As a teen growing up in Italy, Vince Tersigni was approaching his time for compulsory military service when his father gave him another option. He could go to Canada, where his father had been working on and off for about 10 years in the lumber trade, sending money back home to support his family.

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The young Tersigni chose the latter, though initially he wasn’t sure he’d made the right decision.

“Believe me, the first six months I prayed to go back every day. The cold, we came in fall, leaving your friends, the way of living was completely different,” says Tersigni.

“I used to go for walks there (in Italy), the bar, the movies. Here it’s a culture shock. Saturday and Sunday…what do I do, where do I go?” And the Greek and Latin he studied in high school in Italy was no help in English-speaking Canada.

Decades later, he’s still here and thriving in a successful real estate career. Tersigni is a broker at Royal LePage Elite Realty in Mississauga, Ont. This month, he’s celebrating 50 years in the business.

Vince Tersigni
Vince Tersigni

Tersigni got his start in the industry after leaving the tool and dye trade, to follow in the footsteps of a cousin who convinced him to get into real estate. That was in December 1971. “I was a young guy, naive…” he says.

He entered the field when technological innovations were archaic by today’s standards. Machines that most people rarely use anymore or are taken for granted were a big deal back then.

“I remember when the fax machine came out. Everyone thought that’d be the end of real estate,” says Tersigni. Losing the interaction with people seemed unfathomable.

As for the arrival of the photocopy machine, Tersigni described it as an “unbelievable” improvement from the old way of doing things. “We used to have a sheet of paper and put a film between the paper and the thing you were copying. That was the technology,” he says. The need to type up six copies of a document with carbon paper was now gone, along with ink-stained hands and the need to start all over again every time you made a typo.

From the early 1970s to the late 1980s, a typical day involved knocking on doors and working the phones looking for clients. Phone calls were typically made from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. Monday to Friday. “We used to do at least 75 to 100 a day,” Tersigni says. “Can you imagine doing that now at dinner time?”

Without the benefit of a push-button phone, the work was agonizingly slow. “It was a rotary dial phone and your index finger would get numb after a while, and then you’d use another finger.

“And you’d be surprised how many wrong numbers we use to dial,” he says. But he didn’t let that finger workout go to waste. “Even if you dial a wrong number, we still gave the same spiel to whoever we got on the line.”

Tersigni says he would identify himself and his company and ask the homeowner if they were thinking of selling their house.

“In those days they used to listen and be very cordial and say, ‘not for now but maybe in the next while.’ There wasn’t pure rejection, they didn’t slam the phone down. I never had that.”

The introduction of the do-not-call registry list has restricted the number of homeowners that salespeople can reach out to now. Door knocking is also disappearing. “People don’t want to be bothered…they used to open doors and now they don’t. They’re afraid. They don’t know who you are,” Tersigni says.

He remembers one unpleasant incident from the mid 1970s that still stands out in his mind. He arrived at a home, and an older British lady answered the door. She told him in no uncertain terms that she would never hire him because he is Italian.

Undeterred, Tersigni says he learned not to make a big deal of rejection and continued prospecting.

Then there were the late nights dealing with offers.

“You had to go personally to present the offer and most of the time, you didn’t do it in one shot,” says Tersigni, adding it wasn’t unusual for the negotiation to last until three or four in the morning.

If your client was in Hamilton and the buyer in Burlington, you physically had to go to Hamilton and talk to the seller. They’d give you a countersign and you had to go back to Burlington and convince them to take the countersign. “Sometimes the buyer doesn’t want this and wants to put more in and you go back to Hamilton. You can’t imagine” it today, he says.

Electronic signatures and negotiating via phone were still far in the future. “You had to go face to face, you’d need their signature. We were discouraged from discussing things on the phone.”

All those late nights, the cold calling and rejections, would prompt some to change careers. Yet Tersigni says he loves the business.

“It’s still as exciting as the first day. It’s a job I love, a profession, it’s like a drug,” he says.

He reminds REM of a story we did a few years ago about an agent in his office, Daniel Gargarella, who was 95 at the time (now 97) and is still selling real estate.

Will Tersigni continue working into his 90s? “If I live that long it’d be nice,” he says. “I’ve said to people around here, I will never retire.”

18 COMMENTS

  1. Hi Vince,

    Great story and very inspiring. I am a new realtor starting out in Ottawa. Hope to follow in your footsteps.

    Merry Christmas and Best wishes in 2022!

    Johnny B
    Ottawa, ON

  2. Can’t help but wonder what the next decade will hold in real estate. Congratulations big time to you both. I’m the youngster in the midst at 80 in a couple of months. Licensed in 1980.

    Just sharing some wonderful RLP memories. Spent many years under the RLP banner having achieved being number one rep for all Western Ontario Region, a wildly diverse map in a horseshoe shape of 3000 agents at the time, everything west of Yonge St. And: North including Ottawa and curving around to London. There were 9000 reps across Canada in the 80s, and I was number 22:9000, serving a blue-collar market. Each office 25-26 agents. Not yet franchised, each office was corporately owned and had a branch manager and regional Vice Presidents who managed a cluster of offices.

    Such an honour and I was an extreme networker. Even branch managers out in western Canada who had family in my trading area referred their local family directly to me. I typically did 35 referrals each year. There’s such power in networking and so many agents do not network at all. I would have had a respectable income even if I didn’t do any other business.

    At a golf club quarterly luncheon (maybe in Ancaster or London, so long ago) there were so many such luncheons for top producers one of those present that particular day was an amazing man I was told was 85 years young at the time (never would have guessed). So proud to have been in such company.

    That was in the mid 1980’s, thirty-five years ago. I didn’t know him but apparently he knew me. Very well-dressed in a navy topcoat, average weight, maybe 5’10, walking straight back and strong, very businesslike. A soft spoken real gentleman. As a regular member of the public I would have hired him immediately. He just had that kind of presence.

    Much to my surprise he stopped me on the stone steps access to the dining room, as I was exiting just before him. He did the most unusual thing. He called out in a firm business voice, “Carolyne, wait up, there’s someone I want to meet you.” So I turned around as he stepped forward with a young man maybe in his thirties at his side.

    I don’t remember his exact words but something to this effect: telling the young man that he needed to stay in touch with “me” because if he ever needed help “just give Carolyne a call, a couple hours away but she helps everyone everywhere.” WOW! What a compliment! And certainly a surprise introduction. I’m sure I smiled all the way home. It had been a long highway drive alone. No one else from our region was there.

    Of course we all exchanged business cards. Hint: save those cards and follow up with a mailed note – now of course email is acceptable. File such cards under the city name expecting to trade referrals at some point. If you really want to be remembered follow up again with postal service tangible mail greeting using a rememberable personalized postcard or enveloped greeting card, only because chances are no one else will. YOU will be remembered for referrals.

    What an honour to be introduced in such a wonderful way, other people couldn’t help but overhear. I always have fond memories of all the award luncheons, but this one in particular. I never missed one in all the years at various locations. One thing for sure, head office treated their top producers to the best of the best. And best networking opportunities.

    Stay strong, stay safe and productive, sharing your success secrets for many more marvellous years. Too bad there are not clones as well as drones in the making?

    Cordially,
    Carolyne Lederer
    1991 – Carolyne Realty Corp (now currently on medical leave)
    Small Company but BIG in Brampton
    http://www.Carolyne.com/bramptonhomes – loads of real estate articles to share

    Extracurricular free REM holiday reading perhaps for readers to share with friends, family and clients: ENJOY! from Lady Carolyne Lederer-Ralston
    REM’s exclusive Gourmet Cooking columnist for more than a decade.

    Merry Christmas to all:

    https://www.realestatemagazine.ca/columnists/recipes/

  3. Congratulations Vince,

    Its a great business, I remember those days, now agents complain for making money looking at the computer.

    All the best,
    Merry Christmas
    Royal Lepage Real Estate Professional

    Maria Casale

  4. All the best to you Vince. You obviously like to help people and love what you do! Enjoy the future years.

  5. Congratulations Vince. As a secretary in the early ’80s I remember typing offers on 6 sheets with carbon paper. I was hired because I was italian . Our office was on the Danforth and the drop off point, agents would come and pick up bundles of listings left everyday by delivery men from treb. No technology then. I loved reading your story. Best wishes Vince.

  6. Hey Vince congratulations on 50 years. Here’s wishing you many more healthy happy selling years. I loved your stories, I remember those day well.

  7. Congratulations Vince!

    My wife started her Real Estate career in London, ON as a single Mom in 1976 (congratulations on your 50 year career Vince). In 1981 she moved to Edmonton, AB and continued until 2012 when we moved to Mexico where she couldn’t resist getting right at the business she loves and knows very well.

    We are at Lake Chapala, Jalisco, Mexico and this area has one of the very few (and the best) MLS system in Mexico… it is also the favoured retirement area in Mexico and she regularly does referrals to and from Canada and the US. See http://www.AnastasiaBoyd.com for your interest.

    ¡Viva Mexico!

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