A lot has changed in real estate in the last 50 years, but for Jim Denison of Re/Max Quinte in Belleville, Ont., some things will always be the same – putting clients first by being upfront, honest, friendly and kind, and always being ready to list and sell homes.
Denison got his real estate license in 1970, and the rest, as they say, is history.
“In those days, agents were required to make four copies (using carbon paper) of offers,” says Denison, who is 79. “When we were showing properties, you had the forms with you and filled them out on the car hood.”
Pricing homes didn’t rely on formal comparables. He says five or six agents would tour a house “and everyone gave their opinion” about the price. The average of those prices was what the home was listed for.
Technology consisted of a typewriter but soon photocopy machines replaced the need for carbon paper copies, followed by faxes, computers and now email, direct deposit and electronic signatures, says Denison, adding he’s adapted over the years as each new technology came along.
“I bought a Re/Max franchise in 1989 and called it Re/Max Empire. I sold it to Sean McKinney of Belleville in 1997 and he changed the name to Re/Max Quinte. This is who I am working for today,” Denison says. “It was an experience, researching companies and franchises. I found Re/Max to be superior with their systems. They’ve been No. 1 for many years in the whole system.”
What makes real estate even better these days is that Denison’s two grandsons are following in his and their late father’s (top producer David Denison) footsteps. David’s sons are Michael, 24, who joined the business in 2017, and Luis, who got his license in May.
Denison says his grandsons are “very professional. Michael is a director with the Quinte and District Association of Realtors. Luis just turned 20 and is doing very well. They’re the greatest guys in the world.”
That admiration is mutual. While other people only have the internet to provide answers, Michael says, “we look to Papa. The internet does not have the knowledge and experience that he has. When starting out in the business, he taught us from the ground up. He taught us the fundamentals of dealing with clients, drafting great offers, negotiating and having a good time! His continued mentorship has made us into very productive agents that we are today. We can’t thank him enough.”
Some of Denison’s advice? Look after every client. It’s not about a quick commission. “Always be upfront, honest and friendly. And never say you know when you don’t. Tell them you’ll check it out and get back to them.”
He says his grandsons sometimes ask him what he would do or how he would handle a situation. “I tell them how the old guy did it,” Denison says. “It’s about relationships, being friendly and kind. And don’t push anyone into anything they don’t want to do. It’s more important than ever during the pandemic. Everyone needs attention right now…. Help in any way you can.”
Michael says, “It’s extremely hard to condense all the wisdom Papa has shared with us over the years…. Relationships over transactions first, you’re in it for the long run, you must be balanced in all aspects of your life in order to last a long time without burning out. This business can eat all your time up if you let it. Prioritize what matters for you first. And lastly, if you are not having fun while you work, you’re not doing it right.”
The grandsons agree, “We couldn’t have it any better. Working with Papa is always full of laughs and good times making work not feel like work. There are not many agents out there who can say they are a third-generation family working together. The daily phone calls, the weekly lunch meets and working together on deals are memorable. We feel as if grandpa has discovered a way of using humour to give us just that extra amount of life and energy, allowing us to maximize our work efficiency. Everyone who has had the pleasure of working with him knows that he will have you laughing in a matter of seconds.”
McKinney says he has been working with Denison for 30 years. “He has seen all the ups and downs of real estate and a lot of changes in the last 50 years and could write a book about what he has seen,” says McKinney. “He is a past president of the Quinte and District Real Estate Board and chaired a lot of committees and helped to shape it into what it is today.”
Denison was on the board for more than three years, then served as its president for one year. He was honoured with the Re/Max Ontario Atlantic Canada broker owner of the year award in 1994 for brokerages with a population of under 50,000. In 1993, he received a Distinguished Service Award from Re/Max Ontario Atlantic Canada.
McKinney says Denison is “a treasured storyteller/jokester at our Re/Max parties and always has a smile on his face. Jim has a wealth of knowledge that he is passing on, especially in the north country/Madoc (areas). He just knows the market so well.”
He says Denison and his grandsons are “a formidable trio.”
“It’s a wonderful business,” says Denison. “You can work as much or as little as you want and take the time to go away. It’s the best job because of that. You can take time. People think they can’t but you could wear yourself out pretty quick if you let it. I cannot help but recommend the job.
“It’s been a tremendous ride. I’m still ready to do what I’ve always been doing – looking after people. I’ve met a lot of people, clients and agents and have a good rapport. I feel proud.”