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Alberta Online Encyclopedia

Feature Article

BOOM, BUST AND RECOVERY

Written By: Lawrence Herzog
Published By: Real Estate Weekly
Article © Copyright Lawrence Herzog
2007-08-15

This year marks the 75th anniversary of the Edmonton Real Estate Board. Thats three quarters of a century of riding the boom and bust rollercoaster that is the citys economy. This week, we look back at the ups and downs of the 1980s.

With the boom in full swing, Edmonton was the place to be in 1980. That year, development permits established new record highs and the city was a tangle of construction cranes. Among the projects started then was West Edmonton Mall, which was to grow to become the largest mall in the world over the next six years. In addition to its massive shopping and tourism impact, the mall also influenced adjacent real estate and helped to accelerate development of Edmontons far southwest.

The Edmonton Real Estate Board (EREB) was part of the Edmonton building boom itself and officially opened its new headquarters at 14220 112th Avenue in June 1981. Designed and built for $4.095 million, the building provided the Board with much needed space for all aspects of operations along with a parkade. Meeting rooms and a 200-seat auditorium accommodated committee meetings and educational programs and room on the lower level enabled printing of most regular Board publications in-house.

Edmontons longest period of sustained economic growth came screeching to a halt in 1982 when the federal government implemented the National Energy Program. It directed the investment away from the development of Albertas petroleum resources and led to the cancellation of many projects. The result of the economic slowdown on Edmontons labour force was dramatic, with the largest declines in construction and manufacturing.

Incomes of the average real estate salesperson dropped by one third in 1982 because of plummeting sales. Between January 1982 and January 1983, the number of licensed salespersons dropped from 2,388 to 1,820. New suburbs such as Riverbend, established on the eve of the recession in 1982, developed slowly, and lots were still on the market into the 1990s.

Norm Winterburn, who had been active with various EREB activities since the late 1940s, retired as executive vice-president in 1983. He was succeeded by Art Jones, who held the post for the next ten years.

The EREB continued its tradition of leading with the application of technology with the 1984 installation of the VANDAT/REALSTAT system, developed by the Vancouver Real Estate Board. EREB Directors began exploring the notion of buying or starting a Board-owned newspaper in 1984.

A few months later, the Board purchased the Real Estate Weekly from the Bargain Finder -- a publication with a circulation of around 4,000 per week. The paper was limping along, barely paying its bills, but the EREB Directors were confident that as a Realtor-owned publication operating out of the Boards new facility on 142nd Street and 112th Avenue, it could be successful.

Besides offering the general public the opportunity to see what property was on the market, the paper would also enable the EREB to promote the real estate industry as a whole. Back in those early days, the paper was entirely laid out manually -- the old paste-up way.

The paper moved to desktop publishing in 1990, installing a Macintosh-based system running Quark XPress DTP software. An imaging system was added and digital photography capability implemented for all images everything from in-house photos to editorial and front page pictures.

As demand grew, more process colour advertising positions were offered. And to handle the added volume, the paper was electronically shipped to its printer the Edmonton Sun further streamlining the process.

Six years ago, the Real Estate Weekly began appearing in the home-delivered Thursday edition of the Edmonton Sun, bumping circulation from 26,000 copies per week to more than 60,000. This distribution system, with a few modifications over the years, remains in effect today. Every Thursday, 45,000 copies of the Real Estate Weekly are inserted into the Sun, while the remaining 15,000 or so are distributed to high traffic food stores, banks and real estate offices.

Articles that provided positive insight into the Edmonton area began appearing in 1987, written by contributors including the late Alex Mair and yours truly, Lawrence Herzog. Over the last 15 years, Inside Edmonton, Its Our Heritage and City Lights have examined everything from the history and heritage of the city to the people and places that make Edmonton a dynamic, invigorating place to live.

In 1987, the Directors established a Charitable Foundation on behalf of the members of organized real estate to contribute to the local community. The Edmonton Realtors Charitable Foundation has since contributed more than $667,000 to the community through agencies primarily involved with shelter and the homeless, as well as crime prevention and special projects. The Foundation is working to establish a capital fund of $1 million to provide a cash flow to be applied as part of their charitable works. Currently, the capital fund stands at more than $752,000.

Did You Know?

The EREB was the first in the country to use an electronic key safe system, permitting showing and monitoring of properties without requiring the presence of an owner or tenant.

As the early 1980s recession took hold, the average selling price of resale homes went from $91,405 at the end of 1982 to $74,175 by the end of 1985. Throughout 2002, watch this space as we periodically look back over 75 years of the Edmonton Real Estate Board, remembering some of the people and events of three-quarters of a century of making Edmonton a home.


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