Former CREB® president Joyce Travis remembered moving beyond 9/11, adapting to circumstances
Four months after devastating terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, left thousands dead in the U.S., the pain was still palatable – even as far as Calgary.
“Everybody was just shell shocked,” said Travis, who, amid that atmosphere of uncertainty, took over as president of CREB®.
In Calgary, the attack led to hesitancy that was manifested, at least early on, by a sluggish housing market. Travis said consumers were reluctant to make major decisions, such as buying or selling a house.
But by late November and early December, the market started to change.
“I was a broker, but I also did lots of selling, and it started to get very busy, which is unusual for December,” she said. “The market started getting really active. It was unbelievable.
“Prices were going up. There were multiple offers. There were not enough listings. The market changed dramatically from what we first expected. Everything was good instead of bad.”
By year’s end, sales had increased by nearly 11 per cent to 21,094, while the benchmark price jumped nearly 10 per cent to $193,508.
Travis added she, like many other real estate professionals at the time, quickly adapted to the changing market. She attributed the shift to a number of variables, notably changing attitudes toward homeownership.
“I think after people got over the shock of 9/11, they came out of their shells and wanted real estate as security,” she said. “We also had very low interest rates and lots of people moving into the city, in staggering amounts. The mindset for younger people was to buy.”
That wasn’t the first time Travis had to adapt during her time in the industry. In fact, it’s a skill she used before her real estate career even got off the ground in 1977.
Travis originally went to university to become a geologist, but decided to switch careers after difficulties finding work in what she referred to as a male-dominated oil industry.
Despite the early career switch, she doesn’t regret her initial training.
“Education gives you confidence and knowledge, and makes you think things through,” she said.
Her first job in real estate was working for former CREB® president Kent Lyle’s company Lyle Real Estate Ltd. She later moved to Builders Realty, a new company at the time that was based on the 100 per cent concept, in which associates paid a desk fee and kept all of their commissions.
“When the 100-per-cent companies came in, it was quite different and they changed the way everything worked,” she said.
When Builders Realty went out of business due to a perfect storm of a weak economy and high interest rates in the 1980s, Travis and a number of other real estate professionals decided to stay and turn the company into a co-operative, growing it to 80 associates. Travis and two others later bought the company before eventually selling it. Today, Travis is a broker with Heritage River Realty Inc.
Travis recalled foreclosures were rampant in the 1980s. She remembered there were areas in the city at the time where she could park in a cul-de-sac, take a lockbox key and show every house.
“When the market changed, people were walking away from their houses every day,” she said.
Tough conditions led to “dollar dealers” – scam artists who convinced desperate homeowners to transfer their properties to them for a dollar. The dealers rented the properties out while ignoring mortgage payments, leading them to profit during the slow foreclosure process.
When the house was eventually foreclosed, dealers would strip it, said Travis.
“They’d go in and take the fridge, the stove, sometimes even the garage,” she said. “After having been through the market in the ’80s, nothing compares to that.”
Market conditions are not the only challenge that forced Travis to adapt. Technology also changed drastically during her career.
She remembered when the first photo copier arrived at Lyle Real Estate.
“We didn’t know what it was or how to use it,” she said. “But it turned out to be the first big piece of equipment to change the lives of REALTORS®.”
After nearly 40 years in the same industry, Travis is starting to think about retirement. When she looks back on her lengthy career, what she’s enjoyed the most is the homeowners she’s worked with.
“I’ve liked solving their problems and finding them places they love,” she said.