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Real estate unpredictable after COVID-19

By Chris Jones/The Oshawa Express

Like many groups right now, realtors have been forced to make a lot of changes during the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to the Durham Region Association of Realtors, April 2020 saw a 52 per cent decrease in residential transactions with 513. The number of new listings in Durham Region was 883 in April, compared to 1,229 in March.

According to Linda Porritt, a realtor with Century 21 in Oshawa, the pandemic hit close to home, and forced her to pull back.

“Right at the beginning of the lockdown, I had active listings, and they were suspended, and I did have some transactions that were in process, and I have continued to do whatever paperwork or things that are necessary – appraisals,  inspections, and final amendments and sign offs and things like that,” she explains.

All of these background tasks can be performed because most can be done electronically, except for appraising and inspections, says Porritt.

She says she wasn’t actively selling, or even looking for new listings, unlike other real estate agents, who she believes have done really well during this time, depending on their clientelle.

“My typical client tends to be over 50, so it just tends to be a little bit of a higher risk group in that respect,” she says.

She notes her other typical clients are first time home buyers, and she did do a few showings over the last couple of months, but only to keep them up to date on what’s on the market.

“It’s difficult to say to somebody ‘jump in and buy right now’ when you don’t know how it’s going to impact the prices or anything like that afterwards,” she says. “It makes it really difficult for a realtor to give solid advice to someone, because obviously we can’t see the future.”

She notes no matter who people talk to, they will get multiple points of view on how the market will react after the pandemic restrictions loosen.

“There are many realtors who think that there won’t be much impact,” she says. “For undetached homes, I believe the price has dropped 1.9 per cent in Durham Region, but in Toronto it’s more like 10 per cent,” she says. “But in Toronto, a $1.1 million bungalow has gone down to $1 million, so it’s not really like the bottom fell out of the market.”

Porritt explains there is a possibility that once things go back to normal, because there’s been a reduced number of listings, the people holding back will come on the market all at once.

“But for 50 per cent, it’s a pent up desire by sellers to list their houses,” she says. “So those houses, people have been putting finishing touches on them… final renovations, and a lot of those houses are going to be ready to go once all the restrictions are lifted.”

She notes there is another group which could play a part in this scenario as well.

“There is something for it continuing to be somewhat of a balanced market when we come out of this,” she says. “There have been less buyers out, and those buyers are going to come out.”

She adds there will be a lot more listings, and a lot more buyers in this scenario, which will even things out.

However, there are two sides to every coin, and Porritt acknowledges the market could go in a different direction when considering the economic projections and job losses. However, Porritt says she personally believes there won’t be a huge downturn in real estate.

“There is going to be enough of our economy left that the people who had the wherewithal to have the down payment saved up, or they wanted to upsize to a different house, so they’ve got their own real estate to sell before they buy other real estate – I think there’s enough factors at play in our market that we’re going to continue on a fairly balanced perspective,” she explains.

In a press release, DRAR president Vicki Sweeney says the numbers reported are not as bleak as initially anticipated.

“Technology and tools such as live stream virtual open houses, electronic forms and signatures have been essential to realtors in order to navigate and service buyers and sellers during these unprecedented times, while adhering to social distancing measures set out by medical professionals,” says Sweeney.