With real estate deemed an essential service, North Shore real estate agents continue to work through COVID-19, having adapted to a very altered landscape.
April figures released May 4 by the Real Estate Board of Vancouver show North Shore home sales down 37 per cent from a year ago and 53 per cent compared with March 2020. New home listings have also dropped considerably, as many sellers choose to wait it out.
However, home values on the North Shore have remained steady, perhaps bolstered by the B.C. government’s promises to gradually reopen the economy later this month.
For North Vancouver real estate professionals, the day-to-day work is about quality, not quantity.
“We’re still busy,” said North Vancouver agent Jeff Donohoe. “People still need to buy and sell homes. We’re working much more closely with clients, making the most of staging and photography, and we create a virtual walk-through of every listing. We direct every buyer to the online listing first, to ensure they’re serious, before we’ll schedule a showing. There are no more open houses. Buyers must also bring their Realtor to any listing.”
He added, “If we can get rid of someone who isn’t serious or the house won’t work for them, that means we don’t have to show the home, and the seller and their family don’t have to leave the house.”
When it comes down to in-person showings, strict cleanliness and distancing protocols are in place.
Donohoe said, “Everybody signs a waiver to confirm they don’t have symptoms, they haven’t travelled recently —the full checklist. Inside the home, the buyer can’t touch anything. We have masks and fresh gloves, we will open drawers and doors. We wipe down surfaces between showings.”
North Shore agent Clara Hartree is working under similar cleanliness and distancing protocols for showings. In addition to directing interested parties to online listings first, Hartree recommends buyers drive past the home, to ensure they are still interested. She added, “There are no looky-loos now—they don’t even try.”
Under this new system, homes are still selling, albeit in lower volumes. The professionals involved throughout the conveyancing process, from appraisers to mortgage brokers to lawyers, all have new protocols in place to allow for physical distancing.
Donohoe advised, “If you’re buying a home, make sure you’re secure in your job. Lenders are being a lot more critical of current income to ensure buyers qualify during this time. We are all doing our due diligence to ensure any deals made will complete.”
Hartree said it’s tough to predict which way the market will go over the next few months. “There are no references for what’s happening. But there is zero drop in values so far. There’s a gap in price expectations. Buyers think they can take advantage of the situation and give a lowball offer, but sellers are saying ‘don’t even try.’”
Donohoe’s son and business partner, Jonny Donohoe, added, “There are people who think there’s a lot of hurt out there, but it’s not really the case. With banks offering mortgage deferrals for six months, they’ve given people a buffer. We’re not expecting to see a lot of foreclosure sales, at least not for many months.”
Hartree remains confident in the market, as she’s still closing deals. “I feel bad when I see so many industries affected by the virus. Aside from new protocols, it hasn’t changed much for me.”