A Conversation With Kelly Gibson

Respectful, subservient approach at the core of Gibson’s business relationships.

One day, Mike Knapp called Kelly Gibson with an opportunity. He wanted to create a new position at Iowa Realty, someone to oversee its New Homes division. He asked Gibson, a successful realtor for the company at the time, what attributes he thought this leader should have. After several discussions, Knapp offered the job, Gibson accepted, and he has been Iowa Realty’s New Homes Manager since 2007.

What does your job entail?

My job has morphed a bit over the years and now includes support for land development, in addition to working with builders and real estate agents.

When local builders are looking at advancing or expanding into an area, I discuss the analytics with them, providing guidance as we consider the market and types of homes being built in that location. If the situation calls for it, I work with our managers and agents to help identify a realtor team best suited to that product and builder. The agents are critical, of course, and we look for agents that best fit the builder’s culture, requests, and expectations.

We also work with some very large development clients. We’ve built a team of land specialists, and we consult with companies and make recommendations.

At the end of the day, I see myself as a resource for our many agents, office managers, assistant managers, builders, and development partners.

What’s new in your division?

We’ve expanded our land partnerships dramatically over the last year-and-a-half. By fostering relationships with developers, we’re also bringing additional value to our builders, realtors, and customers because inevitably, you require land to build homes.

We will continue to increase our use of technology, from our reporting and communications structures to our marketing platform. That was rolled out this year and I’m extremely excited about it. It’s been received extremely well by our builders. While we maintain our traditional vehicles, we’ve expanded greatly in the technology fields to stay on the cutting edge, which is particularly important in meeting the needs of millennials. We believe our clients and company will benefit immensely from these additions.

How has working with the builders evolved over time?

I think to some degree it is still as simplistic as satisfying the specific needs of our end customer, the home buyer. The builder identifies a location and builds a home he hopes is attractive to the buyer. The builder relies on the marketing, advertising, and salesmanship of the brokerage he selects—in this case Iowa Realty—to make that sale.

Substantial strides in technology have impacted how builders operate and how we communicate and serve them. I work with builders in their 20s, up into their 80s. If I’m working with the high-tech millennial, we’re going to do everything in our power to support them through that vehicle and communication channel. If I’m working with people who write everything on paper, then I sit down, have coffee with them, and try to work with them in a fashion that best capitalizes on their experience.

Part of my job is to help blend the efficiencies and knowledge I’ve learned from others within our partnerships and organization to move the ball down the field and be productive, profitable, and ensure a sustainable, long-term relationship for all of us.

What hasn’t changed is my belief that above all else, you have to respect those you’re working with. We never look for the short-term win; we look for the long-term relationship. Win-win relationships will always have longevity.

What are some market changes and construction trends builders have seen in recent years?

It was an extremely challenging time for builders from 2008 to 2012. There was a glut of inventory, and the availability of bank-held properties helped drive prices down. Consumer confidence was low, and buyers in the market were demanding far more, but unwilling to pay more. I think we’ve found an equilibrium between the supply line and the demand, making a little more equitable playing field for both buyers and sellers.

During the economic downturn, consumers wanted smaller homes with all the amenities—travertine tile, frieze carpet, smart home features. Now, there’s a broader spectrum of buyers’ needs with different generations in the market. The empty nester wants to trade the big house for a smaller, maintenance-free home, with office space, USB ports to plug into, and a smart thermostat. The millennials are demanding the niceties, but at an affordable price, which is a challenge for everyone right now.

The average (January) New Construction Single-family home price in the Des Moines metro was $324,000. From 2010 to the end of 2015, average sale price increased about $104,000. Some of that is due to the increase in developed land prices, attributable to several factors.

One is the farming industry, which a few years ago was doing well, driving up the acquisition cost per acre. Changes in regulations in the last decade have also made land more expensive. Higher material costs and a labor shortage are fueling rising home prices as well.

What is popular in new homes today?

We’ve seen a large shift to ranch style homes. One reason relates to the rising cost of land. It’s disproportionate, price-wise, to have an expensive lot and then build a mid-size two-story home, which is more economical. A ranch also provides more flexibility than a two-story, offering the opportunity for expanded living space with a finished basement.

Tell us more about you.

I live in Pleasantville with my wife of 32 years, Melissa. We have two children, Kristopher and Bethany. Both are married and each has blessed us with a beautiful grandson. Those that know me well know that I am very big on family. I like spending time with family, whether watching football, fishing in Canada, or taking a family vacation. I’m also a motorcycle enthusiast, and Melissa and I ride our bike often during the warmer months. Melissa and I love to travel and always find time for several getaways each year.