Fewer homes on the market could mean bargains for buyers still on the hunt during COVID-19

Buying or selling a home in Alberta is becoming increasingly challenging.

Some Alberta realtors are seeing sales plummet due to social distancing measures amid the COVID-19 pandemic, just when the spring market is normally heating up.

"My phone isn't ringing as much and there's really no showings," said Brad Van De Walle, a Calgary-based realtor who has been in the business for more than a decade. "Realtors that I'm talking to are in tears because they don't know what they're going to do."

Some clients are taking their homes off the market.

"Even with social distancing, we found a lot of people don't want their homes to be shown over fear the virus might come in their home," he said.

Some realtors are turning to video conferencing or FaceTime calls to take clients inside a home, or only taking clients to vacant properties.

In the midst of the current slowdown, some people still need to sell quickly — and that could be good news for stable-income buyers.

Calgary-based mortgage broker Josh Tagg said there are many factors to take into account such as unpredictable interest rates and the day-to-day uncertainty that comes with the pandemic.

"We will likely see a downward movement in prices, and we'll see sellers who really, really need to get out," Tagg said.

"As a buyer, you'd have a stronger negotiating position."

With open houses now banned, most listings are being marketed online, said realtor Steve Kabachia.

"We're definitely seeing higher traffic for people browsing online," Kabachia said. "The number of saying they're ready to buy is down a bit, but those that are ready to buy, they're really committed."

Kabachia said the increased online traffic means that for sellers, it's more important than ever to make sure a listing is well presented with staging and photos.

"We're seeing how important it is to have good quality photos," Kabachia said. "Making sure that people who are looking online can see how the space works, the dimensions of the room, and how the space can be used."

Van De Walle said the next 60 days will significantly impact the future of the market.

"The benefit of doing it now, is because people are fearful," he said.

"Like, look at the stock market. The reason why the stock market went down is because everybody went and pulled out their money. So, if people are sitting here and they have to sell their house and they're worried about not being able to afford it, you might be able to catch somebody and you might be able to catch a good deal right now."