Former CREB® president Kent Lyle remembers impacts of National Energy Program like it was yesterday
It’s perhaps the most contentious three words in Alberta’s history: National Energy Program.
The early 1980s in the province are synonymous with the controversial federal initiative, which redistributed Alberta’s oil wealth and, in turn, lead to a regional recession that few have since forgotten.
Even now, more than three decades later, the economic shift is as vivid as when it first happened for Kent Lyle, who had just taken the reins as president of CREB® in 1981.
“I was away on my holidays in the summer and I came back and I started to look at the sales results of each day,” he said, noting, the year started off active and recalled a sense of energy in the marketplace up that point.
“There was one day that just hit me. I thought, ‘this is significant.’ The sales dropped and the listings went way up that day. It was so significant that I got my [business] partners together and we immediately decided to sell one of our offices.
“That program sucked billions of dollars out of our economy. It was a very trying time.”
Lyle, who had founded Lyle Real Estate Ltd. with two partners in 1976, said few in the industry were spared, including 50 brokers who ended up going out of business.
“We closed another [office]. It appeared to be a bit dramatic, but in the fullness of time it was the right thing to do. It really did change that quickly,” he said.
While market turmoil dominated the headlines in 1981, it wasn’t the only noteworthy event for Calgary’s real estate industry that year. The installation of a Hewlett Packard 3000 changed the way CREB® operated at the time and how its members did business.
“During the year, we successfully installed a totally new computer facility, complete with new programs, which is now the most progressive real estate system in Canada,” Lyle wrote in his year-end report as president.
The software was donated by the Vancouver Real Estate Board, then adjusted and improved to meet CREB®’s needs.
“It was a big step forward,” Lyle said of the Hewlett Packard 3000.
“There were a lot more in-house programs, so we could do our accounting, keep track of our membership and, most importantly, be able to do better job of processing all our listings and sales and amendments.”
The new computer also led to the production of CREB®’s first listings catalogue.
“Up to that time, every day each broker in the city was delivered a set of what we called green sheets,” Lyle said. “They consisted of all the new sales and new listings and amendments. It was kind of cumbersome. Then the computer did that work, in a reduced way.”
The catalogues, containing residential listings and sales information, were printed weekly.
“In my opinion, the introduction of an MLS® catalogue is the most progressive change ever implemented by the Calgary board in the marketing of Calgary MLS property,” Lyle wrote in his year-end message.
Like many past CREB® presidents before him, technological changes helped define Lyle’s lengthy real estate career. After graduating from university, Lyle shunned job offers elsewhere in favour for staying in Calgary. He entered real estate in 1963 after growing up watching his dad and his uncle operate a brokerage business that started in 1929.
This October, Lyle will mark 53 continuous years of membership with CREB®. He’s semi-retired today, still working as a broker for Envoy Real Estate Services Ltd., an Oakville, Ont.-based relocation company.
“I liked the entrepreneurial spirt that went with real estate,” Lyle said.
“I remember thinking you get paid by your results. If you don’t get results, you don’t get paid.
“Some people want more security, but that really appealed to me. I still think it’s one of the most entrepreneurial jobs you can have.”
During his 50-plus years in the industry, Lyle has also noticed the industry has diversified considerably. When Lyle entered the industry at age 23, he remembers most of his colleagues were men aged 45 to 50.
“The other thing that struck me as soon as I went into [real estate] was there were virtually no women,” he said. “I thought, ‘that’s not right. I think women had just as good of a chance of being a good salesperson as a man.’”
Later, when Lyle worked at Royal Trust, he hired a female sales manager.
“You wouldn’t think that would be a big deal, but that was a big deal. I had people leave our company because I hired a woman,” he said.
Lyle said he’s pleased the real estate industry has changed. The industry, “is now much more multi-cultural in terms of our representation. That wasn’t the case when I started, not at all.”