Eighty years young and still doing business in Muskoka
by Kerri MaDonald – Jun 03, 2009
Photo by Kerri MacDonald
Ed Seagram will not sit down.
Wearing a light brown corduroy jacket and carrying a leather briefcase, Seagram’s here on business. Although he’s seated for the interview, in principle the real estate broker doesn’t spend much time off his feet.
“I guess my nature is that I’m not one for sitting,” says Seagram, who turns 80 in October. “I am probably the oldest person who’s still practicing real estate in Muskoka.”
His first piece of property? In 1962, he bought a piece of land that had belonged to U.S. president Woodrow Wilson.
When Seagram really got started, there were three other brokers in Muskoka. In 1970, he did a two-year apprenticeship with a firm then called Gibson Willoughby before starting his own agency, Seagram Real Estate Limited. The office was based out of his cottage on Fairylands Island, where it remains today.
“Up until some of the larger brokers came in, I would have as many as 25 or 30 listings,” Seagram says. Over the years, he has sold hundreds of properties in the area, many more than once.
With so much experience under his belt, the seasoned broker is full of real estate advice.
“When you represent both sides, you have to be extra careful about making sure you represent both sides fairly,” he says. “Sometimes you find a situation where two bidders submit the exact same amount for the property. The way I handle it, instead of trying to have a bidding war, I usually go to the seller and I suggest the best way to address the issue is to have both buyers submit a new offer and fax it directly to the seller.”
“The real key to any real estate transaction is the ability to negotiate and to have both parties happy with the outcome of the transaction. And one of the ways that you accomplish this is having the buyer and seller feel comfortable with the agent that’s representing them.
“I like to have a limited amount of listings because I totally focus on those listings. I do not depend on other brokers to sell those listings.”
For Seagram — who comes up with innovative ways to structure his offers so both clients are happy — finding that level of comfort has never been a problem.
“I have an interaction with a lot of different people,” says the broker, who started a travel business in 1965, arranging hunting and sightseeing trips to destinations such as Africa, Argentina, Chile, Russia and the former Czechoslovakia.
Seagram was born in Waterloo, Ontario but grew up in Alabama, which comes across in his subtle southern accent. He went to the Kentucky Military Institute, a military prep school, and then the University of the South, an Episcopal liberal arts college in Sewanee, Tennessee. In order to complete his education without being drafted into the Korean War, he went on to do a bachelor of science degree at Florida State University, where he studied real estate and insurance as a graduate student.
In January, 1955, Seagram ended up in the American air force, where he was a budget and accounting officer for a base in France. When he only spent $850,000 of the $1.1 million budget he was given, the military insisted he spend the leftover money.
“What they had me do was pack up equipment, send it to Africa and back again to burn up the $250,000,” he says with raised eyebrows.
After returning to North America, Seagram became a Canadian citizen again and bought his cottage on Fairylands Island on Lake Rosseau. In the early 1960s, he was a partner in the development of Hidden Valley Ski Resort and, in 1968, the first Holiday Inn resort in Canada.
“I was also in the manufacturing business in the early sixties,” he says. Along with his good friend, Chuck Buddo, he sold seat suspensions and portable diving boards for boats using a marketing scheme that involved a Century Coronado — “the Cadillac of wooden boats” — and a well-trained Labrador retriever, Mike.
“The dog actually enabled us to have an audience with many of the boat manufacturers,” he says. Seagram would bring Mike into an office, where the dog would cause a commotion and allow his owner to start a conversation with the company’s leadership. He’d offer rides in the Coronado and keep the conversation going, hoping to make a sale.
The successful real estate broker has also dabbled in filmmaking. He started filming in 1945, inspired by his father’s movies of family trips to the French River — a series that began in 1927. With two friends, the younger Seagram filmed a three-month trip from Capetown to Nairobi in 1954. Today, Seagram sends his clients DVD documentaries about the properties they’re interested in.
“My experience allows me to make a detailed film somewhere between professional and amateur,” he says. “I film in such a way that they have a complete picture.”
He has also been working with his father’s films, providing voice-overs as historical background.
In the meantime, how do Seagram and his wife Rosemary, who turns 70 this year, plan to celebrate their birthdays?
“We’re putting together a function, probably in the city,” he says before the conversation leads back to real estate.
“I have no intention of retiring,” he says, running through his impressive athletic CV which includes golf, tennis, hunting and, in his college days, football, water-skiing, track and pole vaulting, as a testament to his physical health.
“There are a lot of people that are a lot better tennis players than I am, but I do everything possible to win — in the same manner as I am totally focused in trying to find a buyer.”
Reprinted from the original article, courtesy Kerri MacDonald, The Muskokan.