Many players in the real estate market of Greater Vancouver had big plans for 2020. The COVID-19 came along and disrupted so many plans and lives. While people in all industries were hit, the hit for the real estate market was notable. The main reason being that the real estate industry had a lot of interactions that were mainly faced to face. This would include interactions between realtors and sellers as well as realtors and buyers. Initially, no one knew if the industry would continue to function and the lack of ability to meet face to face was just the first hurdle. But it wasn’t all bad.
Real Estate Designated an Essential Service
In March 2021, the government of British Columbia identified Real Estate as an essential service. And so the industry was encouraged to remain open as long as public health orders were being obeyed. The industry adapted quickly. Many took advantage of virtual showings, zoom meetings, and other types of digital media to keep the lines of communication open.
So it was the traditional open house that was first stopped. There was also the disconnection of the button on many MLS programs so that people couldn’t book open houses. While ways and means were being implemented to work around the lack of face-to-face meetings, there was a bit of difficulty to get the market moving again after the initial scare and pause.
Everything was changing. Staff had to be working from home, realtors had to be educated on the new ways to do business going forward. All in all, it was a challenging experience for most in the intermission.
How the Changes Affected The Industry
When Real Estate was designated an essential service, the Real Estate Council of British Columbia and the British Columbia Real Estate Association along with WorkSafeBC started to develop protocols. It was these protocols that lead to the opening of the industry. Realtors could continue their work and people could continue to fill their needs for selling or purchasing a home.
They started by adopting existing tools that were underutilized and started to include more information on new listings. Information such as room sizes, floor plans, photographs, and video tours all were being shared more often and quickly became the norm. Realtors would also advise clients to drive or walk around a neighborhood before making an appointment for a viewing. This way they could get a feel of the area and see if it truly emulated their style and matched their needs from the exterior.
How Have The Changes Affected The Selling Cycle?
Interestingly enough, all the changes have caused a shortening of the cycle. With more information readily available to buyers they can easier identify homes they are interested in and cross off others they are not. All while not driving around to multiple open houses while losing time and money doing so.
But how does it affect the realtors? Well, they now have a lot more work to do. They now have to space viewings and sanitize a house between viewings. There is also more back-end work since they are adding more information to listings causing longer working hours. But they do it happily as their industry is open. They want to keep it that way while satisfying their customers and helping them to find their dream homes.
Changes in Frazer Valley
Fraser Valley saw a drop in sales by 50% in April 2020. New listings also declined at a whopping rate of 60%. This was a real shock to the market especially since the last time figures were this low were in the ’80s and back then the population was less than half of what it was in 2020.
They too had to replace open houses with virtual experiences providing full digital floor plans and more photographs. This came at the expense of extra time and money spent on listing a property. But it was well worth it for many as it meant keeping their jobs and keeping their own families and their clients safe.
Comparing the Market to 2018 and 2019
Let us consider the pre-pandemic market and the post-pandemic market. In 2018 and 2019, the higher-end market was very quiet. Before the COVID-19 hit buyers were not even motivated by the low-interest rates. Everybody was in a “waiting it out” type of limbo. People were seemingly waiting for prices to drop significantly. While sellers were removing their listings from the market due to the very low offers that were going around.
Along came the pandemic and more people were stuck at home trying to cope with their homes even when they were outgrowing their homes. That is why there was a shortage of inventory when we look at the statistics from July 2020.
With the ability to provide more information digitally, the industry benefited by seeing a reduction in the tire kickers. Fewer people were going out to open houses on the weekend just to burn time or to entertain themselves. So actual viewers were coming in, already knowing what the house looked like and already know their way around. Many of them knew right away if they loved the house or not and if they would be putting in an offer or not.
The Current Process
The current buy-sell process is very conscious. Buyers are now looking more at the quality of a listing instead of looking at crazy amounts of listings. Zoom calls are very important to streamlining operations. Some operations have been streamlined so clients can book zoom meetings online.
The use of technology has made many operations more efficient.