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Feature Article

EARLY DAYS OF THE EDMONTON REAL ESTATE ASSOCIATION

Written By: Lawrence Herzog
Published By: Real Estate Weekly
Article © Copyright Lawrence Herzog
2007-05-03

Edmonton Real Estate Board logos

The first steps of what was to become the Edmonton Real Estate Board were taken in 1926 when Edmonton lawyer J.D.O. Mothersill, Hudson's Bay Land Agent John McIntosh and seven other men met to discuss forming a local real estate exchange. Looking to the Vancouver Real Estate Exchange as a model, they commissioned a study that, by early 1927, helped them settle on another course of action.

The group decided to ask the Alberta government to establish legislation licensing real estate agents and, when the response was favourable, determined an Edmonton organization was needed. In the spring of 1927, the Edmonton Real Estate Association was formed and the first meeting was held precisely 80 years ago this month, on May 16, 1927.

At the beginning, there were four stated objectives. The first was: "To unite the real estate man of this community for the purpose of exerting effectively the combined influence upon matters affecting real estate interests." The second goal to encourage the adoption of rules and regulations to facilitate business transactions by its members. The third aim was to promote and enforce high standards of conduct by its members based on the code of ethics and a final objective was to advance the civic development and economic growth of Edmonton.

Membership in the association required the approval of the board of directors and the general membership. Members were divided into two general classes " owners or officers of a corporation engaged in the sale of real estate and salesman of those firms that were members of the association. The constitution required all members to sign a personal pledge to comply with the bylaws and code of ethics.

That code of ethics was taken from the constitution of the National Real Estate Association, which set out the terms of relationships of individual brokers with fellow brokers, clients, customers and the public. The Edmonton Real Estate Association was designed to do more than encourage integrity and full disclosure amongst members of the real estate industry. It encouraged the self regulation of the industry, cooperation between brokers, efficient office practices and education.

The first member representing an office was required to pay $10, while each additional member of that firm including salesman paid $5 each. That's just pocket change today but 80 years ago that was a substantial amount of money. In its earliest days, the association was governed by an eight member board of directors. Officers and directors were elected yearly at the annual general meeting.

The association's constitution also established a system of standing committees that would help to achieve the association's various objectives. The evolution of this system is a major part of the Edmonton Real Estate Board even today.

The first general meeting of the Edmonton Real Estate Association was held on May 16, 1927 and for the next two years, the new organization took its formative steps and grew slowly but steadily. Members became involved in community initiatives, such as Edmonton's long shelved Civic Centre development and the need for the consistent, legible street signs.

The Association was instrumental in making law the Real Estate Agents" Licensing Act, which was passed in the spring of 1929. The act was the first step by the provincial government to require qualifications for real estate agents.

It included definitions for agents and sales men, licensing requirements, grounds for suspension or cancellation, contravention, penalties and fees. The Act was to provide the legislative framework for the industry for the next four decades " until the passage of the Real Estate Act in 1995.

The Edmonton Real Estate Association was still taking its baby steps when the stock markets crashed on October 29, 1929, plunging the economies of the world into depression. As commodity markets collapsed, Edmonton's dependency on agriculture made it particularly vulnerable to the downturn and the city's real estate market was significantly impacted. Building permits fell from $5.67 million in 1929 to $428,000 in 1933.

With fewer people buying houses, transactions dwindled and membership in the new Association plummeted. Fees were dropped to as low as $1 per year and in 1935, the Association considered joining the real estate section of the Edmonton Chamber of Commerce.

Unlike many similar groups around Canada, the Association persevered and made it through the Dirty 30s " barely. When the Second World War started, membership stood at 46 and the bank balance was just $67.58. Even though there was a shortage of housing, strict rental controls and difficult financing dampened the resale market and kept new builds very low through the war years.

The Association operated out of the offices of its members and even acquiring office equipment was a financial challenge. Minutes from its meetings show that in November 1941, the secretary requested a steel filing cabinet with lock and key for keeping the Association's books, files and supplies. The annual membership fee was $1 and the secretary-treasurer was paid an honorarium of $15 a year. To help pay the bills, the Association raised the membership fee to $2 in 1943.

Construction of the Alaska Highway, the Northwest Staging Route, Air Commonwealth training schools and other war-related industries helped Edmonton's economy significantly during the war years. But the real estate business was severely affected by government regulations.

Those measures included gas rationing, rental controls, land acquisition and the Veterans" Land Act (which prevented agents from charging commissions on land sold by veterans). The Association protested the draconian rental controls and resulting housing shortage to government members during the winter of 1942/43.

That same winter, executive members attended the founding meeting of the Canadian Association of Real Estate Boards, now known as the Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA). The establishment of the Alberta Real Estate Association (AREA), began at a meeting at the Buffalo Hotel in Red Deer on June 19, 1946.

Better days were just around the corner. When oil was discovered near Leduc in 1947, it kick-started the Alberta economy into a boom like it had never seen before. Between 1946 and 1956, Edmonton's population doubled and, for the real estate industry, lean days were just a distant memory.

Next week: The Edmonton Real Estate Association Meets the Challenges of the Booming 1950s.


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