The concept of developing an informal association of local real estate agents originated in the United States in the 1880s, and by the turn of the century about 15 real estate Boards had been established. The National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) was formed in the U.S. in 1908 with 19 Boards and one state Association.
Organized real estate in Canada is almost as old as the country itself. The very first real estate Board was set up in 1888 in the growing community of Vancouver. Back then, a commercial lot on Hornby Street near the Hotel Vancouver sold for $600. The Vancouver Board was active until the start of the First World War, when operations were suspended. It resumed in 1919, and has been operating ever since.
The distinction of the oldest, continuous running Board belongs to Winnipeg; it started in 1903, and the Winnipeg Real Estate Board is the first in Canada to celebrate a 100th anniversary. A Board was incorporated in Windsor in 1919 and the Toronto Board was incorporated in 1920. Boards in Ottawa, Hamilton, Regina and Victoria followed in 1921. More than half of the existing real estate Boards in Canada were created after 1955, in part because of the evolution of the “Photo Co-Op System” that was introduced in 1951. That was the forerunner of today’s MLS® introduced in 1962. The Co-op System not only created a need for an organization to establish rules and promote cooperation among agents, but also to provide funds to operate a real estate Board. That’s when technology first changed the real estate industry.
During the final years of the Second World War, leaders of Canada’s real estate industry were increasingly concerned the federal government would continue some wartime measures as a permanent policy, including rent control and other rules relating to property. They realized that only by forming a national organization could the industry hope to make any impact on the federal government's post-war planning.
On March 2, 1943, 11 Ontario Boards and delegates from Victoria, Vancouver, Edmonton, Winnipeg and Montreal drew up the first constitution of the Canadian Association of Real Estate Boards (CAREB). The first CAREB conference, presided over by founding President Charles Purnell of Hamilton, was in Niagara Falls in April 1944. That’s when the term "REALTOR®" was adopted for use by all those who were members of CAREB.
In 1955, CAREB concentrated on promoting the concept and organization of the "Photo Co-op Listing" system (now MLS®), and on replacing the sporadically published newsletter with a monthly magazine entitled the "Canadian REALTOR®”. The Canadian Institute of REALTORS® was also established in 1955, in order to encourage the provinces to establish real estate courses. As an incentive, qualified graduates could use the FRI designation, or “Fellow of the REALTORS® Institute”. Correspondence courses were organized for the first time through the University of Toronto, and the first class "graduated" in 1956.
CAREB evolved into what is now known as The Canadian Real Estate Association, and in 1986 the offices were moved from Toronto to Ottawa, in effect acknowledging the increasing importance of CREA's government lobbying activities.
Information courtesy of the Canadian Real Estate Association