Former CREB® president Nick Medwid said all eyes were on Calgary in 1991
Nick Medwid recalls Calgary’s housing market in 1991 as a bit of a blur.
In the midst of a national downturn that year, all eyes turned to the city as several major companies uprooted their Canadian headquarters from out east and relocated to the heart of the new west.
“That was the year Shell moved its head office from Toronto to Calgary, so we had all these moves coming in,” said Medwid, who took the reins as CREB®’s president in 1991.
In addition, the National Energy Board relocated to Calgary from Ottawa that year, and TransCanada Pipelines Ltd. had moved its head office to Calgary from Toronto the previous year.
Medwid remembers the market was buzzing in 1991 as transferred employees would fly into Calgary for a few days for whirlwind house hunting tours.
“They would take pictures and go back to Toronto and buy from there,” he said.
The relocations buoyed Calgary’s economy following a difficult previous decade characterized by uncertainty, job losses and high interest rates.
“By the time 1991 came along, that was long forgotten. Everybody was back in the boom, doing their thing,” said Medwid. “I didn’t see any particular thing that would have hindered the process.”
When compared to other real estate markets across the country, which were battered by a slowdown in the American economy and more restrictive monetary policies from the Bank of Canada, Calgary was a stable place to be, he added.
“The whole city was construction after construction. There was a lot of it,” said Medwid, who started his real estate career in 1975 as a sales manager, Canyon Meadows, Marlborough, Penbrooke Meadows, Huntington Hills and Dalhousie.
By year’s end, Calgary’s population ballooned to 710,795, a nearly 12 per cent jump from the previous Census in 1986. Sales volume largely mirrored the year prior at 13,373 transactions, while the average price edged down only slightly to $130,727.
Of course, 1991 was also the year that the seven per cent Goods and Services Tax went into effect. The move toward the tax began in the late 1980s when then prime minister Brian Mulroney’s government pursued sales tax reform.
“GST was fresh on everybody’s mind. It was a big thing.”
After months of the debate, the tax legislation passed in the Senate, creating concerns across the country.
“GST was fresh on everybody’s mind,” Medwid said. “It was a big thing.”
While the move elicited concerns within the real estate community, Medwid remembers the industry ended up adjusting. GST did not apply to the sales of existing homes – only new homes.
“And it turned out that GST was only applicable to the commissions, so that worked out OK in the end,” said Medwid.
Medwid retired from real estate more than a decade ago. He has since seen significant change within the industry, notably the homebuying and selling process.
“I think REALTORS® now are hung up on the cellphone, whereas we didn’t use cellphones,” he said. “We made phone calls using landlines.”
Like many real estate professionals at the time, Medwid also reminisces about relying on “green sheets,” not a digital-based MLS® system, to get market updates.
“All the listings came out on a sheet. We got a picture of the house and details underneath, and showed people houses from the picture, then showed the house. That was all your information. Now it’s all computerized,” he said.
It wasn’t until the latter part of his real estate career that computers started to change the industry.
“We were able to post listings off the computer. You didn’t have to go and spend time hands-on like you did before,” he said. “The computer saved you a lot of time.”
Looking back, Medwid said the variety over the course of his real estate career kept him interested and engaged.
“Every day was something new,” he said. “You’re dealing with customers that want a house.
Their biggest purchase is going to be their home. They’re extremely careful, and you’re trying to satisfy that need. You can’t bamboozle them into whatever.
“It’s a big issue, a big decision for them, and you guide them along the way. Everybody is a little different.”