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Area associations adapt to serve changing needs.

In a market that’s changing from one day to the next, almost one moment to the next, trade associations are having to adapt to meet the needs of their members as well. The Des Moines Area Association of REALTORS® (DMAAR) and the Greater Des Moines Home Builders Association (HBA-DM) are both finding new ways to serve their memberships.

“We’ve already seen this to be true. But in 2022 we’re really focused on understanding what our members are dealing with on a daily basis and recognizing the time they have to volunteer may be limited because of the pace of work they’re facing,” says Dan Knoup, Executive Officer of HBA-DM.

“We’ve been making little changes with how we schedule and communicate to relieve some of that, things like sending calendar invites so they automatically have time blocked off for meetings. It’s just one less thing they have to deal with. We’re also trying to get our own calendar planned out sooner so they can plan sooner as well.”

DMAAR’s Chief Executive Officer, Cindy Pelz says, “We’re always adjusting to meet the needs of our members. One thing we’ve noticed is that those needs vary depending on the experience and activity level of the member.”

Education programs are a key element of DMAAR’s member support. That remains true, no matter how busy REALTORS® become. The format may vary, however. “We were able to provide most of our programming via Zoom during the lockdown, and some Zoom training has continued,” says Pelz. “I expect we’ll continue to offer Zoom classes long-term because of the changing needs of our members. But they prefer the in-person classes when possible.”

Knoup says the HBA-DM has also continued to offer a hybrid of Zoom and in-person meetings. “What’s been surprising is that our in-person attendance is the highest it’s been in my eight years as Executive Officer,” he says. “No matter how much you adapt, it’s just not as effective virtually as being in the same room with people, and our members recognize that.”

He says the pace of work has also caused members to value the benefits of in-person gatherings with others in the industry. “We really anticipated it would be difficult to have well-attended in-person activities because everyone’s schedules are so backed up right now, but that hasn’t been the case. I think people really need that personal interaction.”

Neither Pelz or Knoup expects the pace of business to change in 2022.

“It’s been crazy busy,” Pelz says. “More than likely 2021 will end even higher than 2020, which was a record year. I know a lot of our members are wondering about how things will progress this next year with supply chain issues and other concerns.”

Knoup says HBA-DM’s members have been battling those supply chain problems, on top of the skyrocketing demand and rising labor and material costs, and everyone expects more of the same for 2022. “Most of our members have developed their own strategies over the course of the past year for dealing with those issues. On a local level, we don’t have a big role in addressing those concerns, but our national arm is having conversations every day with legislators about ways to resolve the situation. There are bills already in the House that could get things moving more quickly through the port and trucking systems.”

Improving supply chain issues would go a long way to smoothing the way for both construction delays and home sales. Pelz says, “With more people continuing to work from home long-term, homeowners are discovering that the popular open concept that worked for so long is just not ideal. That means more buyers are shopping and new construction plans are looking different.”

Remodeling activity has also grown exponentially over the past couple of years because of that.“So many people are rethinking how they live,” Knoup says. “And the money they didn’t spend on travel and vacations they’re spending on their homes to fit that new way of life. Our remodeler members are as busy as they’ve been in their entire careers.”

Although economists are predicting a slight increase in interest rates and little change in inflation, Pelz and Knoup expect 2022 to be another strong year for home sales and construction in Iowa. “Sales have been steady at all levels, and we don’t see a lot of change in that for the new year,” says Pelz. “The higher-end market is always hit and miss because there are fewer buyers at that level, but everything else should remain strong.”

The HBA-DM has been actively planning and preparing for the annual Tour of Remodeled Homes and HomeShowExpo. Knoup says the association anticipates both to be well-attended, no matter what happens with COVID spread over the next several months. “For the Tour of Remodeled Homes, we leave it to the individual remodeler and homeowner to dictate any restrictions,” he says. “And we offer a day of appointment-limited attendance for those who are more concerned about social distancing.”

The VIP day at HomeShowExpo offers a similar, contained environment for that event. Knoup says organizers will be watching for changes in recommendations as the event nears, and they’ll reconsider those restrictions if needed.

In addition to more networking and educational events for members, the HBA-DM continues to actively promote trade education and programs at the high school level. “The need for skilled labor continues for the viability of our industry,” says Knoup. “But we’re really excited about the growing interest from young people. The construction trades program at Central Campus continues to grow, and there are programs in the works in other districts. At Waukee, the program was full before the one high school split into two high schools. We were curious to see how things fell out after the split, but there’s a waiting list at both schools, which is great.”

The “crazy busy” pace at which REALTORS® and builders have been working the past 18 months may not have a clear end in sight, but it has resulted in more positive trends than expected. Homes at every price point are selling well. Home buyers who were hesitant to buy have entered the market. Builders and remodelers both are seeing the most activity of their careers. And young people are beginning to recognize all that this industry has to offer.

As we move through 2022, associations like DMAAR and HBA-DM will find themselves just as busy as their members as they find new ways to help sustain that growth.