The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the real estate market in Toronto has yet to become entirely clear, but it’s far from business as usual for Toronto realtors and their clients. As social distancing measures have become more widespread, the industry is being forced to adapt as real estate activity remains high.
The changes are happening fast. Up until last weekend, some realtors were still hosting open houses, but after a flurry of Tweets by concerned city councillors and other realtors, the Ontario Real Estate Association took a stance and asked that real estate companies, brokerages and local real estate boards pull the plug on all open houses.
“I am calling on all realtors to cease holding open houses during this crisis and advise their clients to cancel any that are planned,” said Sean Morrison, President of the Ontario Real Estate Association (OREA).
While the Toronto Regional Real Estate Board and OREA have strongly advised against open houses, some agents are still conducting showings for clients whose need to find a home is urgent. Fortunately, such showings are a bit easier to manage with social distancing rules.
Some agents have turned to virtual tours, Face-timing with clients rather than conducting a physical showing.
That doesn’t mean the market has slowed down. According to Toronto Broker Matthew Fernandes, as of right now the real estate market is still heated. “We’re seeing a ripple effect from those who sold their homes earlier in the year and need to buy properties,” he explained. “Home prices in Toronto haven’t seen a decrease in the last two weeks and properties continue to sell at over asking.” Although, he says, we may start seeing the effects of COVID-19 with a slower market in the coming weeks.
Some of the ways that agents are navigating the recent changes include providing a sanitary box with masks, sanitizer and gloves. They’re leaving closets open to limit the amount of physically touching the property.
The Matthew Fernandes Group is conducting all buyer and selling consultation online and on the phone and is asking clients to hold off on in-person showings for the time being. However, for those who are in urgent need of finding a home, they are implementing all of the proper precautions including screening for symptoms and asking that they disclose any recent travel out of the country.
As of 11:59pm last night, real estate was included in the Government of Ontario’s essential services. This is to ensure that sellers who sold their house earlier in the year are able to buy something without being left in limbo.