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Association of Realtors serves as hub for community growth

by Peter Koepp 

Kitchen in a Fargo home.
Association of Realtors, Fargo, N.D. (photo by John Kary (NDAREC

The buzzword of the last several years in the Fargo-Moorhead (F-M) area has most certainly been “growth.” New developments accent the land. People who have been away for some time return to find entirely new neighborhoods or entire parts of town that were not there when they left. With growth comes demand, and it’s touching many sectors, not the least of which is housing.

A group of approximately 1,000 people in the F-M area work to meet the needs of the housing demand. The Fargo-Moorhead Area Association of Realtors (FMAAR) consists of more than 800 Realtors and 200 insurance agents, lenders, inspectors, utilities and other non-realtor partners all working toward the same goal: to help people find and/or sell their homes.

The various members of FMAAR each have specific roles and can prove crucial to the home-buying experience. The network of contacts and resources established by the association is a key tool in making the multi-step process smooth for clients. Monthly lunch meetings draw 200 attendees to network and learn about how to continually improve. Despite having a fraction of the number of members of larger markets in places like California and Florida, meeting attendance of F-M members is often much higher.

“It speaks volumes about how we are connected here and how we rely on each other,” says Jodi Tollefson of Beyond Realty and president of FMAAR. “There’s a sense of community and mutual respect. It’s not us versus them.”

The purpose of the meetings is to develop and maintain that community sense among FMAAR partners. Speakers address topics ranging from flood issues to special assessments, ensuring Realtors and business partners have a wealth of knowledge available for potential local homebuyers.

There has certainly been no shortage in demand for such information. Despite slowdowns in statewide draws such as the oil boom, local housing markets are still robust. In the first quarter of 2017, new listings are up 11.4 percent, active listings are up 13.7 percent, and the average sales price is up 3.4 percent, all signs of a healthy market. Even the number of Realtors in the area continues to rise, up from around 500 just a few years ago.

A major part of providing a high-quality experience for clients is education. Marti Kaiser, CEO of FMAAR, notes that Realtors work to be resource experts. While a Realtor’s knowledge base stretches into many realms of the business, they know when to hand the baton to another expert. Additionally, people moving into the F-M area may be entering a market much different from the one they’re leaving, making it crucial for the local Realtor to help clients know what to expect.

The fast-paced F-M housing market can prove particularly challenging for first-time homebuyers. Homes in the more affordable first-time price range tend to be limited and move especially fast, but challenges like this are exactly what FMAAR is prepared to assist with.

“Having that Realtor being (a first-time homebuyer’s) eyes and ears when the right home comes up is what they need. There’s a house out there for everybody,” Tollefson says.

Education is crucial for the members of FMAAR as much as for the clients. The association arranges continuing education for Realtors – in North Dakota, Realtors must achieve nine hours of continuing education each year.

FMAAR works with local utilities like Cass County Electric Cooperative (CCEC) to provide potential buyers with information about utility consumption and costs in a home. Additionally, CCEC is a resource for homeowners looking to replace heating and cooling systems or water heaters, with rebates and monthly savings through off-peak programs. Cass County Electric Cooperative serves the FMAAR office.

FMAAR provides access to the local multiple listing service (MLS), which is a database of the most accurate information regarding the local real estate market. Kaiser and Tollefson note that popular online services are good tools for sample data and for those who are more curious than serious, but they caution that such data may be inaccurate or outdated, which can be critical hiccups in a fast-paced market.

Much like lenders with rates, there is no surefire way for Realtors to know exactly what the housing market will look like in the future. Available land is one indicator of potential growth, and based on this, Tollefson notes that Fargo-Moorhead and the surrounding areas will likely continue to expand in the years to come. Revitalization of older infrastructure is also becoming more common, presenting new opportunities in already established neighborhoods.

The level of cooperation from such a large group of people occupying such diverse professional roles is astonishing, but to many living in the Red River Valley, that’s just the way things are around here.

“All of our members are competitors,” Kaiser says. “But they get along, they work together.”

 


Peter Koepp is the communications coordinator for Cass County Electric Cooperative.