The real estate industry lost an iconic leader.
Howard W. Hanna Jr, the patriarch and founder of Howard Hanna Real Estate Services, passed away on Saturday, Sept. 25, at 101. He leaves behind a legacy characterized by his dedication to family, his community and real estate.
“Howard Hanna Jr. was an amazing man whose legacy, first and foremost is his wonderful family and of course is also the real estate business he founded with his wife, Anne Freyvogel Hanna, which grew from one office years ago to one of the largest real estate firms in the country,” said John Featherston, CEO, and Publisher of RISMedia. “An iconic leader in the industry, Howard Hanna was able to make a huge, positive difference in the lives of so many, and through his business and his legacy, he has provided and continues to provide opportunities to thousands of people to achieve their success. On behalf of the RISMedia family, our thoughts and prayers go out to the entire Hanna family during this difficult time.”
Hanna founded Howard Hanna Real Estate Services with the help of his late wife, Anne Freyvogel Hanna, in 1957. The couple opened their first office on the corner of Bayard and Craig streets—now Howard Hanna Way—in the Shadyside neighborhood of Pittsburgh.
Since its humble beginnings in a single office, Howard Hanna Real Estate has blossomed into a full-service real estate company touting more than 400 branch offices across 11 states and more than 13,000 sales associates and staff members.
His determination and work ethic in real estate was matched only by his desire to give back and shower others with kindness, according to his daughter and company CEO, Helen Hanna Casey, who remembers her father as “a man of the people.”
“He was always just so helpful to people around him, and I think that is expressed by the hundreds of emails from the people that work with us and most of all, the people that knew him,” Hanna Casey says.
From the early days of Howard Hanna Real Estate Services, Hanna Casey says her father sought to change the way listings were marketed and sold in his market, though he didn’t consider himself an innovator.
Hanna catalyzed an early forerunner of today’s Multiple Listing Service (MLS) for Pittsburgh agents.
Hanna Casey also notes that he would regularly take his polaroid camera to take photos of homes, so he could provide clients with information on their properties before going into listing appointments.
“Today, that is pretty standard,” Hanna Casey says. “You wouldn’t go to a listing appointment without having a picture and all the background information that you pull from a computer, but he was creating that because he had a polaroid camera, and it was just unheard of.”
He also played a role in opening the doors of opportunities for women, actively recruiting them as agents in the 1960s, a role primarily filled by men at the time.
Refusing to profile anyone, Hanna Casey says her father would actively invite and encourage women in the neighborhood that he knew to get licensed and come work for the family-owned business.
“He just was one of those guys that were very outgoing,” she reflects. “Both of my parents were very incredibly social, and they made room for everyone that they met. They never had any qualms about inviting people into their home.”
After decades of leading his real estate company, Hanna passed the torch to his three children, who joined the business starting in 1965 and assumed the leadership of Howard Hanna Real Estate Services in the mid-1980s into a national real estate company.
Hanna’s legacy extends well beyond his work in real estate and is decorated by multiple awards and honors that he received throughout the years.
Before his journey in real estate, Hanna earned two business degrees from the University of Pittsburgh. He served in the U.S. Army in World War II, achieving the rank of captain before he left the military in 1946.
After returning to the U.S., Hanna served on local chambers of commerce across the region and in several executive roles for the Builders Association of Metropolitan Pittsburgh and Home Builders Association of Greater Cleveland.
He was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Realtors Association of Metropolitan Pittsburgh in 2001, while his Alma Mater recognized him twice for his work.
In 2013, he was named a Legacy Laureate, awarded to the university’s most accomplished alum. The school celebrated Hanna again six years later as Distinguished Alumni Fellow Award recipient.
Hanna was also awarded the Senator John Heinz History Center’s 26th Annual History Makers Award in 2018 for community service and helping to shape the Western Pennsylvania region.
In addition to his three children, Hanna is survived by ten grandchildren and 19 great-grandchildren. Several of his grandchildren also help run the family business.
News of Hanna’s passing has already started garnering reactions and condolences from industry leaders.
“History may not produce a more significant name in the real estate industry than ‘Howard Hanna,” said Craig Cheatham, president and CEO of The Realty Alliance. “His family has continued in his footsteps, innovating and growing what he started, all while keeping his commitment to the communities and people he served. He lived an amazing life and left an incredible legacy.”
Funeral arrangements are being handled by John A. Freyvogel Sons, 4900 Centre Ave., Pittsburgh, PA 15213. Visitation there is from 3 to 7 p.m. Tuesday, September 28, and Wednesday, September 29. The funeral is at 10 a.m. Thursday, September 30, at St. Paul Cathedral in Oakland.
Memorial contributions may be made to the Howard W. Hanna Jr. Scholarship Fund at the University of Pittsburgh or the Urban League of Pittsburgh-Cleveland Hanna Home Ownership Fund.
Jordan Grice is RISMedia’s associate content editor. Email him your real estate news to email@example.com.