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A Closer Look: Sara Hopkins

Owner, Re/Max Precision Urban Office


Every December, Sara Hopkins writes her goals for the coming year on a vision board.

“Own my own boutique real estate firm” has been included in the list for the past seven or so years.

The goal won’t be on her vision board this year.

In October, Hopkins opened the Re/Max Precision Urban Office at 3720 Sixth Ave. in Des Moines. 

The brokerage, located in the Highland Park/Oak Park neighborhoods, will house 10 licensed real estate brokers and has room to add 20 others.

Hopkins finalized the purchase of the property in mid-2021 and then began renovating the building. The structure, built in 1948, was previously home to a small accounting firm and a thrift shop.

“I showed this space to some clients of mine,” Hopkins said. “When they saw it, it was horrendous. Full of black mold, crumbling ceiling, water everywhere. It was absolutely disgusting. … They said there was absolutely no way they wanted it.”

Hopkins said she made sure her clients weren’t interested in the property before pursuing buying it.

“I asked them, ‘Are you sure? Because I can see something really beautiful here,’” Hopkins said. “They said, ‘Go for it because we want absolutely nothing to do with it.’”

Hopkins said she spent more than $10,000 to get architectural drawings and engineer reports completed before going before the city’s Plan and Zoning Commission.

“I had to get 13 waivers to make the construction even somewhat affordable, which was already wa-a-ay over budget,” she said. “I wanted to make this work. … I was determined I was going to have an office in Highland Park. My grandma lived on Holcomb [Avenue]; my mom grew up there. I spent my childhood at Aqualand, Chuck’s, Highland Bakery. 

“It’s very sentimental to me.”

We recently caught up with Hopkins.

How did you get into the real estate business? 

After I graduated from college, I moved to England. I lived there for four years, and I worked for a magazine. My husband and I ended up selling everything we owned, went and traveled the world and then came back to Des Moines. Everything during our travels was on a shoestring budget. 

We forgot to budget for once we got back home because we thought we’d get jobs right away. Well, when we got here, it was January 2009 and in the middle of a recession.

We were living in my parents’ basement and I went on job interview after job interview and kept getting rejected. It was a very depressing time. I thought I was this cool, international sales rep who would quickly get a job. I just totally got knocked down to earth.

My mom [real estate agent Linda Westergaard] was fortunate enough that her business wasn’t completely crashed with the recession and she said to me one day, “Well, why don’t you get licensed and help me out until you find something else.” I very begrudgingly got licensed and then ended up totally loving it. … Within about three years, I was selling more than her.  

What did she think about that?

It was always an ongoing joke. She knew it didn’t make sense for me to stay with her so I went off on my own and started my own team. Now, 12 years later, she’s now on my team.

Growing up, did you want to go into real estate sales?

No, I did not want to get into real estate. You see your parents do it and you see the long hours. … You’re working evenings and weekends. You can show 50 houses to one couple and then they end up buying a for-sale-by-owner. People think it’s a glamorous life, and it’s absolutely, positively not. It’s 24/7. 

Talk about when you realized that you wanted to become a real estate agent.

I realized I was really good at it – good in the sense that it’s all about connecting with people, which is exactly what I had done in my previous roles. You’re not selling something. You’re understanding what people want; you’re understanding what their needs are.

Why is it important to you to have a real estate office in a Des Moines neighborhood?

I want to be the person that advocates for why [people should live] in Des Moines, why you should go to Des Moines public schools. There’s so much more to offer in these neighborhoods. … I wanted to be in the heart of Des Moines. I wanted walkability. I want my clients and other agents to go to Slow Down [Coffee Co.] for coffee, go eat at Chuck’s, go shop at Des Moines Mercantile. Everybody in this neighborhood is so incredible and nice. I just love the idea that this space can bring more people here to experience that. 

Talk about your vision for this office.

I didn’t want traditional office space here where you get top producers in their own offices. I want this to be a complete collaboration space – total think tank environment. I really, truly believe we can be more successful together. We can make each other better by collaborating together. … I want this to be a space that a Realtor can come in that maybe doesn’t have as much experience. I know for me, I felt very isolated in the real estate world. If it wasn’t for my mom … there was nobody sitting me down to say, “Here’s all the things you’re going to learn.” All that you learn, you cannot learn in a book; you have to experience it. … It’s all about problem-solving and being solution-oriented. I felt that there was a lack of that in other offices because people, at least in my experience, tend to be more isolated and private with what’s going on. I wanted to create this open space where everybody can bounce ideas off of each other.

Describe the real estate agent who will find working out of this office appealing.

They are agents who are working in central Des Moines. They are familiar with older neighborhoods. They are familiar with the process of selling older homes. I think the agents that are working out of here are going to [have] clients that are also pretty invested in the Des Moines metro area.

What have you learned from your mom that you’re applying to your new situation?

What my team and I have learned from my mom is that this business is 100% relationship-focused. You do not ever work for a paycheck. The money that is made is irrelevant. It’s about taking care of your clients, making sure that they are zealously advocated for. Making it about a relationship – that you’re not just going to sell them one house, you’re going to sell them many homes throughout their lifetime.

Where do you see this office in five years?

I hope that in five years, we have run out of space. That we have so many agents who want to be a part of this community and this office, that we have to buy another building to renovate to make room for them.


At a glance


Hometown/Lives in: Des Moines    

Family: Husband Marc Hopkins and two children: Pippa, 10, and Alfie, 8 

Education: Received bachelor’s degree in mass communication in 2006 from Grand View University.

Age: 38

Work Background: Worked in the United Kingdom for several years after graduating from college as a senior account executive for Touchbase Magazine. Joined Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices in 2011, working there until 2017 when she moved to Re/Max Concepts. In 2020, joined Re/Max Precision.

Contact: sara@sarahopkinsrealtor.com

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