‘This Is Not Business As Usual’

  • 04/13/20
  • |          Waterloo

Realtors urge clients to press pause on their plans, if they can

The COVID-19 pandemic has prompted many prospective buyers and sellers to press pause on their real estate plans for the time being.

But there are some people who don’t have much choice but to forge ahead in an uncertain market.

“There’s a certain number of people out there who have to sell,” said Sheldon Barclay, a realtor with Royal LePage Crown Realty and past-president of the Cambridge Association of Realtors. “If they’ve committed to a purchase, they have to sell their house.”

Others are still interested in buying, seeing an opportunity as fewer people are as keen to compete for the relatively low number of listings out there.

But they’re being met with the restrictions that come with a state of emergency, putting safety first. The Ontario Real Estate Association has urged its members to stop all face-to-face business, including open houses — which are presently banned — and in-person showings.

“This is not business as usual,” said Carole Rothwell, the current president at the Cambridge association and broker with Rego Realty. “We as an association need to help our members figure out a different way of doing business.”

Many realtors are wearing gloves and booties if they must go into an unoccupied home. Technology is taking the place of in-person viewings, meetings and document signings. Detailed 3D or virtual tours can take prospective buyers through all corners of a home, while video conferencing is bringing agents and clients together.

Many realtors were already using e-documents and electronic funds transfers as a way of quickly and efficiently managing the considerable documentation involved in a property deal. Others are learning quickly. “It’s novel, and we’re having to teach a lot of old dogs new tricks,” Rothwell said.

March was on pace to be a strong month for sales across Waterloo Region; in Cambridge, sales of single-family homes and townhouses/condos, were up nearly 18 per cent and 40 per cent, respectively, over March, 2019 results. But business slowed considerably after the state of emergency was declared in Ontario midmonth.

With job losses mounting, there are concerns that some home sales won’t close as expected if financing falls apart. That could lead to a domino effect marring more than one deal.

Putting those moving plans on hold may be the best option right now for most people, Barclay said. “I’ve definitely been telling people to take a pause on it and sit it out,” he said. “If you don’t need to sell, don’t. If you don’t need to buy, wait.”

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