Spotlight on: Georges Couillard, CREA Past President (1975)

It’s only fitting a successful 45-year career in real estate was born in the living room of Georges Couillard’s childhood Quebec home.

Growing up, it wasn’t uncommon for Couillard’s mother to throw herself into family real estate transactions.

“She always liked big houses and things, so I happened to be the one in the family to assist her,” Couillard says from the common room of Ottawa’s Perley and Rideau Veterans’ Health Centre, a place the witty and spry 90-year-old man now calls home.

“I kind of switched into real estate from the construction field at that time.”

That was the 1950s. A time when innovative, single-family homes began dominating the housing landscape, especially in the suburbs.

One would think Couillard would have had a lucrative career as a sales representative but he chuckles when asked how many houses he actually sold.

“I never sold many. When I was training appraisers, I would have them sell some houses.”

Instead, Couillard spent a large chunk of his career learning about the business. He received training, attended seminars and led lectures on appraisals and management. He fine-tuned his knowledge of the ever-changing industry.

One of the biggest changes in commercial real estate during the beginning stages of his career, he says, was the influx of shopping malls in the 1950s and 60s.

“We learned about them, studied them, we worked in them. Now in 2016, some of those shopping centres are in the way.”

A 2013 consumer trends report states the growth of malls in Canada has decreased due to the limited amount of commercial space available for retail development.

“You wouldn’t build them like that today,” Couilllard says. “They’re so dynamic, you can’t swallow it.”

His vast knowledge of real estate paid off in 1974 when Couillard was elected vice-president of the Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA) and, later, president of CREA in 1975.

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“We have built the society we enjoy in the 1970s on mutual trust among all segments of the nation,” Couillard told those in attendance – according to a transcript of his first public speech as president – at the Alberta Real Estate Association annual conference on November 8, 1974.

“What we have built, let us preserve … When I see the problems which the nation has conquered – and I have read a lot of history – I see today’s problems not being much different than those already solved. They are just a little more complex. But I think with education, we can find out what they are and do something about them.”

Couillard still stands behind those words today, echoing how important it is for real estate professionals to strive to learn more about the industry.

It’s a belief he’s passed onto one of his sons, who works in the real estate industry in San Francisco.

“We’re working on a third generation now. That happened by accident,” he says while sporting a contagious smile.

When looking back at his time spent as president, Couillard says he’s most proud of his involvement with moving CREA’s head office from Toronto to Ottawa.

“I think it was the thing to do because I feel strongly CREA has an obligation to be present and close to government,” he says.

Back then, CREA had a membership of just over 30,000 REALTORS®. Today, it boasts of more than 100,000 members. It’s an industry Couillard is happy to see growing, and one that he still pays close attention to.

“It’s a field that everyday people don’t know much about. They think they do, but that’s who we call ‘Uncle Louis.’ It’s the guy you talk to, when you want to make a real estate deal, who is your neighbour or friend of a friend. They think they are experts,” he says. “I spent most of my time trying to learn.”

More than 40 years since being named president, he wants to share some words of advice for current president, Cliff Iverson.

“Get as knowledgeable as you can and work together – develop a relationship with the people,” he says.

“I enjoyed my career in real estate. It had its ups and downs, but that’s what life is about.”

Matt Day brings his experience as a nationally-recognized multimedia journalist to the Canadian Real Estate Association as a Communications Advisor. Matt provides professional writing, digital media and communications support to CREA and assists in developing engaging social media content. He is regularly featured in the CREA Café where he provides interesting and entertaining content for REALTORS® to enjoy. Matt is a professional photographer but has dreams of becoming a rock star. He also enjoys mountain biking, skiing, hiking, and using the Oxford comma.


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