As Canada makes modest progress battling the coronavirus pandemic in most regions, buyers are using the opportunity to snap up the homes they want now, speakers said at the Inman Connect Now virtual conference on Tuesday.
The trends that are taking place in the United States are also happening north of the border. Faisal Susiwala, the founder of RE/MAX Twin Cities Faisal Susiwala Realty in the Kitchener-Waterloo part of Ontario, said that clients are increasingly looking to move to less dense suburban and rural areas.
Given low interest rates and low inventory in the areas within driving distance of Toronto, many people have been waiting for economies to open up to jump on a home purchase — often in fear that there will be a second wave of COVID-19 and that they won’t have a chance to buy later.
“All those things have caused a boom in our market,” Susiwala said. “We have been getting seven to 10 offers on every listing that we have.”
Kim Heizmann, a Realtor with Century 21 Executives Realty in the Okanagan region of British Columbia, said that there has been a major uptick of Canadians wanting to move to areas like hers: small communities with less density, better weather and more nature that are normally popular among vacationers and retirees.
“An unintended consequence is more people wanting to be in those areas,” Heizmann said. “It is putting upward pressure on pricing, especially single-family homes.”
While some sectors of the market and urban condos in particular have been slower to bounce back after the lull of March and April, the general outlook for the future is positive, Sandra Kirkland of Royal Real Estate Services in Ontario’s Burlington told the audience. A poll taken during the presentation found that 87 percent of those tuning in found that the Canadian real estate market will either go up or stay flat over the next two years.
“Even in this time of strangeness that we’re going through, we’re feeling pretty confident across Canada,” Kirkland said.
Tim Hudak, the CEO of the Ontario Real Estate Association, praised agents for the way they helped clients navigate the uncertainty of the spring, and in many cases, put the possibility of scoring a good deal aside to prioritize safety.
“You had the back of so many people who were going through incredible turmoil,” he told the panel and the audience. Now that there is more of a sense of where the market stands, he predicts that Alberta, Newfoundland and the Maritime Provinces will see new waves of buyer interest in the coming months.
“Mortgage rates remain low,” Hudak said. “All those drivers of demand remain. The supply side has remained constrained for quite some time and that is pushing the rising home values.”
As a result, agents in Canada need to hold tight and carefully monitor the market to get a sense of what to do next. One big debate is whether there will come a time to host open houses safely — a poll held during the panel found that 76 percent of those tuning in to the discussion do not see their usefulness in the current moment.
Phil Moore, a Vancouver Realtor and director-at-large of the Canadian Real Estate Association, said that one way to do so is open-house by appointment and have a staggered number of people coming in throughout the day while the property gets cleaned in between each visit.
“One size does not fit all across Canada,” he said. “I do find it challenging connecting to people wearing a mask but I don’t think open houses are going away. We’ve eliminating the looky-loos by hosting open houses by appointment-only and having that urgency.”
As everywhere in the world, there is much uncertainty about what agents should do going into the future in different parts of Canada. What is permitted in the industry now could change quickly if there is a spike in cases. But regardless of whether there’s a second wave, agents should leverage the current moment and connect with clients, said Chuck Charlton of Royal LePage Meadowtowne Realty in Ontario’s Mississauga outside of Toronto. One of the best ways is to stay on top of the news so that you can answer agents’ questions honestly and in a way that is most useful for them.
“People want to find out what’s going on in their backyards,” Charlton said. “What I found out during COVID is that people appreciate being told what I’m seeing out there.”