Meet & Greet with Spokane Realtors’ Tiffany Claxton-Standley
Spokane Association of Realtors, CEODecember 1st, 2022
Tiffany Claxton-Standley began her role as CEO of the Spokane Association of Realtors on Sept. 19, taking over for Rob Higgins, who retired from the association after having served as executive vice president for nearly 40 years.
Claxton-Standley has over nine years of experience in Realtor association management. Prior to her role here, she was the CEO for the Kitsap County (Washington) Association of Realtors, on Washington state’s Kitsap Peninsula and encompassing Bainbridge Island, west of Seattle.
Claxton-Standley grew up in North Carolina and went to college in Tennessee where she lived for 22 years. During her time there, she had leadership roles in college administration and the Williamson County Association of Realtors, in Brentwood, Tennessee.
As Spokane Association of Realtors CEO, Claxton-Standley leads an association of 2,700 members and 150 affiliate companies.
The Journal recently sat down with Claxton-Standley to discuss her new role and the future of the association.
What led you to a career in real estate association management?
Back in the 2000s, before the housing market crash in 2007, I worked in title and escrow. It was during that time that I first became interested in working with Realtors. When you’re working in title and escrow, you’re working on all sides of the deal, the seller and buyer side of the transaction. I enjoyed the pace of it, but I really enjoyed the end result when people were introduced to the American dream of homeownership.
That was really important to me, because my parents didn’t buy their first home until well into their 40s. I watched my parents work very hard, but as part of a family of five where my dad was a pastor, we had a much lower income and didn’t qualify for a home. Being able to work in that environment that helps people obtain homeownership drew me to the association-management world.
What is the purpose of a Realtor’s association?
There is a lot of people who think that the purpose of the association is for us to deliver continuing education. It certainly is a part of what we do, but we are also here to advocate on behalf of homeownership rights and private property rights, and work on local issues that have to do with affordability and address gaps in the industry that have to do with underrepresented communities and how we can bridge the gaps.
You started your role during a period of high inflation. How does that impact the market?
We are in an interesting market where, in terms of national historical inventory, our inventory is low. In an area like Spokane, we continue to have a shortage.
Interest rates are increasing, but the 30-year-average of interest rates is about 8%, so we are not seeing bad interest rates. I heard a Realtor the other day say, “Buy the house, date the rate,” and I thought that was very interesting.
Because we know we are potentially heading into a recession, we know interest rates will potentially adjust. As they adjust, buyers still have the opportunity right now to purchase homes and get the home they want. With inventory coming up, it’s becoming more of a buyer’s market. It’s not quite there, we still have only 2.2 months of inventory within the market here in Spokane. But you can purchase the house and then refinance.
Are there certain goals from Rob Higgins that you are continuing in your role?
I know Rob had a lengthy service to local government and has a lengthy military service background. I don’t see myself in the political arena, but I do think our hearts regarding housing issues and politics are very similar.
I think our passions are along the same lines, and I definitely think we relate to the association’s members in that we wouldn’t have jobs without our members.
Rob was always here to serve the members, and I feel very strongly that is the same for me. It’s important for me that the members know who I am and that they feel they can approach me or call me for anything.
I think the idea of openness and warmth and transparency with our members is what helps us collaborate with one another and understand that it is a partnership between members and the association.
What obstacles do you foresee?
The market is cyclical, so we are going to see a housing adjustment in general. It may be a little delayed in this area. I was at a meeting recently, and a Realtor, Melissa Murphy, mentioned how the buyer demand today is lower than the 2008 housing crash. It is the largest drop in pending sales in eight years.
When I think about this, I think of how I’ll be challenged in a number of ways. For one, the association will see a drop in Realtor members. That’s very cyclical, because when the market drops, those who are not doing well will also hang up their license or put it in inactive status.
You will see some sellers who have been maybe a little overzealous with prices on their homes, anticipating that they should get a certain amount. What they don’t realize is that it’s not the Realtor who dictates the price of the home. It’s the market.
So while their home a year ago may have been worth “X” amount, their house today is worth a different amount.
There is a lot of education that needs to happen with buyers and sellers for them to understand that a shifting market is different than a seller’s market. When we see the shift, I don’t know that we will see the buyers’ demand pick up that quickly until interest rates drop.
What are some projects you are excited for?
We are looking at enhancing benefits for our members and being more active in our community by collaborating and having coalitions with more community members, partnering with new organizations, and also continuing to strengthen the relationships we already have.
Rob served us for so long, and he was such a great leader. I’ve been told I have big shoes to fill. My feet are smaller, but I’m certainly up for the challenge. I’m looking forward to seeing some new innovative things. You might see a new logo, new branding.
We have been very behind our efforts in diversity, equity, and inclusion. In 2023, we will have a DEI committee for the first time. We’ll be working on fair-housing initiatives and having a more inclusive environment. I think that’s really important, because the only way we address these fair-housing issues is if we start addressing them within the real estate community. DEI work is one of the things our president elect, Tom Hormel, wants to implement, and I think that’s one of the things we absolutely need.
I’m looking forward to what’s ahead.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.