Published January 2001

Brokers: community boosters then and now

“‘Opportunity,’ written in capital letters, is Everett’s other name. Backed and supported by productive fields and orchards, mines, forests and fisheries — occupying a strategic position on fresh and salt water at a point where the shortest railroad across the continent first touches tidewater ... (Everett) is destined to become an important factor in the Alaskan, Oriental and world’s commerce. ...”

So reads the opening paragraph of the October 1907 publication of “The Coast,” written by then-Secretary of the Everett Chamber of Commerce Elmer E. Johnston. I recently fell upon a copy of this booklet promoting Everett at the turn of the century and found the history lesson interesting for those of us investing in real estate in the area today. In many ways, things are the same. Yet in some ways, they have changed. The differences are humorous and serious at the same time.

Real estate ads back then pitched Everett’s strongest features, focusing mostly on commercial growth as the main draw.

“Buy in The City of Smokestacks” headed the ad of one real estate broker, who probably wouldn’t have dreamed that an airplane manufacturer would one day be Everett’s largest employer and one of the largest companies in the country. The message is clear, though: Commerce generates demand. Demand generates higher values.

Consider an entry in the 1907 publication from real estate agent H.G. Hawes revealing his interest in stimulating demand: “Everett doesn’t need any boosting. If anybody is content to live in any other city on Puget Sound, may the blessings of a happy life attend them. If any Eastern folks are satisfied to live in a country where they must nearly sweat to death for five months trying to rake fuel enough together to keep them from freezing up during the other seven months, may such comforts as they are able to assemble stay with them.”

I’m willing to bet this guy had a few unsold listings on his hands when he wrote this one, but at least he’s focusing his energy in the right direction. With some exception, supply of property was unlimited in 1907, so he was trying to generate demand by promoting his city.

He goes on to say, “(Everett’s) real estate values will always be governed by the revenue-producing power of the property and not by ... the largeness of the real estate man’s imagination and vocabulary.”

Evidently, real estate agents were guilty of some “largeness” back then as well. He cleans up his own image, though, by displaying a pair of 25-foot lots within two blocks of the best business corner in the city. These were available through him for $4,000 while a similar pair another six blocks farther down the way offered by another agent were a mere $750. I suspect there’s some “largeness” in the price of his listing, but he’s doing his level best to stimulate demand.

Real estate agents have a vital interest in supporting increased demand and economic growth in the markets they serve today just as eager beaver Hawes did in 1907. But there is one fundamental difference between then and now. In the current real estate reality, the focus has turned as much on the supply side as it has on demand.

With many more obstacles and costs in the way to develop property than were there a century ago, the challenge as we enter the next century will not be so much to stimulate demand — on that front, the machinery is in place.

No, the challenge will be to keep a supply pipeline coming in response to the demand. In 1907, property in Everett was affordable. Today, the limitations on developing property make it less so for many, effectively cutting out a segment of the population from participating in the market.

Tom Hoban is CEO of Coast Management Co., a property management company with offices in Everett, Bellevue and Boise, Idaho. He can be reached at 425-339-3638 or by e-mail to

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