In 1981, Pierre Trudeau was prime minister, the NHL Jets were still in Winnipeg and that year drafted future Hall of Fame player Dale Hawerchuk. Also, the Canadarm made its first flight into space aboard the space shuttle Columbia, and Terry Fox, the courageous one-legged Marathon of Hope runner, who was inducted last September into the WinnipegREALTORS®-established Citizens Hall of Fame, died of cancer.
In the same year, the very first issue of the Winnipeg Real Estate News was published on January 9. The headline on the front page proclaimed, Manitoba’s Potential — Super.
“Super” was the superlative used by then Winnipeg Real Estate Board (since changed to WinnipegREALTORS®) president Gordon E. Swail to describe the positive economic outlook for the province.
He based his comment on Manitoba having “one million souls” and a vast landbase. “(Industry and businesses are) bound to look to Manitoba where they can’t beat our land, building or labour costs.”
And in his predictions for the rest of 1981, Swail said the “stability” of the market meant it would not be subject to “the erratic fluctuations of other areas” across Canada.
What was the case in 1981 remains so 30 years later in 2011 — the NHL is back in the city, the local real estate market is still described using the word “stability,” and the WREN continues to be the voice of local organized real estate to the community.
According to WinnipegREALTORS® president Ralph Fyfe, the WREN has more than fulfilled its original 1981 mandate of providing an affordable advertising vehicle for members.
“For any REALTOR® representing a client buying or selling a house,” he added, “it’s the No.1 advertising vehicle.”
Ron Tardiff, the chair of the WinnipegREALTORS® newspaper committee, said one of the WREN’s strengths is that it doesn’t advertise anything but real estate and financial services.
“It’s certainly one of a kind,” and doesn't get sidetracked by advertising everything from “nuts and bolts” like other publications, he added.
In fact, a recent public survey showed that 68 per cent of respondents rated the newspaper positively and 30 per cent gave it a five out of five for advertising real estate, which was by far a better rating than any other print venue, including the major dailies.
“People tell me they pick it up on a regular basis to keep informed about the market,” Tardiff said.
And the newspaper is known across Manitoba, because it’s not just for the Winnipeg market, Tardiff added.
Over the years, WREN advertising has been expanded beyond MLS® to include financial services, insurance and home staging ads, all of which are related to the real estate industry.
The newspaper has been revamped many times since its inception. It’s a new-look WREN that now greets readers with high-gloss colour front and back covers, as well as crisp full-colour inside pages, which is in sharp contrast to the old days when bland black-and-white pages were the norm.
“There has always been changes made in the newspaper, and there has always been a progressive attitude, which has helped the WREN become the most respected real estate newspaper in North America,” said Dave Smith, a former chair of the WinnipegREALTORS® newspaper committee.
The changes made also involve technology, with the WREN having its own website (www.winnipegrealestatenews.com), which features up-to-date MLS® listings, open house information and (the latest or archived) articles, as well as community-oriented promotions.
The WREN has its own Facebook page (facebook.com/WRENews), where “friends” can support causes promoted by the newspaper, such as sledge hockey equipment for the disabled, as well as win Goldeye game tickets or passes to family-oriented events through the We’ve Got Your Ticket to Free Family Fun contest.
“We continue to fine-tune and improve our newspaper so that we remain far ahead of other real estate publications,” said Jo-Anne Wood, the general manager of the WREN.
The role of the newspaper in the community has expanded to include bringing attention to real estate-related issues that affect the public, tips for the householder, as well as other items that are not directly related to the real estate industry.
“There are issues that are just as important to the public as they are to the real estate industry such as property taxes and rent controls,” said Greg Croglani, another former chair of the newspaper committee.
The WREN has also played an integral role in bringing the platforms of mayoral candidates and provincial party leaders to the public’s attention before and after WinnipegREALTORS® -sponsored forums.
But there’s a lot more to be found in the pages of the WREN. For example, the weekly Heritage Highlights feature has gained widespread attention as well as national and international recognition for its historical feature articles, including receiving the Heritage Winnipeg Distinguished Service Award (twice).
“It makes perfect sense to have a historical feature in our newspaper,” said WREN editor Bruce Cherney in a webcast for Canada’s History magazine (formerly The Beaver), “since people live in houses, houses are on streets and in neighbourhoods, which are in communities within the province, all of which are affected by what has happened in the past.”
As a voice of the community, the WREN has also received the Golden Hand Award for feature coverage of volunteer services, it has twice received the Golden Boy Award, and been acknowledged by various charities, such as the Children’s Rehabilitation Foundation and Fish Winnipeg, for supporting their endeavours.
“It adds credibility when people outside the industry recognize you,” said Crognali.
Every week, the WREN acknowledges that “pets” also require homes and provides a free ad to the Winnipeg Humane Society to feature dogs and cats that are in need of adoption by a caring family.
In terms of charities, the WREN provides information to the public about events, such as the annual WinnipegREALTORS® fund-raising social Gimme Shelter, the proceeds of which are donated to the Manitoba Real Estate Association Shelter Foundation that gives grants to shelter-related causes.
Appearing weekly in the newspaper are Kathleen Teillet who pens The Twisty Tongue, a column on words and phrases, Allen Willoughby who writes the humour column Bits and Pieces, and the skill-testing crossword puzzles are created by Adrian Powell. Professionally Speaking is a weekly column by members of the WinnipegREALTORS® staff, including market analyst Peter Squire, devoted to real estate issues that are of importance to the public, and the weekly Editor’s Comment on a wide variety of themes and topics is written by Cherney.
Other sections of the newspaper carry features on neighbourhoods, rural properties, open houses, building lots, agent’s picks, cottages, condos, new homes and commercial properties.
In the first 1981 edition of the WREN, there were just three editorial pages and 33 pages of advertising, while the June 17 issue this year had 17 pages of editorial (with advertisements) and 83 pages devoted solely to advertisements.
In the first newspaper, the 33 pages of advertising included:
• A Fort Rouge two-storey with three bedrooms selling for $38,500.
• A St. James custom bungalow with garage selling for $64,900.
• A bi-level with three bedrooms and a wet bar in the Maples listed at $51,000.
• In Westwood, a three-bedroom bungalow listed at $49,900.
• A River Heights three-storey home with six bedrooms selling for $105,900.
• Advertised as “Tuxedo’s best,” a home loaded with “all the features,” including six baths, was listed at $398,000.