A 1950's Real Estate Office

Real Estate Agent with Brand Name Real Estate

How great would it be if we could go back to doing business the way they did it 60 years ago?

Original content by Bob Dunn

My mother, who was a Real Estate Broker in the 1950’s, is always amazed at how busy I am with administration, systems, computers, and prospecting for new business. Yesterday she was telling me what her typical day would be in 1953.

I should mention that in 1953 she was one of only five woman Realtors in Vancouver, BC.

She worked for River’s Realty in a store-front at the corner of Hastings and Penticton in a working class neighborhood with a large immigrant population.

 There was a daily morning meeting were the Realtors would recount their activities and promote any new listings. After lunch the office would preview the new listings daily when there were new listings.

 The afternoon could be spent canvassing door to door. Remember that the 1950’s were still the age of the housewife and most doors would be answered. Today if I knock on 100 doors I’d be luck to get 20 people answering the door.

 She started something revolutionary in those days. She taped a penny to a card that she left at the door. The card, typed by the secretaries of course, has the title, “A penny for your thoughts”. An extravagant business expense and approach in those days.

 Being a rarity, as a woman Realtor, people would often phone the office looking for the “Real Estate Lady” or the “Penny Lady”. Branding is not a new concept.

 In 1953 neighbourhood shopping was an important part of society. The storefront real estate office had an integrate role in the local community. Walk-in traffic was a major source of business. During that time not every family had a car and a two car family was rare and not every home had a telephone. A large majority of phones were party line phones and if you didn’t want the Nosy Parkers knowing your business you would not use the phone.

 Just as you would walk to the butcher’s or grocers you would stop in at the local real estate office to do business. In 1953 you could make a living sitting in the office everyday.

 Paperwork. That was a cinch. Write up a listing on a one page listing form and drop it the secretary’s desk when you returned to the office. The secretary prepared all the documentation including the “green sheets” that were distributed to all the salespeople.

 Advertising was pretty straight forward. Handwrite three ads and drop them on the secretary’s desk. The secretaries placed the ads in the paper on a rotation basis. Each salesperson had a five percent advertising budget that the office administrated.

 Sell a property. Drop the one page contract on the secretary’s desk and let her process it. (In those days all secretaries were hers.

 Don’t you wish we had one page contracts today.

 Sounds pretty simple. No computers producing bushels of paper. The local newspaper the only advertising expense. No websites, Blackberries, Twitters, Face Book, Craigslist, Instant messaging, etc.

 When you went to lunch you had lunch, and answered your calls when you returned to the office. How would you like to go for lunch today without an interruption?

 Doesn’t it sound idyllic compared to our busy, complicated, highly systemized approach to business? It does. But the commission was often as low as $75.00 to $100.00 a deal. In those days the split was most often 50/50 unless you were a top producer where you might get a 60/40 split or if you were a really big producer a 70/30 split.

 Ah. The good old days.




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Comments (4)

Toula Rosebrock
Diane Turton, Realtors, Forked River, NJ - Lacey Township, NJ
Broker/Sales Associate, Realtor, Lacey Township,


Hi Jim:

To think how far we've come in the last 60 years!

What would we do without cell phones and computers!!!

Jan 31, 2010 02:42 PM
John Mayer
Oikos Realty, Cape Canaveral, Cocoa Beach Florida - Cocoa Beach, FL
Your Beach Area Expert

Jim - Thanks for sharing a look into the past. They can keep those splits there however :-) My Dad used to tell stories of his days as a milkman with a horse drawn truck. The horse knew exactly when to stop at each customer's home.

Jan 31, 2010 05:41 PM
Kristin Johnston - REALTOR®
RE/MAX Realty Center - Waukesha, WI
Giving Back With Each Home Sold!

WOw!  Interesting...I agree on the simplicity of it, but really couldn't imagine life without my blackberry or MLS now days!

Jan 31, 2010 11:37 PM
Karen Kruschka
RE/MAX Executives - Woodbridge, VA
- "My Experience Isn't Expensive - It's PRICELESS"

I'd be happy if we could only go as far back as 1976 when we were licensed

Feb 02, 2010 05:05 AM

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