A Conversation With Gavin Blair

Blair steps in as CEO of Iowa Association of Realtors®.

Gavin Blair has put about 23,000 miles on his Jeep traveling the state since becoming chief executive officer of the Iowa Association of REALTORS® on December 15, 2015.

“My goal in the first six months was to get out and visit with REALTORS® all across the state,” says Blair, whose association counts just shy of 7,000 members. The group is responsible for lobbying efforts at the state level, handles communication of all state issues, and oversees the education of REALTORS® statewide.

Blair was most recently CEO of the Dayton Area Board of REALTORS® in Dayton, Ohio, a position he had held since 2013.

Blair says he has been struck by two things in particular in the short time he’s been in Iowa: The beauty of the state and “Iowa nice.”

“I’ve never met more generous, friendly, want-you-to-succeed type of attitude from a group of people, from Des Moines to Sioux City to Lake Okoboji to Dubuque,” he says. “Everywhere you go, they want you to succeed, they want you to do well, they want to welcome you, and they want you to be part of Iowa.”

What areas do you want to focus on in your first year as CEO?

I want to focus heavily on legislation. Our primary piece of legislation we want passed this next general assembly is the home savings account, which operates similar to a 529 college savings plan. The home savings account would allow first-time home buyers in Iowa to save $3,000 per year, tax free, for up to 10 years. Immediate family members and even grandparents, can also make contributions to the account.

The other big area I’m focusing on is ensuring our local associations of REALTORS® statewide are stable and have the resources from the state level they need to help them grow. Three years ago, we went through a huge consolidation of our local groups, going from more than 40 to 17. I want their members to know about all the services and support we can offer to help them be successful.

In the long-term, I think we have to prepare for the future, which includes addressing the role of technology in our industry. A large part of that is beefing up our online presence, for example, through online education opportunities. Also, we must be able to compete to keep the realtor at the center of the transaction.

REALTORS® are trusted advisors who have the experience and knowledge to help consumers navigate the real estate market. That’s something you can’t get from a computer. Buying a home is one of the largest investments you’ll make in your life. You need a trusted advisor to help you through that process, and that’s where a realtor comes into play.

What is the association currently working on?

We are merging our 36 rural Multiple Listing Services (MLS) into one database, which will keep costs down and help with compliance, enabling REALTORS® in those areas to keep operating in the marketplace. We’re seeing a push from the national level to have standardization in fields in the MLSs. For example, “2½ baths” may be defined differently among our 36 Multiple Listing Services. Consolidating them into one will provide consistency, offering more accurate information to home buyers and REALTORS®.

Describe the trends you’re seeing in the Des Moines market.

Across Des Moines, homes are selling for prices far above what they were a year ago, mainly because of low inventory. It’s a trend we’re also seeing nationwide, with homes selling very quickly and bidding wars on many properties. You go through those peaks and valleys in the real estate market and just hope it’s not a “bubble,” and that it kind of levels out.

That’s a constant concern right now in many of our members’ minds. But summer is also typically an extremely busy time for real estate, as families with kids are trying to get into homes before the school year starts.

It’s a sellers market right now and it’s probably going to stay that way for the foreseeable future because of the way the inventory is currently structured. I live in Windsor Heights right now, but am in the process of looking for a home in the south of Grand area in Des Moines. Many times, the same day a “for sale” sign goes up in a yard, there are multiple offers. Some properties ultimately go for much higher than the asking price.

Your degree is in political science. What’s the appeal of working in real estate?

It’s getting to craft and work in policy. We represent not just REALTORS®; we represent homeowners. We are representing average homeowners when we’re lobbying at the Capitol.
It’s fun to work on policy because it’s policy that very few people can disagree with. Homeownership is living the American dream, and we get to help people experience that everyday here at the Iowa Association of REALTORS®.

Any first impressions of Des Moines?

I’m very impressed with downtown Des Moines. I’ve absolutely fallen in love with it. The trail system here blows away what I was used to in Ohio, in terms of running and biking around the city. They’ve obviously done a lot here, and kudos to Des Moines for the amount of money they’ve reinvested into downtown. It’s fun to see that many cranes up downtown and see the hub of action.

What do you like to do for fun in your free time?

I love to run, golf, and travel.