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.

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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.”


  1. Hello and congratulation. Interesting when I start to study for this career, my professor was mention of you and your success. He say you were inspired many other realtor in the business and it is true. I congratulate you and happy that many years ago I joint century 21 as well. Great philosophy and family oriented. Keep up and many blessing for sharing your story. We all should be in touch with our clientele and create awareness without be selfish but honor with gratitude their trust for life.

  2. Hi Bonnie,

    I have been in the business since 1978. For me, this has been the year of past clients from years ago, one client I sold 18 years ago, another 21 years ago, another 19 years. Keeping in touch with past clients if the best thing that you can do.

    My clients are all relationships, not transactions. How would you treat your clients differently if you knew the lifetime value of your client is $120,000?


  3. Bonnie, you are a true professional with a very high level of integrity and I love the way you do business. I’m grateful to have been a member of the STAR group for so many years. I wish you continued success, great health and much happiness as you have spread your happiness to so many.

  4. Love the article. We both got licenced the same year and boy have we seen changes. Keep on doing the things you do as it works. Glad to be part of that group that meets monthly with you. All the continued success for both you and Tomas

  5. So much truth and wisdom. I hope you inspire our new agents. We live in a fast paced world and kindness, caring and staying in touch is so important – your story has re-enforced my thoughts!

  6. Bonnie you are a class act! Your client based philosophy is spot on. You are an inspiration to those around you! Congratulations on a successful career with many years to come.

  7. Great article, Bonnie. You are such an inspiration to us all. Our kids all know your name from the fun “Bonnie Sample” swag that we have brought home from Century 21 National Conventions over the years. Can’t wait till we can see you at one again. Keep Well, Heather & Sam Finnie, Century 21 Sunset Realty Inc., Kincardine, Ontario

  8. We loved this article – very inspiring! Congratulations to you and continued success.
    We share similar milestones and we absolutely believe in your business philosophy!
    All the best in 2021 and always.
    Jim & Janet Young, Brokers
    RE/MAX Real Estate Centre Inc., Brokerage
    Kitchener, On
    (519) 591-1165 Cell Direct or Text
    [email protected]

  9. Bonnie, you are simply the best. You’re a giant in our industry. It has been a privilege and an honour to have had you in my classes. You are real estate royalty and 20 centurions…wow!

  10. Fantastic article Bonnie. It is so true: keep in touch with your clients and you will have them for life.

  11. A great article Bonnie and Congratulations on having your success story presented on REM. I totally concur with your business philosophy “treat others as you would like to be treated”. An additional philosophy I operate by is “Do what is Right, come what may”.


  12. Wonderful article Bonnie Too many upstart agents lose the personal touch because of technology In the tec world we tend to live in it’s refreshing that a personal touch older school philosophy sprinkled with tec is still done, appreciated and rewarded – Bravo Bonnie – Tracy McLachlan C21 Bachman Wpg


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