Being asked to stay at home has put a real damper on moving to a new one. While the coronavirus pandemic hasn’t brought the real estate business to a complete halt, though there have been some changes.
Most business has been shuttered due to COVID-19, but the province has mandated that 44 essential services are still allowed to remain open and continue their day-to-day work. Real estate is one of those granted an exemption, although it’s not quite business as usual.
“Real estate has been deemed an essential service by the Ontario government, as have lawyers, moving companies and the land transfer registry,” said Colleen Koehler, president of the Kitchener Waterloo Association of Realtors. “There were several, several properties that people needed to buy and sell. Whether they had already purchased something unconditional of the sale of their property or for financial reasons they needed to sell, there’s all kinds of reasons why properties still need to go.”
Koehler says that since March 17, the amount of “obvious sales activity” dropped significantly and 51 listings had to be suspended, essentially taken off the market.
While the purchase and sale of homes is still being conducted, because of social distancing measures and the safety considerations of all involved, changes have been made to the process due to the current climate.
Open houses are no longer able to take place as they have been banned by the province, and Koehler says realtors have been using virtual open houses and other alternatives to showcase homes on the market.
Whether it’s through online postings or social media, marketing is being done through inventive ways to ensure business can continue, she said, as the buyers and their agents are able to ask questions and make their decisions without having to break social distancing measures.
If seeing a house in person is a necessity, only one-on-one showings are allowed to happen, with rigorous safety measures put in place.
Koehler said other changes include not showing properties where people may be quarantining due to COVID-19 and new clauses being created by lawyers for realtors to use in the sales process.
With these new measures, things like final walkthroughs being eliminated from the purchasing process can lead to a small savings on the price of the house.
March’s numbers show a slight decline in the market, but Koehler says April will be a much more telling month.
“We were still up 15 per cent with only two weeks of sales in March, so we had a really incredible start to the spring market and obviously it has just been halted,” said Koehler. “I think April you’ll see that change again.”
Despite what may happen down the road, Koehler says Waterloo Region remains a top destination for job seekers and those on the move, a status that’s going to help in the long run.
“We have an incredible influx of people that keep moving to the region that is outpacing the amount of inventory that continues to come on the market even despite the pandemic,” said Koehler.
Realtors are doing everything in their power to keep their clients safe and Koehler asks any potential client to “do what they’re supposed to do” and not list houses or look to buy unless it’s absolutely necessary.