by Team Broady on Wednesday, April 12, 2023

Working as a real estate agent in the past was a much different experience than it is today. In the pre-Internet world of real estate brokerage, everything happened a lot slower, and some aspects of the job are almost hard to imagine when we consider all the tools at our disposal now. 

This past weekend, we were visiting Libby at her condo in Pointe-Claire, and as usual we got to talking about real estate. One of the things that came up was how much things have changed since she started in the business back in the ’80s. Before long we were reminiscing about the “good ’ol days,” and killing ourselves laughing about some of the things she had to do back then.

No Internet!

Can you even imagine? How did buyers search for houses? Where was the information kept and distributed? Well, according to Libby, there was this thing called the “MLS” (Multiple Listing Service), which was essentially a printed catalogue of property listings that had to be updated once a week. Realtors would submit new listing information, which would include one photo of the exterior of the home and a brief description of the property, including details such as price, taxes, address, lot size, number of bedrooms and bathrooms, etc. Keep in mind the photo had to be taken with a film camera and the film had to be developed before the photo could be submitted and published. These clunky books were then delivered weekly to the various real estate offices. Just imagine how much paper that required! The only ways to market a home back then were to use the MLS, advertise in newspapers and the real estate office front window, or rely on the sign on the front lawn.

No Cell Phones, No Email!

In the ’80s, the only way to reach your real estate agent was to call them at home or leave a message at their office and have them “paged.” Even then, only the top agents could afford pagers. Most would simply call in to the office periodically to check for messages. Around the time Libby first got into the business, her kids were getting to that age where we were chatting with our friends on the (landline) phone (especially Catherine!). Four kids fighting with a busy real estate broker mom over one phone line was a battle we were destined to lose. Eventually Libby gave in and added the “call waiting” feature before she finally sprung for a second “kids’ line.” We remember family vacations when we would have to stop at random payphones so Libby could return calls and messages. 

No 3D Virtual Tours!

Because there was no Internet, and listings were limited to one, often grainy black-and-white photo, the only way to get any real sense of a property was to visit it in person. Today’s buyers and their agents can easily preview 30 or more listings, while scrolling through dozens of high-res photos, 3D virtual tours, and interactive videos. We can narrow our selection down to our top three picks in a matter of minutes, all from the comfort of our couch, before even booking a single visit. Back in “the olden days,” however, the onus was entirely on the agent to do all the research on their client’s behalf. Agent “caravans” and open houses were crucial, and it wasn’t unusual for an agent to preview a dozen homes for their buyer before selecting the three or four that they felt best suited their needs. This meant that most agents focused on small geographic areas, becoming experts in their own local markets. There was a time when Libby was considered the “Queen of Sherwood,” the small neighbourhood of Beaconsfield where we grew up. 


Sticking to the local neighbourhood was also an advantage for the ’80s realtor because you knew your way around! Having an intimate knowledge of the back streets, shortcuts, parks, and schools provided instant credibility for any agent. The common practice was to arrange to meet your client at the office and then drive them to the property visits in your own vehicle. Keeping your car clean and tidy was an absolute must back then. As soon as you had to venture outside your known territory, you had to pull out the (paper) maps! The last thing you wanted to do was to be getting lost, fumbling with a map while driving your clients around. To avoid this, Libby used to venture out the day before and plot her route in advance, taking note of all the important features of the neighbourhood. If you weren’t an expert on the area, you sure had to act like you were!

No Electronic Signatures!

Another thing we take for granted today is the ease and convenience of e-signing. An offer to purchase can be drafted and signed within a few minutes, and sent anywhere in the world with the click of a mouse. Forty-some-odd years ago, contracts were drafted by pen, or with a typewriter, and every signature had to be made in person and witnessed. The signed contracts were then either hand delivered to the other agent, or faxed–remember those clunky machines?–to their office. Obviously, deals took a lot longer to finalize back then.

While selling real estate in the past was more challenging in many ways, it was also a simpler time, when personal connections and more traditional marketing made all the difference. When contrasting the past with the present, we can also consider the changes we’ve seen in home values and real estate commissions. In 1985, the value of the average home in Canada was around $100,000. Meanwhile, real estate fees were typically 7% of the sale price. Today’s average home value is closer to $700,000, and real estate fees are between 4% and 5%. Let’s not even mention interest rates!

At TEAM BROADY, we believe that our clients deserve the best of both worlds. So we do our best to combine that “old school,” hands-on service and charm with the speed and convenience of the newest technology. Please consider us for your next real estate transaction. We can be reached at 514-613-2988 or by email at info@teambroady.ca