Have you ever wondered what it was like to be a real estate agent in the ’80s or earlier? If you weren’t even born then, you wouldn’t be able to imagine it. Computers? No, we used MLS tear sheets and MLS books. Email? No, we spoke face to face. Cell phone? No, we used phone booths. DocuSign? No we used a pen and paper and six copies of an offer! Canada411? Nope, we used a Bowers Book. (I know, what’s that?)

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It was an exciting time though, as it is every decade. Let’s start with basics. Homes sold on average from $150,000 to an extreme high of $1 million. If you bought a house for $1 million, you were super rich! Commissions were six per cent, split 50/50 between brokerages. Oh, and all agents represented the vendor (seller).

Have you ever heard of “threshold introduction?” Wait till you hear what that was!

If an agent took a client over the threshold of a front door (or back or side door), that person was that agent’s client for that house. No ifs ands or buts. Period! There was no such thing as representing a purchaser (buyer) by contract. If you conducted an open house and someone came in without an agent and wanted to buy it, they had to use you, the agent there. Sounds like fun? We learned to “co-operate” with each other so agents felt protected if they had a relationship with the purchaser, and that purchaser preferred to use that agent. Complicated? Sometimes.

How about deposit cheques? Well, they didn’t use bank drafts at a whim. So the listing agent, yes the listing agent, would take the regular cheque given for the deposit to the bank to get it certified. The local branch? No, that would be too easy. We had to go to the head offices downtown and hope our cars didn’t get towed while we ran in to get this done. I know many seasoned agents reading this will get a chuckle, while the younger agents are saying, “What was wrong with you?”

We had no options. No easy convenient way to do our business. We just did it. Offer presentations? They started around 9 p.m. in person and lasted many times till 1 or 2 a.m. Remember, there was no way to communicate the offer events to either client until we got back to their home to discuss it. We really did spend most of our time in cars. I miss some of those days.

I love this business and I’m glad I experienced what I did. Two recessions, interest rates over 20 per cent, and many face-to-face interactions with agents and clients. Can you imagine that today we do business with agents we have never met? Seems strange.

I could go on for a while, but you get the gist. I have always taught my agents that technology is to assist your business, not do it for you. Don’t forget if you want to succeed, you need to do things over and above what’s expected and what’s the “norm.”


  1. It was December 1971 when I joined TREB, we would say good Real Estate didn’t start till after 10:00Pm. Do you remember waiting in the driveway at 11:45 pm with an irrevocable counter for midnight and hoping you vendor came home sober or rushing to the airport to get the final initials from your relocation buyer before they flew home. Some will remember those days.

  2. This was so much fun to read…licensed for nearly 30 years…I also remember the pagers…initially about the size of an iPhone X hung from your belt or purse strap. The interesting thing was that you could not go out of the service area for the pagers, and if you did, you would not receive your messages!

    That meant having a colleague ‘take your pager’ while you travelled anywhere that was about 1 hour away from the pager tower that you were linked to. Fun times!

  3. Driving along the 401 late at night with 5 grand cash deposit in my trunk and hoping to hell I didn’t get in an accident..just one of the hazards of the early 1980’s! Handwriting offers..pressing hard to ensure the 5th and 6th copies were legible. Those were the days!

  4. Not only pick up keys, they were never in the nearest real estate office. I think the theory was, if we had the clients in the car, it would be like advertising their company to the agents buyers as he/she went in to get the keys. Plus, we picked up our clients and dropped them off after showing plus had to get the keys back to the respective office. We only had key boxes on vacant homes, and the key boxes were just boxes. No technology to report a showing or who entered which is why only vacant homes had those little boxes. Only had pagers that beeped letting you know to call the office for a message. What about exclusive listings for one week before putting on MLS that only let you show if listing company didn’t sell it first.

  5. I remember running keys around (and losing them!) and hand writing offers, which was awful with my terrible writing. When Realforms came out you had to make sure the dot matrix printer was lined up perfectly or it would print on the wrong spot on the preprinted forms! I love all the new tech but miss how we all interacted and had to work together.

  6. Let’s go back 70 years!! (No, I wasn’t register then – was far too young) I had discussions with an ‘old timer’ from that period in the early 2000s when I was trying to put together some history for our Board. I learned: He got his license for $5. from a Justice of the Peace. ( No qualifications or exams). Members of the Board met for lunch once a week and promoted their listings to one another. (No paper circulated but you could get the particulars of a listings from the listing sales rep to draw up an offer). Agreements were on one 8 1/2 by 11 page (one sided). The one supplied to me showed the buyer to be: ” John Smith and his wife.” The Seller took back a first mortgage for 100% of the purchase price (there was no deposit).

  7. 1986. And still all those things you speak about were still in play. No fax machine yet. First deal ever was a double ender out of town wrote offer by hand with carbon paper. Yes 6%. Brokerage took half. Definitely interesting times.

  8. Awe the good ol days!, licensed in 1973, selling rural and recreational property, did many a deal on phone and paper work after, all the copies, meeting clients “half way” to Toronto at the Flying Dutchman restaurant off 401 at Bowmanville, daily hot sheets from board, first fax made it easier if could read stuff, polaroid black & white pics, the personal contact, pick up the phone and call other sales people, chat a bit and do some biz. BUT ya know I love all the new technology, have embraced it all and make it work for me. Most importantly, I have slowed down but still love the biz and will never totally retire.

  9. Started in 1975 and remember those days very well! It was fun, exciting, all the agents knew each other and it definitely was more personable than today. Glad I started then but glad to be experiencing today’s world of real estate. Even though with all the technology and time saving steps, I miss the “good old days”.

  10. Great article. I have never forgotten those days. Starting in 1973 as a young female real estate agent, I always thanked god that I had 6 male siblings who taught me how do things for myself when I had to drive a wooden stake into the ground to put up my own for sale sign. Needless to say it was quite a feat to put a sign on the lawn when the winter came…LOL.

  11. Every deal required six copies of the offer with all changes made by hand to all 6 copies. One copy for each Broker, one for the buyer and seller and one for each lawyer. Today, the old ways sound ludicrous as compared to the tools we now use though in some ways it was much more enjoyable. People actually answered their phone and did not hide behind their voicemails. -:))

  12. I wasn’t in Real Estate when I bought my first home in Scarborough. However, I remember sitting with my wife in a bar while our Agent ran back and forth between the Listed home and the bar. The bar closed and allowed us to stay there until the deal was done. When we sold it 13 years later we had multi offers and Agent cars with Clients inside parked outside our home at midnight…..not the same now.

  13. During the multiple offer, hot market times, it was lots of “fun” writing offers on the hood of my car.

  14. I remember theses days.. we had to return keys if we showed several houses at the end of our day.. a lot of extra running..

    I love being a Realtor now!

    Cindy Ross
    Century 21Showtime Realty
    Windsor, On

  15. And don’t forget, we didn’t have lock boxes either. We had to go to the listing Brokerage office to pick up keys. What a nightmare when you had 5 properties to show and half way though your showings one of the brokerages is calling you to get a key back as someone else just booked a showing on the same property.


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