Decades of Growth, Education and Innovation: CREA Celebrates 80 Years

The year was 1943, the world was in the grips of the Second World War—it was a turbulent time both abroad and at home.

There was concern among the leaders of Canada’s real estate industry that the federal government would continue some wartime measures, such as rent control and other rules relating to property, as permanent policy. They decided to form a national organization to advocate on behalf of the industry to influence the federal government’s post-war planning. As a result, the Canadian Association of Real Estate Boards (CAREB; renamed the Canadian Real Estate Association in 1971) was born.

Historic CREA photo.

CREA has gone through many changes throughout its 80 years:

  • adopting the term REALTOR® for its members in 1944;
  • establishing the REALTOR® Code in 1959;
  • hosting the first PAC Days in 1985; and
  • launching in 1996 and then in 2014.

We asked some of our past Chairs to reflect on our 80-year history. Here’s what they had to say:

Merv Borgeson lives in Calgary, Alberta now but, back in the 1970s and 1980s, after starting out in the health insurance business, he moved into real estate as a manager at a brokerage in Saskatchewan. He got his real estate licence and eventually rose to serve as president of CREA in 1988.

Editor’s note: CREA changed the name of the position from President to Chair in 2020.

“I guess, partly because of my background, it became quite apparent that there was really a need for education, for training,” he says.

Back in the 1980s, those who got their real estate licences learned “about title, legal description, a little about contracts,” Borgeson says. But there was a growing desire in the real estate industry at the time, especially as technology became more of a factor, to improve business practices and bring the industry across the country together more. CREA would take the lead there.

“The real estate industry was like an ocean liner, a freighter, and it was a little off course,” he says. “Why wouldn’t you allow for that slight adjustment in that ship? Because you can’t turn it around like a motorboat. But there was a heart, a real desire back then, to improve things in the industry. There was a great spirit. It was fun.”

Over the past 80 years, CREA has become an indispensable tool for its REALTOR® members, and a tremendous resource for Canadians buying, selling, and renting real estate.

“Now Canadians can sit in their living rooms and find out about real estate prices all over the country,” says Satnam Sidhu, of North Vancouver, British Columbia, who was CREA’s president in 1998.

For REALTORS®, the association has proven to be a tremendous resource for information, says Pauline Aunger, who’s currently a broker and REALTOR® in Smith Falls, Ontario, and was president of CREA in 2015.

“It’s a complicated industry,” she says. And the more CREA helped to educate REALTORS®, the more REALTORS® have become vital partners for Canadians as they seek to buy or sell properties.  

“REALTORS® today need to be more knowledgeable than ever,” she says, including topics like when government legislation affecting the real industry is proposed or passed. “Real estate is topical to everyone. You’re at a party and everyone is talking about the market. It’s just one of those common denominators; everybody wants to know what’s going on. It’s very important that our national association keeps us up to date. REALTORS® don’t understand sometimes how important that national association is until a train falls off the track and they need somebody to guide them through perhaps a new piece of legislation.”

Wayne Moen, of Edmonton, Alberta, who was president in 2012, sees how CREA is evolving its advocacy efforts to help to address the affordable housing crisis in Canada, especially as new immigrants come to the country.

During his time as president in 2005, Gerry Thiessen, of Vanderhoof, British Columbia, remembers the evolution of needs as technology became more sophisticated.

CREA became much more sophisticated in government relations during the time Thiessen was president.

“I think the association has done two things: It has ensured that the real estate salesperson is still the go-to person as far as transactions are concerned. I think that was a big concern as technology evolved, that the world would see REALTORS® just as collateral. And the association has brought security to the buying and selling public. They know the information and the work REALTORS® have done has value and is trustworthy,” Thiessen says., which went live across the country in 2014, has been a major accomplishment. Georges Pahud, who is based in Vancouver and was CREA’s president in 2010, says the trusted website owned and operated by CREA has benefited both consumers and REALTORS®.

“CREA and its members do well to remember that what benefits consumers also benefits REALTORS®,” he adds.

In 2022, had more than 564 million visits, up 9% year-over-year. Explore more insights from 2022.

Today, CREA is one of the largest single-industry associations in Canada. Our membership includes more than 160,000 real estate brokers, agents and salespeople working through 75 real estate boards and associations across the country.  

“We’re at a unique time in the industry. Canada is in a housing crisis with a critical supply issue. We continue to leverage the collective voice of our REALTOR® members to advocate for policies to address the crisis through a comprehensive, national approach,” says CREA CEO Michael Bourque.

“At the same time, we’re seeing technology move at the speed of light and our team is at the forefront, providing technology solutions for REALTORS® that are first rate. As a national association, our members rely on us to stay ahead of trends. That’s why we make every effort to attract, motivate and retain top talent. We continue to focus on our workplace culture, so we have a highly qualified, motivated team working toward our strategic objectives. I don’t know what the future holds, but I do know that we’ll continue to push forward, keeping our mission top of mind: REALTORS® are at the heart of everything we do.”

The CREA Café team is responsible for the official blog of The Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA). The CREA Café is a cozy place for CREA to connect with our valued members and friends by sharing our thoughts and insights over a virtual cup of coffee.

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