When Clair Watne arrived in Minot to be close to relatives in 1951, he wasn't planning on getting involved with real estate. At the time, Watne was a new graduate from the University of Minnesota with a degree in agricul- tural economics.
"My relatives encouraged me to try real estate. I thought I'd take a stab at it. I was fortunate to be able to get some sales and earn some small commissions. The houses then sold for 10 to 15 thousand, so it wasn't exactly a roadway paved with gold," Watne said.
Watne recalled his relatives' introductions to the people of Minot, and he felt welcomed right away.
Clair Watne, owner of Watne Realtors, continues to operate his business in Minot.
"Minot was a very friendly town. It took no time to get acquainted with all sorts of folks, and it was very easy to be accepted as a part of the community. It wasn't clique-ish, and there are good people here," Watne said.
Now, at age 82, Watne continues to work in real estate in Minot. He owns Watne Realtors and employs about 20 real estate agents. Watne Realtors deals in homes, commercial property and rental property.
Watne now serves as the designated broker and as company owner. He continues to work with commercial business in leasing and selling; as well as completing his overseeing tasks.
In September, he underwent a hip replacement surgery, and made the decision to return to work.
"I don't care to sit around. Leisure doesn't please me. I'm going to stay active in the business as long as I'm healthy and strong, and I feel I can be a contributing factor. I don't have any great desire to hang it up," Watne said.
In addition to working at his business, Watne was involved in several community organizations over the years, including the Association of Realtors, where he acted as a past president, the Minot Chamber of Commerce, the Minot Development Corp., the Elks Lodge and the library board.
"I just wanted to be involved with the community, and to try to promote the city of Minot in the best way possible," Watne said.
Watne recalled the changes he's seen in the real estate business over the years. When he first started out, there was no real estate license law. That law was passed in about 1957, he explained, and since then, the requirements to enter the business have been gradually increased. Now agents must undergo skills testing, education credit hours and continuing education.
The requirements customers have are different, too.
"The requirements of people today are far different than they were years ago. Then, people would raise a large family in a small house. Now, they raise a small family in a large house. Now they want the double garage, more bathrooms and more appliances," Watne said.
"People expect more now, and they want to live better," he added.
The Internet has also changed the way people buy and sell, with many people logging on to check out what's available in the area before even arriving in Minot. Real estate agents also carry their cell phones and Blackberries.
"Agents keep up with all the current technology. It's not like years ago, when you worked out of your hip pocket," Watne said.
The business has also changed with more paperwork and forms required.
"There's a lot of managing your files and being sure you have all the required forms. There's a whole lot more stuff you have to do now than what you had in the early days, when you had a simple one-page form," Watne said.
In Minot, the business has changed with ups and downs in the agriculture and oil industrys, and it was also affected with the coming of Minot Air Force Base.
"We do get a lot of customers out at the air base, and also, some choose to stay in Minot after they are through with military service. They add to our population and to our talent base," Watne said.
Throughout the changes, Watne has been concerned with offering the basics good communication, customer service, and reliability.
"One of the most valuable things (I've learned) is that just showing up is important, and working with consistency and persistence," Watne said.
"This (real estate) is a unique business. You have to make sales to pay the bills. You don't have any money coming in until you close a sale or a lease. It's a challenge to keep that flow through the ups and downs," he added.