By Jeffrey Wagman

Have you heard that “nothing lasts forever?”  I’m sure you have. Have you thought about that at all in relation to the current real estate market in Southern Ontario? I’m not here to put a damper on things or bring you down, however, it might be worth just a moment of your time.

Markets change. It’s a fact. No one wants to hear that the good times will end, but they do and will. Then they will go back to being good. That’s life. Get used to it. This is a great time to pick the brain of a more experienced agent who has seen a recession. Can you imagine the knowledge and insight you can get from them? This would put you way ahead of your competition when that time comes.

I should have taken my own advice. And I come from a family in real estate! I lived through a recession. Before it came, I was in my late 20s and selling homes in a market where the average age of a buyer was 40. To say it was difficult is an understatement. But I was doing very well for a 27-year-old making six figures at the time and having a blast. If you had told me that I would wake up one day and it would all be wiped away I would not have believed you.

But it did. It really did. The sales just stopped, the income was cut in half, then in half again! I was blindsided by the recession of the early ’90s. What a rough time, to say the least. But here I am almost 30 years later and look at the market today.

I never gave up, never quit, never tried another career. I knew in my gut this too couldn’t last forever and that I had to weather the storm. Working through that recession gave me a chance to build on my career and take it to another level. The knowledge of how markets change was priceless. I survived.

You can too. It will happen, just be prepared.


  1. You wrote:

    “But it did. It really did. The sales just stopped, the income was cut in half, then in half again!

    I was blindsided by the recession of the early ’90s. What a rough time, to say the least. But here I am almost 30 years later and look at the market today.”

    What a rough time, to say the least; I simply didn’t see it, either. Had I thought it through I’d have dampened my sales I suppose. But here I am almost 30 years later under my boutique banner, and look at the market today. Look at the bell curves on your charts and graphs (you do have charts and graphs, of course).

    When the curves get closer and closer together and higher and lower and closer and closer, you can see the pattern. Watch and evaluate when the curves are way higher and way lower and the pattern starts to look like a heart fluctuating monitor in ICU.


    It was 1990. I had been licenced for ten years, but was so busy working 60-80 hr. weeks and waking up every morning energized, that I had not yet become a broker. On top of writing 14 million dollars in business I somehow managed to take all the broker courses in one year. What prompted my decision was mandatory Tuesday meetings industry discussion that soon agents would be lic as brokers independently within corp structures, and the corp was dead set against franchising. I was nearly 50 years old. But thought having the broker designation was likely going to be needed in the future. Little did I know that in real life it would be another twenty five years before vestiges would surface.

    I had no intention of leaving the firm. It was a good business marriage. A rumour started that I was interested in taking the manager’s job. Absolutely not true and was never discussed, entertained or even dreamed of.

    The corp was well respected and so was I. I had built an exceptionally strong following. I was blessed beyond measure. No question about it. It was when I informed the mgr that for the next few months for the first time ever, it would be that I occasionally would be absent from the Tuesday meetings, due to taking broker courses, that seeming paranoia set in. I asked to have any brochures or corp. meeting material be reserved for me in my absence.

    Why would a mgr of his top producer say: “Not possible! He who is not at the weekly meeting gets nothing. Forget it.” Each day after my courses I still listed properties and attended late night offer on-site presentations. Then studied for a few hours. Back in class, driving to Toronto or Rexdale or Oakville in rush hour traffic the following morning.

    Indeed I must have been an adrenalin machine. Calm, cool, and collected, I went about doing my work. I still had no intention of leaving the firm.

    I have written here at REM of some evil things that happened during my tenure. And after the mgr approached me in the parking lot one day upon my arrival after a broker course, leaned on my car and said he didn’t know what I was up to, (they were playing him for a fool), but I wasn’t going to have his job, that I began to plant seeds of leaving. I casually reassured him that the rumours were indeed not true. (But although I didn’t elaborate, I felt my hand was being forced.)

    So in January I made my decision, and went in Feb to my final beautiful top ten corp awards banquet; I had been used and abused long enough; it was getting tiresome, and draining; in March 1991, I registered my boutique corp. From leaving in late February, in only three weeks I had signed a lease, had leasehold improvements in place, beautiful signs and matching stationery designed, ordered, and ready to do business; accts open, and my very first ad in the mid-week newspaper. My machine was still functioning on full power. I have no idea how I did it all. I opened with a half-dozen listings, one a million dollar property that I sold personally, and it closed quickly.

    I was on my way, amidst calls asking if I had “lost my marbles” completely. “Could I not see we were in the midst of a recession? I wouldn’t last six months. “She’s just far too optimistic,” many people voiced, as their opinion.

    Surrounded by industry negativity, and obvious to many that indeed we were in a recession, my phones never stopped ringing. No one could figure out why. Including me.

    Using production numbers at approx annual 250k commissions representing 6%, do the math for example for the first 7 years.

    I survived a family crisis in a thirty year marriage and somehow kept going.

    I have to give credit where credit is due: George Cormack and Bernie Vogt’s request for me to return to corp was a giant feather in my hat. And I truly treasured them both. But for reasons that only seemed obvious to me, I could not accept. Several months later they offered me a management position. Once again I was extremely honoured. But I was a flower in full bloom and had to, I hope, graciously decline. But I never forgot the generous offers. Might that have worked?

    We’ll never know. But typically the market was in fact, as the writer described. Can you plan to survive, or just ride the wave?

    Carolyne L 🍁

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