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What was the real estate industry like 30 years ago?

Have you ever wondered what it was like to be a real estate agent in the ’80s or earlier? If you weren’t even born then, you wouldn’t be able to imagine it. Computers? No, we used MLS tear sheets and MLS books. Email? No, we spoke face to face. Cell phone? No, we used phone booths. DocuSign? No we used a pen and paper and six copies of an offer! Canada411? Nope, we used a Bowers Book. (I know, what’s that?)

It was an exciting time though, as it is every decade. Let’s start with basics. Homes sold on average from $150,000 to an extreme high of $1 million. If you bought a house for $1 million, you were super rich! Commissions were six per cent, split 50/50 between brokerages. Oh, and all agents represented the vendor (seller).

Have you ever heard of “threshold introduction?” Wait till you hear what that was!

If an agent took a client over the threshold of a front door (or back or side door), that person was that agent’s client for that house. No ifs ands or buts. Period! There was no such thing as representing a purchaser (buyer) by contract. If you conducted an open house and someone came in without an agent and wanted to buy it, they had to use you, the agent there. Sounds like fun? We learned to “co-operate” with each other so agents felt protected if they had a relationship with the purchaser, and that purchaser preferred to use that agent. Complicated? Sometimes.

How about deposit cheques? Well, they didn’t use bank drafts at a whim. So the listing agent, yes the listing agent, would take the regular cheque given for the deposit to the bank to get it certified. The local branch? No, that would be too easy. We had to go to the head offices downtown and hope our cars didn’t get towed while we ran in to get this done. I know many seasoned agents reading this will get a chuckle, while the younger agents are saying, “What was wrong with you?”

We had no options. No easy convenient way to do our business. We just did it. Offer presentations? They started around 9 p.m. in person and lasted many times till 1 or 2 a.m. Remember, there was no way to communicate the offer events to either client until we got back to their home to discuss it. We really did spend most of our time in cars. I miss some of those days.

I love this business and I’m glad I experienced what I did. Two recessions, interest rates over 20 per cent, and many face-to-face interactions with agents and clients. Can you imagine that today we do business with agents we have never met? Seems strange.

I could go on for a while, but you get the gist. I have always taught my agents that technology is to assist your business, not do it for you. Don’t forget if you want to succeed, you need to do things over and above what’s expected and what’s the “norm.”

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