In addition to an abundance of colourful and fragrant flowers that sprout in Canadian gardens every spring, “For Sale” signs begin making their appearance curbside across the country.
But COVID-19 settled in just as the home-buying season was starting. Officials with the Canada Mortgage & Housing Corporation (CMHC) say that as a result, the number of new homes being built and sold will remain below the levels they were at before the pandemic until 2022 at least, and prices won’t get back to where they were for another two years either.
“Sales and prices are likely to remain below their pre-COVID-19 levels by the end of our forecast horizon in 2022. The precise timing and speed of the recovery is highly uncertain because the virus’s future path is not yet known,” says Bob Dugan, CMHC’s chief economist.
Even so, there remain many Canadians who need to buy or sell their homes, and agents need to find creative, safe alternatives to face-to-face service.
Chris Shields, president of the Fraser Valley Real Estate Board (FVREB), knows that housing needs do not stop during a pandemic. That’s why the board has been “working hard since the beginning of the lockdown to serve clients in innovative and effective ways that limit personal interaction yet showcase homes and facilitate sales,” he says.
And the board’s commitment to finding effective and innovative solutions seems to be paying off. Since mid-April, traffic to www.realtor.ca has increased by 14 per cent and inquiries to real estate agents have increased by 25 per cent.
Here are the FVREB’s top tips for safely buying or selling a home during the COVID-19 quarantine.
- DIGITAL COMMUNICATION
Your real estate agent will communicate with you through telephone, email, or video/teleconference. During this period, agents have been connecting virtually with their clients more than ever through FaceTime, Zoom and other video conferencing technologies.
- DOUBLING THE VOLUME OF LISTING PHOTOS ON REALTOR.CA
As you search Canada’s most-viewed real estate website, you’ll notice that Fraser Valley listings may display as many an 40 photos now, up from a previous maximum of 20.
- VIRTUAL HOME TOURS
In April, www.realtor.ca introduced a new feature that allows real estate agents to showcase listings by integrating video and 3D tours from multiple popular services.
- LIVE STREAMING OPEN HOUSES
Real estate agents are now scheduling and promoting live-stream open houses using such popular platforms as Facebook Live, Instagram Live, Zoom and YouTube. They walk through homes videoing and describing each room, while house hunters watch live and in real time. “What’s behind that door?” They’ll show you.
If you haven’t sold your home in a while, you may not be aware that strata documents, land title documents, floor plans and others are available digitally. Your real estate agent will email them to you.
- SAFE IN-PERSON VIEWINGS
When clients are serious about a purchase, they (and their home inspector) must see the home. This includes ensuring that in-person viewings adhere to stringent safety protocols including physical distancing; handwashing and sanitizing; the use of masks, gloves and shoe covers; viewings by appointment only; limiting the number of viewers and allowing time to disinfect between viewings.
- DISINFECTING REAL ESTATE AGENT/CLIENT HIGH-TOUCH SURFACES When appropriate, real estate agents are taking extra precautions to ensure that such high-touch areas as keys, lockboxes, doorknobs, handrails, elevator buttons, etc. are cleaned and disinfected.