By Deb Hadachek Telescope News
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The name on the sign will change, but the faces in the business will remain the same.
David Blecha, Munden, purchased the real estate business owned by Roger Novak on the north side of the square in Belleville effective January 1. The name of the company has been changed to Blecha Realty.
But Novak and real estate agent Rosemary Burt will continue to help customers buy and sell properties. Novak founded the business in 1982.
Blecha became licensed in real estate sales in 2016 and last year fulfilled requirements to become a real estate broker. He says a desire to stay active led to his decision to start a new career.
“I enjoy visiting with people and want to stay involved in the farming community,” he says.
Blecha graduated from Belleville High School in 1971 and attended NCK Vocational-Technical College before returning to Republic County to farm full-time. He operated his own farm and worked for Polansky Seed before joining Novak in the real estate business.
Blecha says the value of farmland in the area has stabilized after a decline from a high point about five years ago, but the price always depends on the quality of the farm. Residential properties continue to be in demand.
“I’d love to have more houses listed,” he said. “I have lots of people who want to buy houses.”
“Some of that is job-related,” he said. “We have younger families who want to buy homes.”
Other demand comes from want to move to town from the farm. Inquiries also come from former residents or parents of current residents who want a slower pace lifestyle or to live closer to family.
Blecha’s anecdotal experience in housing demand is echoed by a housing study conducted by Republic County Economic Development several years ago. Almost forty percent (37.8%) of the respondents living in Republic County said they would be very or somewhat likely to move to a different residence within Republic County if a suitable apartment or house was available at that location.
Republic County Economic Development director Luke Mahin said that in 2019 on the RCED website had 10,591 page views on the Jobs page, followed by the Housing page with 4,931 page views.
Most of the website traffic is from the state of Kansas, Mahin said. Belleville accounts for 30% of that traffic on both pages.
Blecha and his wife, Retha, who works for the Republic County Appraiser, have three children, Joseph, Joelle and Marta, and five grandchildren.
Started As Auctioneers
Farming was also the path that Roger Novak, a Haddam native, followed into the auction and real estate businesses. He and his wife, Jean, still assist son Jeff with the family farm, but said the sale of the real estate business will give them time to golf, travel, and attend the activities of their eight grandchildren on their own schedule, instead of the business schedule. The couple’s other children are a son, Brian, and daughter Jamie.
Roger and his brother, Les, Munden, began auctioneering together in 1979, although both worked for other area auctioneers for many years before launching their own business. Neither formally trained for their auctioneer chant.
“We just went to every sale with our dad within 50 miles of Haddam,” Roger says. “We knew every auctioneer in the country.”
In 1981 Butch Gieber, Cuba, joined the auction company, which 38 years later is still known as Novak Bros. & Gieber auctioneers. That business will also continue.
“Our first auction together after Butch joined was the Haddam lumberyard,” Roger says. “It was a 12 hour sale.”
“That was the first and last 12 hour sale we ever did,” laughs Les. “The crowd was getting pretty thin by the time we got done.”
In the early years the trio conducted more than 30 auctions a year, and at least 15 of those were farm equipment sales, Roger says. That number has declined as both the size of farms increased and the demand for antiques decreased, they say.
“Now, maybe we do two farm auctions a year of machinery and equipment,” Roger says. “We’ve gone from one person farming a section to one person farming five sections.” Roger says the cost of modern machinery means that most farmers can’t afford to completely liquidate because of tax implications.
For household auctions, “there are some families we’ve conducted three or four auctions for through the years,” says Les. “We had an idea of the value of the antiques we were selling, and we usually could get that price–and most of the time, beat it.”
The rise of the internet has changed the way people sell household items and farm equipment, they say.
Real Estate Interest
Roger branched out on his own into the real estate business in 1982, first working under Harry Griffin at Washington. Two years later he earned his broker’s license, and operated Roger Novak Real Estate from his farm near Haddam.
In 2002 real estate agent Bobby Trecek offered Novak his business in Belleville. Trecek continued to work for Novak, along with agents H.D. Johnson, Rosemary Burt, Carol Bridgman and Jerry Stump.
Novak said there have been few extreme highs or lows in the area real estate business during his career.
“When the (Rock Island) railroad shut down and M-C Industries closed it affected sales for a while,” he says. “But when I look back through the years, we’ve always had around 30 real estate sales a year. Everything around here has always done pretty well.”
Paperwork has increased for real estate brokers in recent years, but that is often a factor in the financing, not the sale, he says.
“The contracts have been standardized in the state to where everyone is using the same contracts, and that’s a good thing,” he said. “When I first started we just needed a one page listing agreement, a copy of the contract and a copy of the closing statement.”
Novak said the building he will soon transfer to Blecha at 1325 18th ST has served a number of purposes in its history. The site was the Lahodny Mortuary, Doubek-Chaney Medical Clinic, and perhaps most familiar as Frank Krob’s photography studio where Roger and Jean both had their senior portraits and their wedding photographs made.
Karen Ebert operated Homes Unlimited from the location, and when Novak first moved to Belleville he and H.D. Johnson rented and shared the space with Waddell & Reed owner Brent Scott. He purchased his portion of the building in 2010, when Brent Scott remodeled the east side of the former studio for his financial services office.