Welcome to “Cloverdale In Conversation,” a monthly feature with a local personality. This month, Sharon Mason is our guest. Sharon moved here about 15 years ago from Ladner and is very fond of Cloverdale.
Sharon recently wrote a book called “For the Love of Real Estate: Tales from the Trenches,” which chronicles the funny, memorable, and dramatic stories from her life as a realtor. Sharon’s son, famous actor and director Jason Priestley, wrote the foreword for the book. (The book was featured in the Reporter in March.)
Sharon is an international award winning realtor and entered the business at age 40 and is still working at 79. Sharon chats about life, her book, and the secret to being a great realtor.
Malin Jordan: Tell me a little bit about yourself.
Sharon Mason: Well, I was born in Edmonton—and I never lie about my age, only my height and weight. (Laughs) I was born in 1943, two years before the war ended. In my book, I make reference to that, to my dad, my book is dedicated to my dad. He was in the Navy during the Second World War in the North Atlantic—not a nice place to be. My parents moved us to Victoria. And I grew up there, went to school there, went to university, graduated from university, UVic.
I have done many, many things in my life. I come from a big background in theatre and media. I was in the Winnipeg ballet. I have been in a lot of theatre and done voiceover work, commercials, films, choreography, a whole background in that. I was a school teacher. I’m a registered counsellor. I’m a published author. And I’ve been a realtor for, like, ever. And I love it. I really, really love it.
MJ: You became a realtor in the mid-’80s. What comes to mind when you think about just starting out?
SM: I got a car phone in, I think it was, ‘86? That was the beginning of technology. It was a big brick and you had to have an antenna on the back of your car. I went through all these different phases of the moon, with it. So it’s really interesting to be in something for so long and to witness all the changes that have happened.
MJ: What drove you into realty?
SM: Well, my dad was a realtor. After we moved to Victoria, my dad got his real estate licence in 1948 when all you needed was two dollars and 50 cents and a pulse (laughs). Fortunately, he had both—that’s a quote from my book, by the way—and he got his licence.
Realty was like the Wild West in those days. There was no Real Estate Act. There were no rules, none of that legal stuff. His business partner was a cabinet minister in the old Wacky Bennett government back in the ’50s. And they introduced legislation and they brought in the first Real Estate Act into B.C.
MJ: Do you know who that person in the cabinet was?
SM: J. Donald Smith. We called him Don. I don’t know what portfolio he had. That’s a long, long time ago. I was a kid. He and my dad owned a real estate company in downtown Victoria and they really helped to clean up the real estate business. They wanted to raise the role of being a realtor to a profession.
MJ: Were there a lot of shady things going on at the time?
SM: Yes, and there still are, but the government’s doing their best to catch the bad guys. But the bad guys are very smart and so the rest of us are just burdened with it.
My book actually is really aimed at making people aware of what they should be getting from their realtors. How they should be treated. What they should be telling them. It’s very much along that same vein, but it’s also very humorous.
MJ: What was the inspiration for your book? How did you come up with the idea?
SM: All through my many years in real estate, I would tell my clients and my friends these stories: “You’ll never believe this deal I was just working on!” And for decades, all these people have been saying to me, “Sharon, you have to write a book.”
So finally, 18 months ago, one of my longtime clients, she’s been my client since 1984, we’ve become very close friends, said to me, “Sharon, when are you actually going to write that book?” So I went away and thought about it and I decided—at my age—I better hurry up. (Laughs)
MJ: How long did it take you to write it?
SM: It only took me six weeks to write the book. I have so much to say, so much to teach. I have so much to share about what really goes on behind the scenes. That’s what the book is really about.
MJ: How was the writing process? Was all this stuff on your mind, or were you, kind of, taking a journey on your own as you went along? Perhaps going back in time, I would imagine.
SM: Yeah, it’s very much that. And the book does jump from the present to the past quite often. Once I figured out why I was writing the book, and I made up some chapter headings, I just plunged in and started writing. It was a strange experience because it came out of my head, went through my heart, and onto my keyboard. There was so much to write.
MJ: Could you have written two books?
SM: I have started the second one already. (Laughs)
I had such a great publisher and editor. They made it very easy for me.
MJ: When did the book launch?
SM: The book launched several weeks ago. And we made number one best seller for launch day in four categories on Amazon. Get this: “buying and selling,” of course, “real estate,” of course, “buying and investing,” of course, and my favourite “movers and shakers.” (Laughs)
MJ: So you can officially call yourself a number one best selling author.
SM: It actually seems kind of unreal. And my son Jason—you know Jason—he wrote the foreword for the book and he gave me his publicist. He’s like, “Mom, you have to go on a book tour.” And I’m like, “I’m not so sure about that.” And he says, “No, no, no, you’ve gotta talk to Adrian.” She’s one of his publicists in Toronto. And so I’ve been on all these early morning talk shows that are all out of Toronto.
MJ: What about readers that don’t understand anything about realty, that maybe aren’t in the business, what are they going to get out of this book?
SM: Oh, well, they’re going to find it really amusing. The book is very entertaining. The first chapter is called “So You Want To Be A Realtor.” And it takes people into that process and takes them into some real-life experiences and some of the lessons learned.
Jason says (the book’s) about real estate, it’s a memoir, it’s about business, and it’s a bit of a self-help book. Jason says it sort of shows people how you deal with adversity and how you deal with problems and conflict. And how to best handle these difficult situations that come up in life.
MJ: So how long have you been in Cloverdale?
SM: About 15 years. We were in Ladner before that for a very long time. And I was a realtor in the Richmond, Ladner, and Tsawwassen areas in the ‘80s-’90s.
MJ: What kind of things do you like about Cloverdale?
SM: Well, I like the people. It’s a place where people still stop and let you cross the street.
MJ: It’s true, and people say hi to ya when you’re walking down the street.
SM: They actually do. When we’re out for a walk in our neighbourhood, even the teenagers will say hi. People are very friendly. It’s got this small town atmosphere. We really like where it’s situated. It’s close to the beach. It’s halfway between two airports. The highway’s really handy. I like the village atmosphere and there are a lot of families and a lot of pride of ownership.
MJ: You’ve been in realty for nearly 40 years. Can you sum up the essence of what realty is to you?
SM: People say (realty) is just business, but it can’t be. It is business, but it’s more than that. I end up becoming members of people’s families. I end up at christenings and funerals and weddings and all kinds of stuff.
That’s one philosophy of real estate: relational. I want to be a person in people’s lives that they know will always tell them the truth. They can trust me to warn them about something. I’m always there for them. They can call me about anything at any time.
MJ: Is that the secret to realty, that personal relationship?
SM: It’s the secret to any business. There’s so many moving parts and so many skills you need to develop, not only business skills and administrative skills, but people skills. You need to have personal growth and you need to learn how to manage your own emotions while at the same time helping to manage other people’s emotions. Learning what you need to teach people so they’re empowered.