year marriage operating those companies and traveling throughout South America, the Caribbean and Europe.

She wanted to return to America. Her husband gave her the choice to move anywhere in the states. Her pick. 

She wanted to return to Jacksonville and now lives in Arlington, a mile from where she grew up.

When not working, she enjoys golf, fishing and other outdoor activities. She also does the mom stuff.

“Our son is into martial arts. I’m a martial arts mom. I’m an honorary orange belt. Honorary,” she said.

Galavis is a second-generation real estate agent. She saw the satisfaction her mother, Millie Kanyar, experienced from selling homes. They now are business partners.

“I guess the thing that gives me the most satisfaction is being able to have someone accomplish whatever their American dream is,” Galavis said.

“For one person it is to own their first home where they can raise their family. Another person might want to own an investment property so that they can rent it out and build wealth. Another might want to buy a commercial property to grow their business.”

NEFAR has nearly 12,000 members. Galavis finds herself leading a growing organization but with higher numbers comes a problem – more Realtors than listings.

As of December, there was a 3.3-month supply of housing inventory and an active inventory of 5,179 houses for sale for a membership area that comprises Baker, Clay, Duval, Nassau, Putnam and St. Johns counties.

“We value our members, but with this low inventory, it is what it is. People are still moving here and into Florida. I would say that in at least the next year we have strong growth potential,” she said.

Part of that regional growth is due to the military. Jacksonville is a popular duty station.

“The reason why is because we are very affordable. We’re not cheap, but we are very affordable. For a lot of the military, it is not only their first requested destination but it is their last so that they can retire here.”

She emphasizes the need for real estate agents to know the ins and outs of VA loans and other lending programs available to military personnel and veterans.

Galavis’ theme for her leadership year is “connect, learn and lead in 2023.” 

That means NEFAR’s continued partnership with Habitat for Humanity, river cleanup and food programs. She will announce an outreach program aimed at a particular sector of the community.

When asked about the industry’s biggest challenge, she quickly answered: home affordability.

Working with the state Legislature, NEFAR and other real estate organizations lobbied to pass the Hometown Heroes legislation to help police officers, firefighters, educators, health care workers and people in the military access affordable mortgages. 

“It isn’t going to be solved in a year. It’s something that is going to be with us going forward,” she said.