Our world changed in mid-March.
I will never forget how we went from “gale force winds” to “dead calm” overnight in the real estate market. When our province declared emergency orders to stay at home and shelter in place, most of Ontario was closed for business. Real estate was deemed an essential service, and we were allowed to continue to operate. There was some controversy in this decision, however there were many people in the process of selling or buying that had no option but to continue to move forward with their move. Some buyers needed to find a new home after selling prior to the shutdown, while others may have bought a home and needed to sell to be able to complete the transaction. It was quickly apparent that the only people who were moving were doing so out of necessity rather than choice.
We had several families that had planned to sell, taking advantage of the spring market who decided to put their plans on hold and wait it out to determine if selling would be an option given the new environment. In fact, we had one couple who we worked with for months helping to stage their home, paint and remove wallpaper, making the home show ready, only to mutually agree to hold off, order the sign down and wait before making a decision to move.
The real estate market came to a halt, however, the real estate board, provincial and Canadian associations acted quickly to develop protocols to ensure the safety of not only buyers and sellers, but also realtors, inspectors, and appraisers.
Showings were limited to 30 minutes, and prior to any showings the realtor and buyers were required to sign a protocol form ensuring they would follow rules to ensure safety. In fact, the sellers had to agree to certain terms ensuring the showing would be as “touchless” as possible.
Personally, I required all showing agents to discuss the profile of their buyers. I wanted to ensure, to the best of my ability, that all buyers touring were qualified and motivated. One home I had on the market ended up having more than 50 showings, making for quite the paper trail and conversations.
One thing that ended was open houses. For years we have offered 3D virtual tours for our homes, and they quickly became a critical tool to help buyers determine if the home met their wants and needs.
With the new protocols in place, our real estate market found some solid ground; however, with so many moving parts in a real estate transaction, we were reliant upon a litany of professionals to complete a sale. Many of the people working in related industries made the decision to shut down until they felt comfortable returning to work. When a home sells, some of the related industries involved are lawyers, bankers, appraisers, surveyors, home inspectors, stagers, painters, general contractors, and photographers. I know many of this group that made the decision to cease working.
One of my real estate mentors, Glenn Mcqueenie, recently wrote, “20 percent of the agents are waiting out the pandemic before resuming business, 60 percent have no idea what to do and 20 percent are doubling down working as hard as possible.”
This is very similar to how sellers in today’s market have managed the pandemic. Many who want to move are waiting out the pandemic before starting the process, another group is confused and has chosen to stall their plans, and a small group are jumping in, feet first, and taking advantage of a market desperately looking for homes for sale.
It is fascinating how people in the real estate industry and sellers have mirrored each other’s behaviour. The sellers who decide to act now and start the selling process will find the market brisk, busy and active. Values have spiked since April, and with the inventory being at historic lows, out of all homes sold in Oshawa last week, 75 percent sold for full price or more than asking.
Will this market last? Will it continue? As stated in prior columns, my crystal ball is not overly accurate, however, one thing is a fact: sellers today are a happy bunch.