In our March newsletter, I was commenting on the white hot real estate market. It’s remarkable how much has changed in such a short time. While the real estate industry was designated an essential service in March 2020, it has been far from business as usual. The Ontario Real Estate Association discourages in person meetings unless absolutely necessary and the provincial government has banned open houses.
As with so many other industries, there’s a new way do practicing real estate in order to stop the virus from spreading. So far, changes in real estate practices have been far reaching, some subtle like arranging appointments, others more obvious such as implications of physical distancing.
1) Lead times for appointments will take longer. Making appointments and confirming appointments is more onerous. Prior to Covid-19, appointments were booked and typically confirmed within minutes. Post Covid-19, there’s back and forth between buyer agents and listing brokerages as sellers require disclosures signed by buyers and their Realtors to indemnify and safeguard sellers. In some cases, sellers are even requiring offers before seeing a property where the offer is conditional upon a subsequent visit to ensure the seriousness of the buyer.
2) Showings are becoming more arduous. Prior to Covid-19, showings for properties were often double booked as multiple buyers could view properties at the same time. Now, sellers are reluctant to allow more than several people into the property at any one time leading to waiting outside until the prior appointment is finished. Clients also need to caravan separately taking more time due to limited parking and getting lost the odd time. Physical distancing rules also require separate elevator trips.
3) Briefcase meets Covid-19 kit. Along with wearing a mask and gloves to showings, I now carry a hefty bag for my Covid-19 kit including sanitizer, Lysol wipes, soap, masks, paper towels and extra gloves.
4) Unconditional offers are rare. Prior to Covid-19, the frenzied market often necessitated offers without conditions on financing or inspection. Now, removing a condition for financing takes on further level of risk due to appraisals. Appraisals can hold up financing as appraisers opt for drive-by appraisals instead of in person visits which may result in lower appraised values. In addition, banks are also more stringent to ensure that Buyers are still employed up until the point of closing.
5) In person offer presentations are rare. In the past, Buyer agents presented their client’s offer in person with the Seller’s agent and the Seller to discuss and negotiate offers. The adoption of digital signatures made these presentations infrequent and now with Covid-19, these opportunities to meet and discuss are practically obsolete.
Toronto’s April real estate activity slowed considerably as buyers and sellers stayed on the sidelines as listings and sales volumes dropped by 61% and 68% respectively as prices dipped slightly compared to April 2019. Feel free to let me know if you’d like more details of your neighbourhood.
As we slowly reopen parts the economy, it’s clear that along with the travel, hospitality and entertainment sector, the real estate industry will be significantly impacted. Floorplans, pictures, 3D virtual tours are helpful but cannot replace walking through and around properties. Sales volumes will continue to remain low as owners fear potential buyers bringing Covid-19 into their properties. It’s too early to tell how the confluence of rising unemployment, government spending, continued physical distancing without a vaccine will impact society as a whole, let alone the real estate market. In terms of when can we expect activity to pick up, it will be when we can answer affirmatively – when would you feel comfortable with strangers coming through your property?
There’s so many things we can’t control. However, we’re optimistic that we can make the most of the crisis and find new ways to come out of this pandemic stronger while being helpful to each other.
Shen Shoots the Breeze
- I used to tell myself that my extrovertedness prevented me from being a runner. Why run alone for long distances when I could get my exercise by playing in team sports? Of course with Covid-19, team sports need to take a backseat for the time being. I tried watching exercise videos but the minutes felt like hours and I found myself dreading it. I was sharing this with a former colleague who was also wanting to get back into exercising after just having given birth. We decided to be each other’s accountability partners and she suggested the Nike Run app as a way to do this. It’s been just over a month since I started running. I’m surprised that I’ve been able to do this 5x/week and can see myself running longer distances. I don’t have visions of running marathons nor even half-marathons but would like to increase my distance and speed. Does anyone have any programs that have helped you address both? In the meantime, I’ll keep running and maybe this’ll stick even after when we are able to congregate again.
- My youngest niece learned to read several months ago. We don’t live in the same country and it’ll be some time before we will be able to see each other face-to-face. In the meantime, we are meeting up online each week so I can read to her and she to me (and hopefully give her parents a break). We enjoy William J. Bennett’s The Book of Virtues as it’s chock full of short stories and poems. My niece shared with me Enemy Pie, by Derek Munson. It’s become my new favourite children’s book and I think it can appeal to an older audience as well. If you can’t get a hold of it, you can check out Cameron Manheim who does a reading on it. Do you have any other books that I can borrow online so I can share it with my niece?