For Chatham’s Darcy Want, it was just another day at the office.
But Darcy, 71, recently celebrated a milestone: half a century selling real estate in Chatham.
“I’m an old guy. Here I am,” the Re/Max agent joked.
To him it’s that simple, although he admits he doesn’t know of anyone else who’s been selling property in the area for as long as he has.
To honour his years of serving the people of Chatham-Kent, Re/Max is holding an open house drop-in for Darcy on Aug. 26, starting at 1 p.m.
Real estate sales are in his blood. Darcy’s father, Gord, went into real estate in Chatham back in 1951, when Darcy was six. The son paid attention to many a conversation around the dinner table.
“He was a real talker,” he said of his father. “We grew up hearing all about the real estate deals.”
When Darcy was done school and had to pick a career, he was too young at the time to become a realtor. In the 1960s, you had to be 21 to do so. So he started down another career path, computer programming.
After nothing more than an aptitude test, he landed a job as a computer programmer at Emco Brass in London.
“They told me what eight bits meant and sent me to Toronto to take a course,” he said.
But his father’s career path was lingering in the back of Darcy’s mind. After lasting a year at Emco, he joked he saw an advertisement on the back of a cereal box, which helped him make up his mind.
“I knew what I wanted to do. So I went down to the guy who ultimately gave me my real estate licence, who also happened to be the same guy who gave me my shotgun permit,” he laughed. “I received a little blue book and memorized the regulations.”
That was in 1966, 50 years ago.
“I was the 18th person who could sell real estate in the city,” he said. “There was a large influx after that.”
Darcy said real estate sales were quite simple when he first started.
“You’d get dressed up in your suit, and people would walk in or call you on the phone,” he said.
But that soon progressed. Darcy recalled the local realtors started a system called Photo Listings where a secretary would take a photo of a house up for sale, make 20 copies and distribute the photos, along with a page of information on the home, to all the realtors.
MLS – multiple listing service – eventually came into being, providing realtors with a book of local listings to show clients. The introduction of the Internet further expanded the dissemination of information.
Yes, things have changed over the years. When Darcy got into the business, a typical bungalow sold for between $15,000 and $20,000. But his first sale turned out to be a 50-acre farm, which sold for $40,000.
“My 5% commission was $2,000. That was about half of what I had made in a whole year at the programming job,” he said.
This spring, Darcy said he closed his highest-priced deal of his career, a home on the Thames River for $530,000.
“The people moved back to Chatham from Toronto. That’s where the business is coming from now,” he said.
He said that influx of homeowners is what sparked the hot housing market locally.
“The people are really happy to locate here. It’s warmer. Everything gets greener about two weeks earlier,” he said.
Given the different hours for real estate sales – you are at the beck and call of your clients, and showing homes happens when they are available, sometimes on very short notice – Darcy said he wouldn’t have been able to do it without strong family support.
“My wife, Mary, has been fantastic. She has always taken on an interest and always understood when I had to leave to work,” he said.
The couple has four grown children – a doctor, lawyer, nurse and municipal staffer – living as far away as Toronto, Sudbury and San Diego.
Through it all, Darcy evolved as well. He went from a real estate agent to running his own office. He partnered with his father for a time, running Want & Want, to adding staff and changing the name to Want & Associates.
Darcy said they became affiliated with Royal LePage for a time, before changing to Re/Max.
But by the time Darcy reached the age of 65, he was ready to slow down … a bit. He said Peggy Van Veen was looking to become a broker of record and franchise operator for Re/Max, so he sold his office to her. Four years later, she sold to Rocky Gaudrault, and Peggy remained broker of record.
They are all in it together now.
“It has been a lot nicer having the support staff,” Darcy said. “He (Rocky) has got a really nice, comfortable office for us to work in too.”
“We’ve got three owners, really,” Rocky said. “Peggy’s still the broker of record, and Darcy backs her up.”
Rocky has nothing but respect for Darcy.
“He is part of what makes the office tick. He is always positive and supportive,” he said. “And since I’ve been here, he’s increasing his productivity. He seems rejuvenated. Plus, he’s contributed to Chatham-Kent in a very big way over the years.”
So when will Darcy hang up his sales jacket? No time soon, if he has his way.
“I can’t imagine the pressure of trying to save enough money to the point I thought I could retire,” he said. “If you just keep working, it all works out.”
Rocky said Darcy is an active, fit man for his age, so he also doesn’t see him slowing down any time soon.
But Darcy has pulled back from some of his other commitments. After being part of a number of service clubs, he said he’s stepped away to spend more time with his wife.
But at work, he’ll continue to make people smile.
“You still want to just satisfy people. They light up when they get the house they want,” he said.