Realtor recognized for community involvement

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  • Courtesy Bill Leininger Bigfork Realtor Bill Leininger (left) was recognized as Montana’s Realtor of the Year by the National Association of Realtors president, John Smaby in November 2019.

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  • Courtesy Bill Leininger Bigfork Realtor Bill Leininger (left) was recognized as Montana’s Realtor of the Year by the National Association of Realtors president, John Smaby in November 2019.

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As a Realtor, Bill Leininger doesn’t just work to sell houses — he works to make the Flathead Valley a better home for its residents. The longtime local Realtor was recently honored with the annual awards for Realtor of the Year 2019 by both the regional Northwest Montana Association of Realtors and the statewide Montana Association of Realtors.

“I’m just one of those people who feels compelled to serve, to give back,” said Leininger, who has run his own small real estate agency, Dean & Leininger, for 25 years in Bigfork.

The awards recognize Realtors for their involvement in local communities. Awardees must be nominated and then selected by a panel of past winners. The recipients of the regional honors are then passed on to the statewide pool, and all of the state honorees are recognized at the National Association of Realtors Annual Conference.

There are more than 1 million Realtors from across the country in the organization, and last year Leininger was one of the select honorees recognized at the ceremony in San Francisco, where basketball legend Magic Johnson was the keynote speaker.

“It’s an incredible honor to be talking with these folks from big states and little states,” Leininger noted. “It’s just a humbling honor, looking at the other people I’ve served with for the past years, if not decades.”

Despite his regard for his colleagues, it’s hard to imagine someone more active in the local community and real estate issues than Leininger.

Locally, Leininger coordinates the Salvation Army’s Bigfork Kettle Drive, where he annually organizes Bigfork volunteers for 200 hours of holiday fundraising. He also serves on the Flathead Electric Roundup for Safety Board and the Blacktail TV District Board.

“I always seem to want to be involved with something,” he said.

This interest extends beyond Bigfork and the Flathead Valley, as Leininger has a long history of traveling to Helena for various statewide initiatives to benefit the local community and champion real estate topics.

He recently completed a two-year term as the Government Affairs Committee chairman for the state, in which he worked to carry state legislation related to real estate interests like land, water, regulation and tax issues.

Last year, he said he and other real estate advocates monitored 82 state bills related to these issues in the state legislature.

He also currently serves as first vice president with the Montana Association of Realtors. In this position, he commits to a four-year term where he will eventually serve as Vice President, then the President and then the Past President of the statewide real estate organization.

Even farther afield, Leininger has regularly worked at the national level to secure legislation favorable for real estate in the local community. Every May, he is part of a group that meets with legislators in D.C. to discuss national bills and their impact on the Flathead Valley real estate market.

“In this business, you’re either in 100% or you’re not,” said Leininger, who somehow seems to be even more than 100% invested into the industry.

He said his commitment comes from the opportunity to help out a diversity of local clients, from people selling massive properties to first-time home buyers.

“For myself, [that’s] the neatest part of this,” he said.

He recalled a time in his career when he was simultaneously working with a buyer interested in a multi-million-dollar luxury property and a single mother working to afford a modest home for her children. “I helped both parties get into the property they wanted to,” Leininger remembered.

He said his knack and passion for real estate come from his ability to appreciate and serve these different customers. “All the components are the same, it’s just the 0s” in the home price that are different, he insisted.

“If you can’t take them both as serious, you shouldn’t be in the business,” he added.

And after more than two decades in this business, Leininger has had the opportunity to observe a lot of changes in the industry and the area.

In his experience, one of the most significant developments has been the evolution of technology. Turning his smartphone over in his hand, he marveled at “the technology that’s at our fingertips.”

He remembered prior to the mid-1990s, when real estate listings were published monthly in “the book,” a hefty, black-and-white publication with a few inches of information and a single grainy photo for every property. He demonstrated how modern online listings can have fifty or one hundred photos from various angles and an overflowing collection of up-to-date information about each property.

“I think it’s raised the bar of professionalism in our industry,” he observed. “We can serve our clients so much better.”

With these developments, he said the valley and the real estate industry have exploded. In the mid-1990s when agents were still relying on “the book,” he said there were about 400 Realtors in the valley, compared to more than 1,000 agents today.

“We’re growing and we’re going to continue to grow here,” he said of both the area and the local real estate market.

If anyone would know, it’s probably Leininger, who has been on the front lines of local, statewide and national trends for the last quarter-century.

“I’ve served in different capacities and I’ve been given the ability to watch in different perspectives on the valley,” he explained.

And with his expertise, he also shared, “I was born and raised here in the valley, and it’s still the best place in the world to live.” »

Reporter Bret Anne Serbin may be reached at or 758-4459.

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