What’s a proven method for getting a good turnout at your next open house? One REALTOR® had some success with a car, some soft drinks, and a huge media blitz, according to an article in the March 1953 issue of the National Real Estate Journal.
In the fall of 1952 a young Dallas homebuilder promoted his new model home with an offer of a new car and free soft drinks. All one had to do to get the new Cadillac was purchase one of Howdy Howard’s Holiday Homes.
The 31-year-old Howard was proud of his Holiday Home and pulled all the stops to let Dallas-area home buyers know about it. The house featured year-round air conditioning, an all-electric kitchen and laundry, two and a half baths, and a large patio with a sink and refrigerator built into the barbecue pit. The exterior walls were made of 100-year-old bricks and the steps were faced with imported Mexican tiles.
Howard advertised on local television and radio stations and in the newspapers and other media outlets — even an aerial banner ad — inviting everyone to see the home during a 12-day open house beginning October 26, 1952.
The Dr. Pepper beverage company provided complimentary drinks during the event. Handing out soft drinks on the patio was Dr. Pepper employee Barbara Gentry. Earlier in the year she had gained fame as “Alice from Dallas,” the city’s official hostess at a national Jaycee convention, and as Miss Dallas Texans for the new football team.
On its opening Sunday an estimated 30,000 people visited the house. By the time the 12-day open house was over, nearly 100,000 prospective buyers and curious lookers had toured Howdy Howard’s Holiday Home.
Built in the fashionable Northhaven Hills area, Howard said about half of the homes would be built to his specifications and the rest according to clients’ wishes. Prices ranged from $40,000 to $110,000. All came with groceries stocked in the kitchen and of course a Cadillac in the driveway.
As NAR’s annual Midyear Meetings are underway this week in Washington, DC, we took a look in the Archives to find out what happened at the Midyear Meetings half a century ago. In 1963, the meetings were held in Chicago in June, where attendees were updated on the progress of the National Association’s first major national advertising campaign.
NAR had engaged in national ad campaigns before, notably in conjunction with the federal government’s “Own Your Own Home” initiative in 1919 and another targeting local newspapers in the early 1930s. This campaign, though, was much more closely orchestrated than earlier efforts, seeking to put the REALTOR® trademark before as many public eyes as possible.
Full-page ads appeared in publications such as U.S. News & World Report, Look, and Newsweek, all emphasizing the benefits of home ownership and using REALTORS® as professionals in the real estate transaction. Thousands of REALTORS and local associations subscribed to the promotional campaign for $25. In return they received advertising kits that tied in with the campaign. In many of the magazines the names of REALTORS® in that locality were printed on a page adjacent to the ad.
REALTORS® of fifty years ago loved the national publicity. Richard Powelson from Aurora, IL, wrote: “We received a call to list a home yesterday strictly because of this ad…the REALTORS® have gone a long way in helping to educate the public.” A REALTOR® from Cape Cod sold a home to a prospect who called him because his name was listed in an ad in Look magazine. Mrs. Win B. Brush of Liberty, MO, said “Soon after the ad came out in Look, I had a call from a large manufacturing corporation asking for my service in an appraisal, and they had obtained my name from the Look ad.”
Kenneth S. Keyes, president of the National Association in 1957, was also a great admirer of the program. “I consider the nationwide advertising campaign one of the greatest things that NAREB has done to increase the prestige of REALTORS®.”
Despite the kudos, this was still relatively new territory for NAR. At the 1963 Midyear Meetings the association’s Board of Directors took a tentative view of the campaign, deciding to allow the program to continue on an experimental basis for another year. In 1964 the campaign was granted a longer tenure, continuing through the early 1970s. NAR’s efforts to promote the benefits of using a REALTOR® have come a long way since 1963, of course. Visit the Public Advocacy Campaign for a look at the latest national advertising efforts.
Sunday, April 15, marks 100 years since the sinking of the RMS Titanic. Three REALTORS® were among the 1,500 people who were lost when the “unsinkable” ship struck an iceberg and sank in the North Atlantic.
The three men were all from Winnipeg, Manitoba — at the time nine Canadian real estate boards were part of the National Association of Real Estate Exchanges (now known as NAR). 64-year-old Mark Fortune was a former president and charter member of the Winnipeg Real Estate Exchange. He was returning from a European vacation with his wife, son, and two daughters. J. Hugo Ross and Thomson Beattie, both 36, were friends who had offices across the hall from each other in Winnipeg’s old Merchants Bank Building. Ross was also a former president of the Winnipeg Board, and Beattie was a business partner of the city’s mayor, R. D. Waugh. They had been traveling in Egypt and the Aegean Sea when Ross fell ill and they decided to return home early, booking passage on the Titanic.
According to the National Real Estate Journal, Fortune moved to Winnipeg in 1874 and entered the real estate business four years later. “Within the past ten years,” the Journal reported in May 1912, “he has been one of the most successful real estate operators in the city. Property which he had held for years became very valuable…he is said to have owned property in nearly all the principal blocks along Main Street and Portage Avenue.” Fortune served four terms on the Winnipeg City Council and was very active in Knox Presbyterian Church.
Ross had served as secretary of the Winnipeg Stock Exchange and attended the fourth NAR convention a year earlier, in Denver in 1911. Beattie took over management of the firm of Waugh and Beattie when his partner was elected mayor. “In many respects they resembled one another,” the Journal wrote of Ross and Beattie. “Both were typical opportunistic westerners, positive of the future of Winnipeg and western Canada.”
Fortune’s 19-year-old son Charles also perished in the disaster, while his mother and sisters were put off in lifeboats. A month later Beattie’s body was found with two others adrift in a collapsible life boat, and he was buried at sea.
At the national convention in Louisville two months later Fortune, Ross and Beattie were remembered in prayer by their fellow REALTORS®, who then voted for Winnipeg to host the 1913 convention.
In the summer of 1941 the Philadelphia Real Estate Board began a new campaign promoting the word REALTOR®. One of the goals was “to create a better and wider public understanding of the significance of this term,” wrote Board Executive Vice-President John F. McClaren in the August 1941 issue of the National Real Estate Journal.
In 1922 REALTOR® A. W. Ross was standing next to a barbed wire fence along a dirt road in Los Angeles. In place of barley fields he saw opportunity. In less than twenty years that road running west from La Brea Avenue would be a segment of Wilshire Boulevard known as the Miracle Mile.
According to an article in the May 1938 issue of the National Real Estate Journal, Ross’ experience in designing and building subdivisions had taught him that people who can afford to move from lowlands to highlands. Looking at undeveloped land on higher ground nearby, he envisioned lovely homes with access to businesses along a boulevard that would replace his dusty road.
Ross first approached wealthy prospects, offering his road through the barley fields at $100 per front foot. He was laughed at, with one man telling him he should have his head examined.
Ross then tried the “common folks,” and sold the land as “the chance of your lifetime.” By 1930 most of the “common folks” had cashed in. “I had the satisfaction of seeing many a family in ordinary circumstances…step out of the picture with more money than such family ever expected to see in the world,” Ross recalled. “Thinking of that fact is today one of my greatest pleasures.”
In 1929 an affluent man who had laughed at Ross six years earlier paid him $600,000 each for properties Ross himself had bought for $6,500.
In the meantime “height limit” skyscrapers were constructed, beginning with the Wilshire Tower Building in 1927. The E. Clemm Wilson and Dominguez buildings would follow, but the trend was for smaller buildings with ample parking behind the businesses. By 1938 Ross’ $100 front foot was valued as high as $3,500.
The real estate community lost a friend in 1942 when Alexander S. Taylor of Cleveland died at age 73. “Uncle Al” was the third president of the National Association, from 1910 to 1911, and his contributions to the evolving real estate profession were even larger than the imposing man himself.
Years after his death NAR historian Pearl Janet Davies remembered him fondly. “Taylor will always be remembered as the young red-headed giant whose evangelism for the constructive quality of real estate service breathed life into new real estate boards all over the country,” she wrote. Taylor also “brought the national organization at last to workable membership strength.”
A Cleveland native, Taylor entered the real estate business of his father, V. C. Taylor, later becoming a partner. He was responsible for numerous commercial and residential building enterprises in the city, and was one of the founders of the Cleveland Real Estate Board. He would serve as its president in 1908. That same year he attended a three-day real estate meeting at the YMCA auditorium in Chicago, and thus was present at the birth of NAR.
As president of the National Association Taylor made issues of taxation a focal point for himself and his executive committee. “Unjust taxation is the most formidable foe of real estate over the whole country,” he warned. “This is generally accepted among thinking men.”
Taylor also stressed action on state and federal legislation affecting real estate, and pushed for real estate license laws.
Bust as Davies noted, Taylor was most famous for his enthusiasm in traveling the nation as NAREB president, preaching the importance of organization to real estate men. It wasn’t always easy. “Alexander Taylor’s circuit-riding in his successful drive for a representative membership put him out of pocket $8,000″ Davies wrote. He wasn’t alone. One of his contemporaries, Charles F. Harrison of Omaha, remarked just two years later in 1913 that “it costs probably $10,000 a year to be president of this Association.”
“Regardless of the number of years a Realtor has practiced, he is always interested in the unusual sales experiences of other operators in his field…,” read the forward to Interesting Sales of Realtors. Published in November of 1944, it includes the fifty best stories from “many hundreds” submitted to three past presidents of the National Institute of Real Estate Brokers.
The collection includes a rich variety of first hand sales accounts. “Some reveal creative selling under what seemed insurmountable obstacles; some are spectacular; some simply good examples of sound thinking; and some can be classified as ‘Acts of Providence.’”
Realtor E. L. Scanlon from East Orange, N.J., used what he called “The Will Rogers System.” Named for the famous humorist who said, “All I know is what I read in the newspapers,” Scanlon summed up the system as “Read the newspapers intelligently…There’s a deal in every daily!”
Realtor Horace Browning of Washington, D.C., persuaded a man to sign a contract with the promise that the buyer would receive a present of a fountain pen exactly like the Realtor’s. The sale was made in the fall of 1929. Browning recalled, “After the crash, Mr. A thanked me for selling him the property because he had gotten out of the stock market when he signed the contract.”
“During the boom days of 1920,” Arthur W. Draper, Jr., recalled a property near Chicago’s South Shore Park. A large theater was to be opened on the land, but one delicatessen owner alone refused to sell. Finally four members of Draper’s company paid a visit to the deli, “Pockets bulging with $25,000 cash. After pulling down the blinds, we proceeded to spread $10, $20, and $50 bills on the counters, floors and along the walls until the delicatessen owner’s eyes popped out. This is one case where money talked and he couldn’t resist the offer.”
Axel Oellgard got a commission by playing Cupid in Scranton, Pennsylvania. “Mrs. Kay” had just moved to the area when she asked Realtor Oellgaard to help her find a small place in the country. He showed her a property “owned by an old retired soldier…he lived there alone.” Before leaving, Mrs. Kay left her Realtor on the front porch while she took another quick look at the kitchen and talked to the owner. Five minutes later they joined him on the porch and told him of their plans to marry. The house would not be sold after all, but they gave Oellgaard his full commission and a $20 bonus.
A. I. Bradley, Cleveland Realtor, knew a thing or two about finding clients. Pulled over for speeding, Bradley learned of the policeman’s house hunting difficulties. The next day the officer bought a house shown to him by his new Realtor.
“Television is here to stay,” the National Real Estate Journal noted in October of 1953. “Chances are high that your best prospective buyers either have a set or plan to invest in one soon.” Accepting that reality the Journal looked at modern American house in 1953 and asked, “Where to put TV?”
The Journal observed that a television can be placed on a perch or turntable, or as part of a single piece of furniture also including a radio and record player. However placed, “in each (case) the screen is out of the way, yet is placed conveniently for best viewing.”
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In 1911 real estate professionals saw the benefits of organizing a local real estate board. In August of that year, Wycliffe A. Hill’s argument in favor of local real estate boards was published in the National Real Estate Journal.
As Executive Secretary of the Texas State Realty Association (a precursor to today’s Texas Association of REALTORS®), Hill argued that local Boards can inspire “a spirit of good fellowship among the different men…engaged in the same line of business…it will promote acquaintance and co-operation among its members, thereby facilitating the sale of real estate.”
Hill also saw the business advantages a local board can offer. “It provides a means for the distribution of information which is of interest to the real estate men, and an exchange of ideas which is beneficial.”
He also quoted the adage, “In union there is strength,” and, “it places the real estate men in a position to accomplish many things as an organization that they could not as individuals.” He said the real estate men in a city could be ”in a position to demand and obtain any necessary change…that is necessary for the development and upbuilding of the town and its real estate interests.”
Of course business ethics were of paramount importance. A local board “places a legitimate dealer on a higher plane…it forces the man who is crooked to either reform his methods or be branded as unreliable, and get out of the ranks.”
In 1959 the Federal Housing Administration celebrated its 25th birthday. In June of that year 1200 people from 14 trade and professional organizations, including 100 REALTORS, gathered for the Industry Salute to FHA. The black-tie affair was held in Washington’s Sheraton Park Hotel.
Speaking at the banquet was President Dwight D. Eisenhower. Ike told the crowd, “there is no more valuable purchase that any man could make except a home- with one single exception. That exception is the purchase of a wedding ring. That wedding ring is the inspiration for the home and for purchasing it.”
FHA was established by act of Congress in June of 1934. Marking the anniversary, NAREB President James M. Udall wrote, “NAREB is proud to have been one of the earliest supporters of the FHA idea…the Association’s confidence has been more than justified.”
In this photo Denver REALTOR Aksel Nielsen presides over the banquet. “The FHA program represents one of the finest examples of industry and government working together with no cost to the taxpayer,” he said. “This cooperation has enabled literally millions of families to own their own homes.” FHA Commissioner Julian H. Zimmerman is seated on the far left , about to receive the plaque behind Nielsen. President Eisenhower sits between them.