Advocacy, volunteerism, safety are top priorities for new president.
In January, Linda Westergaard was sworn in as the 2017 president of the Des Moines Area Association of REALTORS®.
Westergaard oversees the group’s 2,000 members. She has been a Realtor® for nearly two decades and is an agent with Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices First Realty.
Can you Describe your goals for the association this year?
Advocacy is very important me. One of my goals is I’ve asked our members to reach out and get involved. There are so many different ways agents can do this—from spending time at their neighborhood school to participating on a committee in our association.
I think that we are so fortunate to be able to serve our clients as Realtors®, and the market is very good right now. I believe that we have a responsibility to serve and give back to our community.
Within our association, we have lots of committees that Realtors® can get involved with. For example, we have a golf committee that raises money for charity and a women’s group that works on a Habitat for Humanity build.
Something else very important to me is supporting home ownership and neighborhoods, and the Realtor® association is the largest advocacy group in the country working to endorse both. We have a Realtor® Party action committee and I’ve asked every member to get involved. It’s very important that we know what’s happening at the city, county, state, and national levels.
We have a brand new legislative initiative that we’ve started called “Home Ownership: Good for families, good for neighborhoods, and it’s good for Iowa.” It is a first-time homebuyer savings program where individuals and family members can put $2,000 annually into a savings account for a first-time home purchase in Iowa. The contributions are deductible from state taxes. (For more information about the Home Ownership program, see our story!)
We’re asking all of our Realtor® friends to contact their legislators and tell them we want this legislation passed. People can learn more about the program at IowaFirstHome.com.
Why the push for advocacy?
We are so fortunate that people use us to buy and sell homes everyday. But we are sometimes quiet about all the positive things we do in our communities. There are many of us who have always been involved in our communities, through politics or neighborhood groups or other volunteer work. This year, we need to promote what we do and let the public know all of the good things that Realtors® are doing. We have many members new to the real estate business. We not only want to stress to them how important it is to work in our communities but also show them.
What else will you be focusing on?
Safety is one of our top goals this year. We had a tragic situation several years ago when a Realtor® was murdered at an open house. It’s important for both new and experienced agents to always be mindful of things they can do to keep themselves safe. We ask members to sign a Safety Pledge and we will be offering Continuing Education classes regarding safety throughout the year.
What are some of the most significant challenges facing real estate?
Technology is constantly changing the way we do business. We just have to stay on top of it and help our members use the latest technology tools to better serve our clients. Other challenges include uncertainty in interest rates and the economy, and other factors that impact consumer confidence.
One hurdle we are currently facing is the scarcity of development land. There is a strong demand for new homes, but a shortage of places to build those new homes. We need to work with developers and communities to address this issue.
What are the hot trends this year?
Urban living is becoming more popular. We see that with all the construction going on downtown. People want to come back and live in Des Moines, they want to be a part of the core city. People also want to be near trails and be able to walk to work. We’re able to offer them that because we have a fabulous trail system in place.
Tell us about your activities outside of real estate.
I have the great privilege of representing Northeast Des Moines—Ward 2—on the Des Moines City Council. As a Realtor®, I know the city and know what’s going on in the city, so it’s an easy transition. The city council and Realtors® are working to make our neighborhoods better. We just want to make it a great place to live, work, and play.
I was there when my own neighborhood association, the Douglas Acres Neighborhood Association, started 20 years ago. I founded Northeast Neighbors and Friends, a coalition of neighborhoods on the northeast side, and I have been involved with them for many years.
Tell us about your personal life.
My husband, Neal, is also my real estate partner. We have been married for nearly 45 years and have lived in the same home we bought nearly 40 years ago. We are very fortunate that our two daughters and both of our grandchildren also live in Des Moines. As for hobbies: Right now, I’m focused on working. I hope I can play later.