A shift in how we market, buy and sell homes
Given the speed at which the COVID-19 crisis has escalated, we felt the need to calm our fears, and regain some sense of clarity, while practising physical distancing and finding creative ways to connect with friends, family and clients.
For the time being, the most important thing we can do is STAY HOME, look after our health and do our part to help flatten the curve. In the meantime, here is a look at what we are seeing on the real estate front.
How COVID-19 has impacted real estate
So far, prices are holding and the market has been very active, but it will be another few weeks before the real impact is known.
There were 226 sales this past month in the West Island compared to 214 for March 2019. The median price of a single family home also increased from $499,500 in March of 2019 to $541,500 this year. Supply was down with 635 active listings at the end of March, compared to 735 for the same period last year.
With a government ban on all visits, building inspections, and photography, from March 24th until April 13th, many buyers and sellers put their plans on hold. We are already seeing a drop in the number of new listings and we anticipate this to continue until the ban on in-person visits and photography has been lifted.
Over the past two weeks, we have seen offers come in on properties (site unseen) based on virtual tours, floor plans and photos. They are generally conditional upon a walk through visit and other standard conditions although standard deadlines have been extended to accommodate these delays.
The government's list of essential services includes movers, insurance companies and most recently notaries, who are now allowed to use e-signatures to complete real estate transactions. This will help families who were facing a critical housing situation - meaning they had already sold their home and were expecting to sign for and move into their new home in the coming weeks.
What’s different about this crisis?
We asked Keith Matthews, a portfolio manager and partner at advisory firm Tulett Matthews & Associates, what makes this crisis different from previous market corrections we’ve lived through in the past.
"The level of economic decline will be sharper and more severe in the short-term than we’ve experienced in previous recessions," said Mr. Matthews. "This makes sense given the forced shutdowns across the country and around the world."
"It is impossible for anyone to accurately predict the depth of decline, the recovery start date, or how long it will take to recover," he continued. "The good news is that all recessions have one thing in common – they all have an end and they all begin their recovery when the days seem darkest."
Recent government announcements of the largest economic relief and stimulus packages in history will need to be weighed against their ability to contain the spread of the virus. The consensus among economists from Canada’s six largest banks is that we will see a rebound in the economy in the 3rd and 4th quarters of this year. If that’s the case, and buyer confidence returns, our real estate market should rebound this coming fall.
How Things Will Change
Realtors have been forced to work 100% remotely. Most of us have the tools needed to meet with clients virtually and to sign documents electronically. Once the government ban is lifted and we start to list homes again, the way we show properties and monitor on-site showings will change.
Buyers will need to answer a series of questions before being allowed to step foot inside a property: Have you seen the virtual tour? Do you have a home to sell before buying? Can you provide proof of financing? How many other homes are on your list of visits? The goal will be to eliminate non-essential visits as much as possible, while still allowing serious buyers to make informed purchasing decisions.
3D virtual tours, drone & walkthrough videos, floor plans and professional photography have been around for years, but they are now essential marketing tools for realtors and the industry will need to adapt.
As the economy goes into recession over the next few months, we may see a return to a more balanced market, as some steam gets released from an overheated seller’s market. The pause button has definitely been pushed, but for how long remains to be seen.