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Selling real estate at Whistler back then was like shooting fish in a barrel. "You'd get to the trailer in the morning," she explains, "and there'd already be a line-up of people snaking out the door. I'd usher them into the office, offer them coffee, and show them what was for sale on our map..." She stops. She can't help it. Has to laugh again. "It was like a sort of hysteria. People just wanted to buy, buy, buy..."
The money poured it. I mean, really poured in. Simpson made $200,000 in her first three months of work! And like most everyone else, she invested her "winnings" in local real estate. By 1980, she owned five houses. She thought she had the world by the tail. Thought all her financial problems were behind her.
Then the Big One hit: the recession of 1981. And no snow came. And Blackcomb Mountain nearly closed its doors after its first year. And the new village ground to a startling halt. Capital flowed out of the valley like water down the Cheakamus River. Investors quickly followed. As for all that high-priced real estate people had been frantically buying, suddenly properties were selling for a fraction of their listed price (starting to sound similar, isn't it?)...
"The early '80s was a crazy time," says Jan. "Interest rates were stratospheric and everyone (including me!) had over-extended themselves in the real estate market."
But for Jan, that was just the beginning. "In 1982 it didn't snow until February," she recounts, "so a lot of the tenants in my investment properties lost their jobs and moved on, leaving me with vacancies and lots of extra mortgage payments to make." On top of all her rental woes, she suddenly realized that she owed the government some serious coin. "Remember I was new to all this. So when Revenue Canada audited me ...and announced that I owed them all this deferred income tax, I was devastated. Lost my car, lost my money..."
She says her financial woes were directly responsible for the anxiety attacks and migraine headaches "that had recently manifested themselves in my stressed-out state..."
She wasn't alone though. "So that was a small consolation," she says, "Everyone in the industry seemed to be in the same boat, up the creek without a paddle. Persevered we did, knowing things would come around... hopefully sooner than later."
People did what they could to make ends meet. "I went back to waittressing where I got paid in cash." Cash? She laughs. "Sure. You see, I couldn't 'officially' work other than as a realtor..."