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Tom and Michelle Gifford have recently re-entered the real estate field.

By Pam Reinig

Register Editor


Tom and Michelle Gifford have brought their careers full circle.

The Elkader couple, already busy raising three daughters and running two other businesses, recently returned to their professional roots by launching a real estate company. Gifford Realty, which opened in January, operates out of Tom’s longtime office, Gifford Insurance, on Main Street in Elkader. Several years ago, the couple was involved in commercial real estate in St. Louis, where they both lived and met after college. This is the their first venture into the residential real estate market.

“When I moved back to Elkader, I thought about real estate but I was pretty focused on insurance,” Tom explained. “But it stayed in the back of my mind. And then about four years ago, I noticed that some of our area realtors were nearing retirement age. That’s when I started thinking more and more about it as a possibility for me.”

To become a broker, Tom traveled back and forth to Des Moines—the only place classes were offered at the time—over a period of several weeks. Fitting the trips and class work into his busy schedule was further complicated by the fact that no night courses were offered.

Michelle’s path to becoming an agent was less time-consuming, though it, too, had to be worked into a busy schedule. Michelle is a co-owner of Archive Gift Shop. She became a licensed real estate agent at the beginning of February.

Though the venture is still new, the Giffords have already experienced a couple of big differences between this realty experience and their earlier experiences.

“Residential real estate is more personal and not nearly as competitive as commercial,” Tom said. 

“It’s more about relationship building,” Michelle added.

The Giffords are intentionally limiting their listings to a 30-mile radius of Elkader. However, they are participants in the MLS or multiple listing service, which provides access to listings nationwide. According to Tom, it’s been several years Elkader hs had a realtor associated with the MLS.

Working as a team is another unique approach to buying and selling offered by the Giffords. Tom describes himself as the “nuts and bolts” side of things while Michelle works with sellers to stage their homes in ways that will attract buyers. “I’m good about visualizing things,” she said. “I like architecture and decorating as well as photography, which is great skill for someone selling a home.”

The couple has already sold a few properties and while the success is great, there’s something just as valuable at stake here for Tom.

“I’m really enjoying having a new challenge at this stage of my career,” he said. “Learning something new has given my work live some variety, and I’ve found I really like that.”

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