PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Spend a few minutes with Tony Macaluso, president of Portside Properties in Palm Beach Gardens, and you’re ready to conquer the world. He’s that passionate about what he does and how he does it. It’s this positive energy that propelled Macaluso from part-time real estate investor to full-time business owner.
“After college I got into the resort restaurant business on the Jersey shore,” says Macaluso. “It was the 1970s and the work was seasonal, so after Labor Day I would pick up a handyman special (house), fix it up and resell it. My goal was to make enough money so that I could spend a couple months in Florida,” says Macaluso. That was his first entrance into real estate.
When he realized that the restaurant business lacked the income potential he wanted, Macaluso decided to move to Florida to pursue another career. “The only two areas of employment that appeared to be without a ceiling were real estate and car sales, and I didn’t see myself as a car salesman,” he says.
So, in 1976, Macaluso earned his real estate license and, “fell for the classic line, ‘We just happen to have a desk open,’” he laughs.
Macaluso says he was successful because he had a “very good mentor who took an active interest in my success. I didn’t know what I was doing but I sure was enthusiastic.”
Timing Isn’t Everything
In 1981, Macaluso decided to start his own brokerage. “Timing has never been my strong suit,” he says, who notes that when he opened his office, mortgage interest rates skyrocketed to 18 percent.
However, Macaluso was prepared to make it work for the long term.
“I realized a long time ago that it is a huge mistake to set goals too low and then reach them,” he says. “It’s not OK to do the minimum. Never be happy to accept average.”
But, he adds, it’s easy to set yourself apart in any business, as “there’s not much traffic on the extra mile.”
He also feels strongly about running an ethical business. “There are too many short cuts. We all saw that in the industry between 2002 and 2005.”
Not only does Macaluso run a successful business with his wife Nancy, but he also leads by example. He’s a certified instructor who has just about every real estate education designation out there.
“I tell people I’m a classic overachiever, but the truth is that it’s hard to have respect for someone who talks about a designation but doesn’t personally have it,” he says. “If you want to lead people to a better place, you have to lead by example. There’s no substitute for true experience.”
In addition to that, Macaluso says that he’s naturally curious and enthusiastic. That enthusiasm came in handy a few years back when a representative from the Florida Council of Real Estate Brokerage Managers (CRB) asked Macaluso to help rescue the struggling chapter. Macaluso was president of the state chapter in 1998 and didn’t want to see it disappear due to lack of membership.
“They had 37 members when I came on board. Within the first four months, we were up to 187 members,” he says. “I called people, I spread enthusiasm for the chapter. Now, we have a great leadership team, and we’re on track to bring it back.”
His enthusiasm and passion for the industry also earned him the Realtor® of the Year award three times—twice for his local association, the Realtors® Association of the Palm Beaches (20 years apart) and for Florida Realtors® in 2004.
“I had no idea my peers felt so strongly about me. It was a breathtaking moment when I won the state Realtor of the Year award,” he says.
On the Road
As an educator, Macaluso travels frequently. However, the travel bug bit him early in life when his grandfather got him interested in stamp collecting.
“My granddad would send me packets of stamps, mainly European ones. I had a stamp album and would figure out where the stamps came from. I got an incredible education in geography,” he says. When he was older, he was able to visit many of those countries and pick up additional coins and stamps from around the world.
He’s also a believer in giving back to the community. He’s dedicated to the Florida Keys Electric Cooperative, charitable trust. Macaluso serves the organization as its secretary and a trustee; he’s been a trustee for 15 years.
The foundation helps those in the community who “fall through the cracks of government services and need a boost to keep going,” he explains. “For example, a waitress who breaks her leg can’t go back to work but there are no support services for her, so she applies to us and we give her temporary assistance until she’s back on her feet.”
The truth is that Macaluso is the epitome of a renaissance man. He owned a scuba dive charter for three years in the late 70s and still dives when he gets the chance. He’s inspired by Nelson Mandela, who, he says, “Spent 27 years in jail and instead of being bitter, he stood up for his country asking everyone to get along so it could move forward.
He’s partial to the song “What a Wonderful World,” by Louis Armstrong and even was a Mercury recording artist in the 1960s. “I was on Merv Griffin,” says Macaluso, who plays drums and base. “As a musician, you’re never not a musician, but I don’t perform anymore,” he says.
He may not perform musically anymore, but in the real estate industry, his performance hits all the right notes.
Tony Macaluso is as passionate about the real estate profession as he is about helping his community. As a certified instructor, he has taken numerous education courses to enhance his knowledge and expertise. Some of the many professional designations he has earned include Certified Residential Specialist (CRS); Graduate, Realtor Institute (GRI); and Certified International Property Specialist Instructor. In 2004, Macaluso was honored by his colleagues and Florida Realtors as Realtor of the Year for the state association. He also has been recognized as the Florida Educator of the Year for the industry. The National Association of Realtors (NAR) has named him its Educator of the Year and International Advocate Member of the Year.