Pandemonium in southern Ontario’s over-heated real estate market has given way to the pandemic reality of the COVID-19 public health alert.
Local realtors say the market for homes in Simcoe and surrounding area is holding up well despite the disruption of COVID-19.
Realtors contacted recently say a place to live is a basic necessity that remains constant regardless of challenging circumstances.
While prices are stable, the number of properties transacted in recent weeks is down. As well, methods for transacting properties are evolving to account for public health directives in the area of social distancing and contagion control.
“I’m not seeing turmoil,” says realtor Prue Steiner, president of the Simcoe and District Real Estate Board.
“I was out showing property this week, and everyone is being very cautious when we visit their homes. People are leaving out alcohol wipes. It’s early days yet. But we’re getting calls from people who are watching homes in this market.”
Steiner added the Norfolk market is benefitting from not being over-heated in the first place like housing markets elsewhere. Analysts have long observed that hot housing markets such as Toronto were overdue for a correction, and that appears to be underway in urban areas in general due to the pandemic disruption.
Port Rowan realtor Ray Ferris, a past president of the Ontario Real Estate Association and a member of its board of directors, agrees.
Prices are holding up, Ferris said, because the already limited supply in Norfolk has fallen even further because homes have come off the market due to the pandemic emergency. Industry professionals have concluded that some property owners don’t want strangers in their homes at this time.
Otherwise, Ferris says realtors entered the pandemic emergency well-positioned to do their work differently. Virtual house tours and full-colour floor plans have been available on the internet for years, he said.
If anything, Ferris says buyers and sellers are the ones making adjustments. Many, for example, are experiencing the concept of electronic signatures for the first time.
“Realtors have always been way ahead of the curve in the adoption of technology,” Ferris said. “We didn’t have to learn to adapt. We’re already familiar with these techniques.”
At the end of the day however, Ferris and Steiner say buyers still want to kick the tires before they commit to a major investment. Sellers who allow on-site visits are told to stage the house as they want it viewed, which means leaving a lot of lights on.
Potential buyers, for their part, are asked to keep the number of visitors to a minimum. That means leaving children at home. Potential buyers are asked to touch as little as possible, including light switches, door handles and plumbing fixtures.
“I’m old school,” Steiner says. “I like to look at the home, and so do a lot of other people. If people can get into the home, that will clinch the deal for you. But we’re all adjusting to the changes. We’re being a lot less casual about home visits.”