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Real estate slows amid pandemic

By Courtney Bachar/The Oshawa Express

The pandemic put the brakes on the real estate market in March.

The Durham Region Association of Realtors (DRAR) reported a shift in the housing market in March due to the outbreak of COVID-19, fielding only serious buyers and a shortage of new listings.

DRAR president Vicki Sweeny reports there were 1,101 residential transactions in Durham for all of March.

The housing market began to experience a shift in the middle of March when COVID-19 first appeared in the province.

Local real estate agent Wade Kovacic has witnessed these market shifts.

“In January it started to take off and in February we had multiple offers coming in, with lots of calls to list in March, however, once it all hit, the brakes went on,” says Kovacic.

Overall, Kovacic notes the amount of showings have gone way down since mid-March, “but serious buyers, the people who needed to move, they are still out looking,” he adds.

Most of Kovacic’s listings have been from before the outbreak of the virus, so safety wasn’t much of a concern, however, he says, “I’m starting to get calls now, they want to move for whatever reason, so I’m just asking more questions – have you been anywhere, do you have any symptoms,” he says, adding while can still do showings, “I try to do as much as I can online.”

DRAR has also recommended all realtors stop conducting in-person open houses, and also avoid in-person meetings.

“During these unprecedented times, it is imperative as a community we follow measures to protect our families, clients and the most vulnerable at this time,” said Sweeney. “REALTORS® have been deemed an essential service during this government shutdown. That does not mean realtors should be operating under the assumption business as usual.”

While the provincial government has deemed realtors an essential service, it is only for when they are needed by clients who are mid-transaction, and also need to buy or sell their homes for a number of necessary reasons.

“As a society we are experiencing extraordinary times, changing how we work and live. Realtors have been using virtual open houses and tools to assist their clients while keeping the health of everyone involved as the utmost priority,” said Sweeney. “I know collectively we are leaders, involved in supporting our communities through volunteerism and service. It is important to continue this now more than ever.”

DRAR states the impact of the pandemic on the housing market will be evident in the coming months. Kovacic echoes this statement.

“If it doesn’t go on for too much longer, we’re going to be able to bounce back, but if it persists, the ripple effect is going to be huge,” says Kovacic. “The longer this lasts, the longer people are going to be hurting.”