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Ebby Halliday: The First Lady of Dallas Real Estate

Halliday transferred her skills as a hat saleswoman to the real estate field. She proceeded to build a billion-dollar enterprise.
| |Photography courtesy of Ebby Halliday Realtors
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Lasting Legacy: With 30 offices, Ebby Halliday Realtors reported $820 million in revenue in 2022.
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Ebby Halliday: The First Lady of Dallas Real Estate

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Born as Vera Lucille Koch in 1911, Ebby Halliday spent her younger years in Arkansas before moving to Kansas City as a young woman to take a job selling hats at the Jones Store. There, she honed her sales skills and changed her name to Ebby while working her way up to salesperson in less than a year.

She went into business for herself in 1938, opening the boutique retailer Ebby’s Hats in Dallas after moving to Dallas to take over the millinery department at Dallas’ W.A. Green Store.

Among her loyal customers was the wife of oil magnate and philanthropist Clint Murchison Sr. He believed if Halliday could sell crazy hats to his wife Anne, she could find buyers for 52 North Dallas concrete houses that were considerably harder to sell and even harder to finance. Murchison had struggled to sell them for his insulated concrete home business, but Halliday accepted the challenge and successfully sold all the houses.

Murchison convinced her to shift to real estate, and Halliday made the industry her own. She added new furniture, carpet, drapes, and landscaping to help the homes sell. Adorning houses this way, a common practice today, was revolutionary at the time and helped set her apart from her peers. “Buyers have no idea what they want until they see it,” she once said. “We have to give them a picture.”

In 1945, she again went into business for herself to pursue opportunities in the post-WWII economic boom. Ebby Halliday Realtors would become the largest independently owned residential real estate company in Texas at a time when there weren’t many women in the field. By 1958, the company had sales of approximately $12 million, an impressive number at a time when the median home price was around $24,000.

By the 1980s, it was a billion-dollar enterprise. Halliday remained at the helm of the firm until she died in 2015 at the impressive age of 104. Three years later, an affiliate of Warren Buffet’s Berkshire Hathaway bought Ebby Halliday Realtors. Today, the residential powerhouse has 30 offices and covers 12,000 square miles of North Texas real estate. In 2022, its annual revenue was estimated at $820 million, and it is the 10th largest real estate firm in the country, serving about 20,000 individuals and families moving to, from, and within North Texas.

Halliday was a woman of many achievements who believed heavily in supporting her community in every way she could. She served as president of the North Dallas Chamber of Commerce and Keep Texas Beautiful, on the Dallas County Community College District Foundation Board of Directors, volunteered at the Thanksgiving Square and St. Paul Medical Foundation, and was a trustee and chairman of the Communities Foundation of Texas.

In 2005, Halliday earned the Horatio Alger Award from the Horatio Alger Association of Distinguished Americans for embodying the belief that hard work, honesty, and determination will always persevere. At age 97, she was named the 2008 honorary chair of the National Association of Realtors’ 100th anniversary Gala Black Tie Dinner.

Halliday was inducted into the Texas Business Hall of Fame and was awarded the Dallas Chamber of Commerce’s Outstanding Woman in Business Award. After her passing, The Ebby Halliday Foundation was formed to continue Ebby’s philanthropic mission. The organization supports charitable and educational activities that serve women and children, including other nonprofits in North Texas. Dallas ISD honored Halliday by naming an elementary school in Southeast Dallas for her in 2012.

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Mianda Mulumba

Mianda Mulumba

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