How Ontario Realtors Respond to the Coronavirus Pandemic


When the province considered real estate to be an essential service due to coronavirus, real estate agents were advised to stop doing open houses.

Real estate agent Colleen Koehler said that when Ontario Premier Doug Ford held rallies of five or more people, it ended the open house. Koehler, head of the Kitchener-Waterloo Association of Realtors, says people in the profession have started looking for creative ways – including virtual tours – to show homes without people going there.

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She says that instead of taking clients from a house, the agent will come in, film the house and answer questions in real time.

Toronto real estate agent Melanie Piche supported the notion, saying that real estate agents have started using technology to their advantage.

“Virtual open houses are a way to show people the properties and really reduce the number of times people have to go to their homes,” she said.

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Her partner, Brendan Powell, said a realtor would show up at a house on a set time and date and answer people’s questions about a live broadcast.

“People who want to do more than just watch a virtual tour can actually speak to the agent and say,” Can you show me what the flooring looks like? “Or” Show me what the view from the top floor looks like, “” he said. “People can see these things the same way they would see them if they were there without being physically there.”

In order to limit the spread of COVID-19, real estate agents also developed a questionnaire to determine a person’s risk levels and used creative solutions for people who have to enter homes.

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Another Waterloo area officer, Tony Johal, said that in some cases, when customers entered a house, they were asked to wear a mask and gloves.

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“We are asking them not to linger in the house longer than expected,” he said. “We ask them not to sit on the furniture or touch any … surface. “

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Even with precautions, real estate agents in each city say that the market has stopped for the most part during a time of year when it would normally be active.

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“From the outside, it sometimes seems like things are still moving because things are still on the market,” said Powell. “But the reality is that there is … very little we can do because so much of our business is on the go and in person. “

That said, Piche said she hadn’t seen a panic sell out yet.

“If you go back to 2017 when this tax on foreign buyers came in, we saw in an instant that we were receiving four or five calls a day from panic sellers,” he said.

Johal echoed those feelings, although he started to see more balance in the market.

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“We have not completely moved to a buyer’s market at this point,” he said. “They don’t dump their property to generate multiple offers in many cases. I would say that more than 50-60% of all properties are now listed at true market value. “

Ontarians are still trying to figure out how long the quarantine will last and where things will land, including real estate agents.

“We don’t know if this will really make an impact for the rest of the year and perhaps beyond,” said Johal.

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“But if it’s fast enough, I can see the real estate market acting like a rubber band. Everyone who left will now return to the market. “

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He says that the more the current situation continues, the more we will see the probability that the market will evolve more dramatically.

KWAR released monthly figures on Thursday, saying real estate agents in the region registered a 13.1% increase from the same month last year.

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“Before the pandemic hit our region, I think we were on the way to setting a record number of sales for March with the persistence of strong demand, low stocks and a solid seller market” said Koehler.

The Toronto Regional Real Estate Board reported similar activity, saying that home sales increased 49% in the first two weeks compared to last year, but that sales were down 15.9% from last year for the rest of the month.

Given Ontario’s foreclosure due to the coronavirus pandemic, many have wondered why real estate is considered an essential service by Ford.

“Really, this decision was only made to allow us to work with these customers, buyers and sellers, who are already in the pipeline,” said Koehler.

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“We have a lot of properties that are being closed,” said Koehler.

Kingston real estate agent Matt Lee said his agency recommends clients pause the search for homes, but sometimes it is impossible to do so.

Between military bases and prisons, Kingston has a transient population, with some residents being forced to move quickly.

“No one knows where the other people are,” said Lee.

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