To say life as we know it has changed is an understatement. In mid-March, during the initial days of COVID-19, people were asked to stay home, and schools and businesses were shut down indefinitely to help stop the spread of this virus.
Almost two months later, many industries are taking a hit including the real estate market. However, “now is the time to restructure, adapt and accept that it won’t be business as usual for a long time, and to focus on how we can get through this unprecedented situation together,” said Peggy Hill, owner and operator RE/MAX Hallmark Peggy Hill Group Realty in Barrie, Ontario.
It’s not business as usual, it’s business reinvented
Hill and her team are still offering real estate services, but like many others, are working remotely and have daily video meetings to connect. Real estate is a highly social industry and in order to buy and sell homes, it typically means a lot of in-person meetings and showings with clients and agents, which is challenging but not impossible, when trying to maintain social distancing.
Hill said to overcome that challenge, they've had to alter the way they do business, namely relying heavily on the web-based solutions for sending and receiving information, seeing clients, and offering virtual showings as public open houses are no longer feasible. They’ve also begun other practices to streamline the process for clients.“Now, it’s ensuring the agent and potential buyer have really watched the virtual tour -- does the property suit all their needs and making sure they [potential buyers] are pre-qualified?” Hill said. “These are things we never used to do because we were just happy to show them the house.”
Hill added they also have clients go through the COVID-19 screening process and are asked to maintain social distancing when they see a property. They’re asked to not touch anything, and their agents who wear masks, gloves and stand 6-ft away are supplied with wipes and sanitizers for themselves and their clients. “As far as homes go, we can show them safely, we just had to change our protocols and our systems, but 100 per cent, we can absolutely show a home safely without putting anyone at risk,” she said, adding that they just have to be more cautious in order to keep everybody safe.
The effects of COVID-19 on the real estate market
Hill said there is a misconception that the real estate market has either gone away or is on a holding pattern, but while showings, listings and sales have decreased, there are people still listing and buying.
“It happened so fast that people got caught in the middle. People that sold and had not yet bought got caught in the middle because they now needed to buy, people that bought and had not sold now needed to sell, so they made us an essential service to facilitate the deals so people weren’t homeless.”
Hill suggests to people that if making a move is something that you need to do and are still able to, do it as the market is still going. For example, in the time span of May 4-11, Hill said Barrie & District Real Estate board reported as a whole 165 new listings and 112 sold firm and pending to close transactions. That's a ton of market movement for 7 days in a Pandemic.
“Showings are down 70 per cent, and that sounds like a scary number until you do the math and realize that only people that are needing to move right now are the ones looking, and then we are pre-qualifying them on top of that so it’s not as scary as 70 [per cent] sounds.”
In usual times, this would currently be their spring market and busiest time of year. However, while business is down about a third of what they would normally be doing, and the number of sales are significantly down, Hill said what’s not down is the prices that homes are selling for, so people can still list if they need to.
“As Canadians, I think it’s our duty to keep this economy going, if you need to sell; sell, it’s not that kind of market. It’s not like 2008 when somebody turned the faucet off,” she said. “There’s no way that we would have had 73 firm sales in seven days in the midst of the worst pandemic in history if the market were that dead.”
Supporting their community and each other is a top priority
While life as we knew it may not resume for a while, Hill said it’s important that we look after each other. This is why her focus throughout this pandemic has been helping others.
“What we’re doing is reaching out to our clients and letting them know if they have questions we want to be their resource no matter what their questions are whether they are real estate or otherwise, we want to be that resource and be there for them,” she said.
Just as important, Hill said, they want to be a resource for their community. During this time no one has all the answers and being in real estate they’re connected to many different people who can offer different resources to those who need help getting through this.
“I think the important thing is that we all don’t throw in the towel,” she said. “There is a light at the end of this tunnel, we just have to stay positive.”
Let Peggy Hill be a resource for you. Contact the team at RE/MAX Hallmark Peggy Hill Group Realty, or call them at 705-739-4455 with any questions you may have. You can also connect with them on their Facebook page.