THUNDER BAY — As Ontario moves into the third phase of the reopening roadmap, real estate agents can once again host open houses with discretion on limited capacity.
But not all agents will return to hosting open houses.
During the course of the pandemic with heavy capacity restrictions in place, buyers would have to book an appointment to see a home. COVID tracing was in place to ensure the safety of everyone.
Realtors, meanwhile, took to virtual listings to entice buyers to shop around. For the buyer, it became a way of catalogue shopping online to find only the homes that appeal to them.
Rhonda Greer, a real estate agent with Century 21 Superior Realty, says she thinks the virtual advancements will have changed the way the real estate market will be from here on in.
“As restrictions grew, they had to market homes differently,” she said. “The buyer prefers to see the videos and pictures before they put themselves out to say, ‘OK I want to see this specific house.’”
She says because of the way realtors are marketing and the way people are seeing the houses, the buyer is helped to rule out possible homes before the agent even sits down with them.
Greer says pre-pandemic, it wasn’t unusual some days to walk a client through upwards of five houses, eliminating what they like and what they didn’t. It took a lot of time.
“Now, because of the pictures on the virtual tours, most of the buyers are able to ‘tick, tick, tick,’ the ones they’ll see,” she said, adding that she and many other realtors have embraced the technology because the process is convenient and time saving.
Greer has purchased her own drone.
“That is the best way, to go out there and do a drone (imaging) of the whole property . . . and I want to make sure that image in that video is going to be part of my marketing,” she said.
Greer says the bidding wars continue and the market is “crazy.”
“You should see what’s happening on the waterfront,” she said. “Anything waterfront, — oh my God — some have sold more than $118,000 more than the asking price. One place on Pebbly beach was listed at $264,900 and it sold for $418,000.”
Don Hickey, a real estate agent at Royal LePage/Lannon Realty, says buyers seemed more determined than ever in the last few years.
“They are determined almost to a fault — almost to their own detriment in some cases because they are paying way over the asking price in a lot of cases,” he said.
“I ask some of my clients, ‘Are you really in this big of a rush that you want to put in an offer that much over asking? This isn’t going to last forever and do you really want to pay $50,000 to $80,000 over asking? Is it a house emergency?’”
Hickey says this is especially important when you are talking about first-time buyers and in a lot of cases it’s not an emergency and they might want to ride it out. He said although COVID-19 restrictions kept people “at home,” that is just a small factor in driving the price war to acquire a house. The bigger factor is “ridiculous” rental costs.
“Owning a home makes a lot more sense and in some cases could be cheaper for some people,” he said.
Recent reports warn that new home buyers who took advantage of low interest rates during the pandemic may get an eye-opener and jolt to their pocket book when interest rates return to a higher percentage. But Greer says this has been “threatened” for a long time.
“When I first got into the business in 1990, we were at 14.5 per cent interest rates. In 1993 when we went to the single digit (rates), the market went nuts then and that was at nine per cent. The market was really crazy and people were buying like you wouldn’t believe,” she said. “So I don’t necessarily believe that.”
As of June 1, the bank says buyers have to qualify at a 5.25 per cent level as part of the Canadian Stress Test.
“Yes we have low interest rates. Yes, people have paid more money than they should have for some homes. My question to those who do that is how long do you plan to live here? If you are only going to be here for two years, let’s keep looking,” she said. “The buyer has to do some of their own due-diligence when it comes to their own financing.”
Sandi Krasowski, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Chronicle-Journal