With a career spanning more than five decades, Ken Clark has seen a thing or two in the real estate industry, including the evolution of what it means to be a REALTOR®.
Ken started his career in Pleasantville as the owner of a dual insurance and real estate company. While he sold the insurance portion of his business after about 20 years, he has stayed with real estate for the entirety of his 53 year-career. It's a path that's not only shaped him, but the real estate landscape.
Ken served as president for IAR in 2016, and is the past president of Des Moines Area Association of REALTORS®, the Marion County Board of Realtors and the Iowa Council of Residential Specialists. His expertise and extensive involvement has been on display at local, state and national levels throughout his career.
"I love working with people and the fact that you have a continued interaction with people in real estate for a period of time, as opposed to maybe only once a year or when they have an accident in insurance," he said.
The first step Ken took when he began his real estate journey was to join the Marion County Board of REALTORS®.
"I did that before I even bought my stationery," he recalls. "I had the opportunity at a young age to buy my own house and I realized what a benefit that was. So when I got my license, I knew that the first thing I had to do was to get my REALTOR® pin."
In Ken's eyes, the perception of a REALTOR® hasn't changed much over the five decades he's been in business. He believes that people recognized the need for a REALTOR® back then, just as they do today. But the value of a REALTOR®, that's a different story.
"I think as far as value, the value, it's hard to single out one thing of the value of a REALTOR® as opposed to the perception," he said. "But I think probably the foremost value that we have for us is the Code of Ethics."
The NAR Code of Ethics ensures that consumers are equitably represented by requiring REALTORS® to adhere to principles that increase industry professionalism and encourage cooperation to further clients' best interests.
"As we know the Code of Ethics, that's the standard for conduct and professionalism in our industry and emphasizes honesty, integrity, and fair treatment of people. And there's very few professions that have that type of a Code of Ethics. And I think we were very, very fortunate that over a hundred years ago it was recognized that we needed that."
While it might be easy for a REALTOR® to describe their value to each other, it's another thing to show it to prospective clients. Ken suggests that he and fellow REALTORS® start by simply describing the work they do.
"If agents haven't been taught a consultative process with buyers and sellers, they should be taught that because the consultation when you first interact with a buyer or seller, that's very important," Ken said. "And part of that is to tell them the difference between someone that has the REALTOR® designation and someone that does not have the REALTOR® designation.
That consultation should be as much a part of the contact as explaining to clients how you are going to list their house, how you're going to come up with value, and all the things that you do to get ready to list a house or on the same house working with a buyer."
While building a trusting relationship with clients sets the tone, Ken also suggests that new REALTORS® take the time to work their "sphere of influence" to gain new ground and showcase the value of a REALTOR®.
"I've often said your sphere of influence is your pot of gold," he said. "So work your sphere of influence, do your marketing primarily to the sphere of influence and keep in touch with them. I think it's important on a monthly basis to let them know somehow that you're still there."
As the real estate industry navigates uncertain times, and the market continues to fluctuate, Ken reminds others to keep things optimistic.
"I had a businessman tell me one time, and this is kind of interesting, nobody cares if your business is down, so don't ever tell anybody business is down," he said. "Be optimistic about your business. Be compassionate with the people you're working with, question your thinking. Always be introspective and know that you're actually going the right way."
Being a leader is also paramount, he believes, and setting yourself, and others up for success shows the compassion and true value of being a REALTOR®.
"Be positive, be a role model, and give back, and that's your time, your talents, and your money, whether it's to the organization, other organizations, whatever you need to be giving back. That's my advice," he said.