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Do I have a deal for you

There are many real estate investors who wish they’d gotten into a market just before a boom. App...

There are many real estate investors who wish they’d gotten into a market just before a boom.

Appreciation of real estate investments has made many people wealthy over time.

For those willing to take the risk, the reward can be real.

I was deep down a rabbit hole doing historical research on an existing commercial property last week when I discovered a real estate directory published in or around 1912.

It’s quite easily the earliest version of MLS I can find for Saskatoon.

The directory outlines residential and commercial land listings by neighbourhood from 50 real estate firms. Printed monthly, a prospective investor could purchase the directory for 35 cents.

Neighbourhoods outlined that still exist today include City Park, Riverdale, and Nutana.

In addition to the listings, there is of course advertising on behalf of the companies participating in the real estate promotion. The promises of return were grand:

“This property is good, the price and terms are right, what more could you wish? Then come and see us about it NOW while you have the opportunity – others may be considering this, so come now or they get ahead of you.” – W. Hopkins & Co., Real Estate/Loans/Insurance

“Investors who buy our properties today stand to make much better returns than early buyers in Saskatoon did . . .” – Karl K. Albert, Stocks and Bonds/California Oil Investments

“How often have you read: I remember when I could have bought lots in Saskatoon at 1/10 the prices they are selling today? . . . Some people who have come to Saskatoon in 1912 will say the same thing ten years from now.” – Christie-Rieger Realty Co.

Values are skewed

It’s difficult to do a straight comparison on land values as there are no listed sizes for the parcels advertised. The legal descriptions provided don’t align with today’s map of Saskatoon so I couldn’t say exactly what you’d be getting for the price listed.

One immediate difference I picked up was that some lots were listed as a price per foot. In our world, it’s now a price per square foot.

The only thing I can infer is that they are selling lots based on frontage, and these were likely commercial in nature.

The map included in the directory cannot be read but I found a very detailed map from a newspaper advertising lots in 1911. It’d be hard to tell it’s the same city, if not for some neighbourhood names which have survived and the constant snaking river.

Landmarks like St. Paul’s Hospital already appear.

A researcher’s note on the scan indicates lots are $250-$300 each.

Municipal stats

The total city assessment quoted for 1912 is $39,867,335, with a tax rate of 18 mills.

Comparatively, Saskatoon’s 95,000 properties in the last reassessment in 2017 are estimated at a total value of $52 billion. The combined mill rate that year was just under seven per cent.

In the 1912 report, there were 11 miles of streetcar routes under construction and 3.5 miles of street paving in place.

Total building permits up to mid-year totaled $5.6 million, including these major projects: Quaker Oats ($100,000), two public schools ($350,000), and MacMillan’s Store ($200,000).

For certain, Saskatoon was in boom times. It would have been incredible to witness the growth that happened in this snippet of history.

It also bears stating that the real estate companies weren’t wrong.

An advertised residential lot in Riverdale today is listed at $100,000, nearly a 40,000 per cent increase over the 1911 values!

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