Since Bonnie Sample started her real estate career 34 years ago, so much has changed. But one thing has stayed the same – her life and business philosophy: treat others as you would like to be treated.
In 1987, Sample lived in Ottawa and had two small children when her job came to an end. Her friend, a mortgage broker, suggested she get her real estate license. She joined Century 21. Two years later she had another child and moved to Barrie, Ont., where she joined Century 21 B.J. Roth Realty.
She and husband of 44 years, Tim, bought a home and began to settle in. However she says it took a while for her to start over again because they didn’t know anyone.
She didn’t let that discourage her. She built her clientele by holding “open house after open house after open house.”
From the start, Sample has known the value of keeping in touch with her clients. Every month, for over 30 years, her clients have received the Sample Report, a newsletter that arrives by mail. (She still has clients who don’t have email and others enjoy receiving physical rather than virtual communication.)
Her marketing also includes an annual calendar for all and special treats for top clients, including, for the past 20 years, Christmas wreaths. In fact some clients are ready and waiting for their annual treat. “Some already have a hook on the door when the wreath arrives,” she says. Maintaining contact with your existing data base is key, she says.
During the pandemic, last year’s Butter Tart Festival was cancelled but that didn’t mean Sample’s clients had to do without. She sent her top clients the sweet treats.
On Fun Day Monday, she poses a question and a lucky winner receives a $25 gift card. It’s all about her clients, not herself, she says.
“Real estate is a people business,” Sample says. “Don’t make it about yourself…. We look after people the best way we can. I love the job and look after clients. It’s a bonus to get paid.”
Some of Sample’s tips: When you’re starting out, contact all the people you know, from your babysitter to the person who works in the pharmacy. Stay in regular contact with them and provide information, for example if a house on their street sells.
Those contacts pay off with referrals and repeat business. Recently, someone she sold a house to 27 years ago contacted her to sell the house.
“She has so many nuggets of wisdom when it comes to being a top producer,” says broker Tamara Perlic. “Her honesty and professionalism and putting her clients first at all times is admirable.”
Sample also partakes in a monthly meeting where participants share ideas and discuss issues. Agents come from all different companies but have a commonality. “We have the same mindset: being a Realtor for life.”
That’s what makes it hard for her to pinpoint one memorable deal. “We really enjoy helping families repeatedly move over the years and we like being their Realtors for life,” she says.
Because Barrie is not very big, Sample says, not too many agents specialize. She sells everything from condos to mansions on the waterfront.
“It’s the craziest market in I’ve seen in 34 years,” she says. There’s not much inventory. It’s a sellers’ market.”
Over the years, she has adapted to changes and kept on learning. Perlic says Sample is “always learning, always improving and always helping new agents when they need it.”
Five years ago, the mother of three welcomed her son into the business.
“Working with my son Tomas has been amazing. He brings a new group of clients, technical skills and freshness to the business. I look forward to continuing working with Tomas in the future,” says Sample, stressing how important her family’s support has been. “I have also had the support of my husband Tim. He has supported me throughout my career, as well as my two daughters Kirsten and Lindsay.”
Her daughters did not follow in her footsteps. One is a physiotherapist and the other a journalist.
Sample is also involved in Century 21’s charity of choice, Easter Seals. “Our office has been the No. 1 fundraiser in all of Canada for the past seven years, raising over $1 million. We are involved in a number of activities locally that raise money for Easter Seals.”
She is a 20-year Centurion award winner, a member of the Hall of Fame and was named Agent of the Year for Century 21 Canada in 2008, which she says was a true honour.
As for the future, once COVID-19 is over, people may not be comfortable going back to open houses the way they were before the pandemic, she says. “There will be a bit more face to face but it will be limited. People will be cautious for a while. The level of online marketing will continue, not because of COVID-19, but because it’s how people want to do real estate. They want to check out a house before they call.”
She looks forward to the time she can gather with clients and colleagues. “I miss the people contact.”