As the 2020 president of the Spokane Association of Realtors, Tom Clark has spent the past year assisting real estate brokers, agents and clients navigate Spokane’s housing market.
Clark has 27 years of experience as a Realtor, broker, trainer and manager with Crowley Realty, Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate; Coldwell Banker Real Estate; and Kestell Co. Realtors.
He has served on several boards within the local Realtors association, including the education, communications, grievance, professional standards and serving our Spokane committees.
As SAR president, Clark also acts as a liaison between the association and the community, providing answers about the local real estate market, which is competitive with low inventory, rising prices and high demand, despite the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The real estate market is ever-changing, it’s in a constant state of flux. Even in specific neighborhoods, the market can vary day to day. So I think (the role as association president) is to offer the members stability, tools they need to be successful and give them somebody they can talk to or ask questions,” Clark said. “Whether they are managing brokers or are brand new agents, I think that my job is to be there for them.”
Helping clients is key
Clark was raised in Maple Valley, Washington, and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in education from Central Washington University. After graduation, he worked for the small commuter airline Cascade Airways in the Tri-Cities. When Cascade Airways offered Clark a promotion, he transferred to the airline’s headquarters in Spokane.
Clark remained with the airline until the mid-1980s. In 1986, he became a Dale Carnegie course instructor in Spokane, teaching evening adult education courses in communications and human relations. He continued teaching classes through 2001.
Clark’s career in real estate began after several brokers and owners suggested he give it a try. He was working for a Spokane-area trucking company, which gave him an option to move to Gary, Indiana, or take a 30% pay cut. Clark opted to enroll in real estate school and obtained his license in 1992.
After obtaining a real estate license, Clark joined Crowley Realty, Better Homes and Gardens, owned by local broker Tom Crowley.
“It turns out they were an exceptional firm, and an exceptional opportunity to learn and get my feet on the ground,” Clark said.
Clark names Crowley, a past president of the Spokane Association of Realtors, as a mentor throughout his real estate career.
“He’s a real good person, good human being, very knowledgeable, willing to share his thoughts and his experiences,” Clark said. “I gained a huge amount from him in the first 10 years I was in the business.”
Clark remained with Crowley Realty, Better Homes and Gardens until 2004. He was a Realtor and sales manager for Coldwell Banker Northwest Group for seven years before joining Kestell Co. Realtors in 2011.
Clark said the most gratifying aspect of working in the real estate industry is that success is based on how much effort you put into helping clients.
“I sleep very well at night knowing that I don’t get paid until I’m completely successful. If my clients are successful, then I’m successful, and I’m OK with that,” he said. “The nice thing about real estate is if you do work full time and you work hard and do your job well, you can make a good living, but being self-employed is a whole different mindset than working for somebody else.
“There’s times you may get up in the morning and say, ‘Gee, I don’t have any appointments.’ Some people will say, ‘I guess I can take the day off and go golfing,’ and then others like me will say, ‘I don’t have any appointments, I better go get some.’ So, I go to work.”
A word of advice
Clark advises aspiring Realtors to have a financial cushion before beginning a career in the industry.
“It’s not a get-rich-quick type of proposition. It’s a one day at a time sort of deal and it can take two or three months before you get your first transaction and another month after that before you get paid,” he said. “The nice thing about real estate is when you get paid, it’s usually a substantial payday. So even though it’s not uncommon when you are in the business to go two or three months at a time between paydays, when you do get paid, it usually makes up for a lot of it.”
Clark said the real estate industry is people-oriented and it helps to network.
“When in doubt, contact people that you know like you and want you to succeed and help them see what you’re doing, and that you’re doing it well,” he said. “The better your relationship is with people, the better your business will be.”
The Great Recession was certainly a challenging time for the local real estate industry, Clark said, adding he took a 50% pay cut from 2011 to 2012.
“I was starting to wonder, ‘Are we ever going to come out of this?’ And eventually we did, one step at a time,” he said. “I was fortunate that over the years, I developed a base of referral clients and past clients. Just because things aren’t good doesn’t mean folks still don’t need to sell houses or don’t need to buy houses. We still have a habit of living indoors, so that’s a good thing.”
Another challenge, although temporary, was when the real estate industry was temporarily halted with intensifying of the COVID-19 pandemic in March and the resulting statewide stay-at-home order, Clark said.
“We weren’t even sure how we were going to give somebody keys if their house (sale) did close,” he said. “We could do nothing. You couldn’t go meet with anybody. We couldn’t talk to a client. We couldn’t hand them keys. We couldn’t see them at the closing table. It was sort of a challenge.”
Real estate agents launched virtual tours of homes and conducted transactions electronically until Gov. Jay Inslee eased restrictions, allowing Realtors to show homes and conduct walk-throughs with two people onsite at a time. That restriction was modified in May to allow three people onsite at a time.
“We’re still very concerned and very cautious for our clients and their health,” Clark said. “Anytime we’re with clients and showing houses, we’re maintaining social distancing and wearing masks.”
Hobbies outside of work
When Clark is taking time off from assisting clients, he enjoys fishing and deer and elk hunting.
“I try to take a trip up to Alaska and go salmon and halibut fishing once a year,” he said. “I have a couple of vintage travel trailers and restoring those, and showing them off is kind of a hobby.”
Another hobby of Clark’s is restoring a 1959 Ford Ranchero he’s owned for nearly 15 years.
Throughout Clark’s career in real estate, he’s made it a priority to nurture relationships with other Realtors.
“We compete for the listing. But as soon as the listing is signed, we all better be working together and, so, my philosophy all along has been to cooperate, get along with other Realtors and help them with their business,” he said.
Clark aims to continue helping clients and promoting Spokane as a favorable place to live.
“My goal a couple of years ago was to start slowing down a little bit, but I discovered I’m not very good at that … So, I’ll probably just continue to take care of my clients, their friends, relatives and business associates as best as I can,” Clark said. Amy Edelen can be reached at (509) 459-5581 or at email@example.com.
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