A Conversation With: Ken Clark

State association’s new leader comes with 40-plus years of experience.

Ken Clark is just as passionate today about the real estate business as he was when he first got started 43 years ago. He brings that enthusiasm, along with a wealth of knowledge and experience he’s accrued working in communities large and small, to his role as the incoming president of the Iowa Association of REALTORS®. He begins his year-long term this month, overseeing a growing organization that today is approaching 7,000 members and has 17 Boards of REALTORS® across the state.

What’s your forecast for next year’s housing market?

I believe it will be more of the same. I anticipate that it will continue to be a sellers’ market in the year of 2016, and sales will remain robust. I do think we’re going to continue to have some low inventory, but hopefully that will improve with the spring market. It would surprise me if we got the kind of inventory that it would take to move it to a buyers’ market next year.

What do you foresee for future interest rates?

I lived through the times of very high interest rates. If we were to go from 4 percent interest to say 6 percent in a relatively short time, it would have a major impact on sales. Now, do I think that’s going to happen? No. But if the Fed doesn’t respond appropriately to what is happening in the economy and they had to move the interest rate up quickly, that would be a problem. I would have rather the Fed taken the 25 basis points increase in the last meeting and got it out of the way.

What major real estate trends are you seeing locally?

I think we’re going to have a shortage of lots available for construction in the metropolitan Des Moines area, and I expect the price of those available lots to increase because of demand, along with governmental regulations and fees.

When we had the economic downturn, we went through a period of years where new lots were not brought on. We were using up the existing inventory of lots and land that was available to be platted. From what I understand, the process of turning land into lots takes several years, which is impacting the current supply of lots.

The availability of financing for developers is also playing a role. The banks are not as anxious to loan money as they were previously. The lack of lots and increased cost to builders will be passed onto buyers and will unfortunately increase the cost to buyers.

During your term, what specific goals would you like to accomplish?

One of my biggest goals is assisting with the transition of the new chief executive officer of the Iowa Association of REALTORS®, Gavin Blair. I’m going to be working very closely with Gavin, getting him acclimated to Iowa and our association, and introducing him to the various boards around the state.

Another major goal we’re going to begin pursuing this year is called “20 by 2025.” The focus is to get 20 percent of our membership—or about 1,400 members—in appointed and elected positions by the year 2025. We believe REALTORS® are protecting private property rights for individuals, regardless of the type of property they own. We are the voice of homeowners, landowners, commercial interests, and other real estate interests.

By having a greater presence in decision-making groups, from city boards and councils to the state legislature, REALTORS® can better protect people’s property rights. There are many REALTORS® in these positions already, but we could do so much more with greater representation throughout the state.

How has your past professional experience prepared you to lead the Iowa Association of REALTORS®?

I feel what makes me unique as incoming president is my range of experience. I belonged to one of the smallest boards in Iowa, the Marion County Board of REALTORS®, and the largest board, in Des Moines. I’ve worked with and been president of both boards.

I understand the challenges and concerns in small and large communities, and have offered up ideas and solutions. I think I’m one of the few presidents over the years that has had that kind of experience. I know how the association functions, I know its history, and I think I have a vision for its future.

How did you get into real estate?

Some friends in my hometown of Pleasantville encouraged me to start an insurance and real estate agency, so I did. I opened an independent insurance agency in 1971 and worked over the winter on my real estate license, which I got in February 1972. I decided to sell the insurance agency in 1989, and sold real estate on my own for about 18 months. In 1991, I joined Coldwell Banker Mid-America Group and spent nearly 25 years there, eventually becoming senior vice president of the company.

After I left Coldwell Banker in June of this year, some REALTORS® contacted me and suggested I start my own business. I talked to my wife, and we decided to open VIA Group REALTORS® in August. We currently have five REALTORS®. While we plan to grow, we know we’re never going to be a large company; we are primarily a boutique company.

An advantage to being smaller is we’re able to more easily operate paperlessly, which makes us more efficient. Right now, I’m focusing on setting up the infrastructure of the business, and ensuring that everything is up and running to support the REALTORS®. After that, we’ll attend to recruiting.

We’re doing three times the business we thought we expected to be doing, so we have been pleasantly surprised with our debut.

Can you share with us more about your personal life?

My wife, Diane, and I live in West Des Moines. Our two grown sons live in Des Moines: Steve is a Realtor® with our company and Rich works in commercial real estate. I’m an avid reader, and particularly enjoy history and nonfiction.