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How Canada's real estate market has been forced to move online | Urbanized – Daily Hive

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Almost every industry in Canada has been impacted by the global pandemic, and the real estate sector is no exception.

According to statistics released by the Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA), national home sales decreased by 14.3% on a month-to-month basis in March 2020.

Perhaps not surprising, then, is how the pandemic has changed the buying and selling experience.

The Real Estate Council of Ontario (RECO) says this varies brokerage by brokerage. But both parties — buyers and sellers — can anticipate an increased reliance on technology and digital media tools throughout the process.

This could include video conferencing calls, viewing homes via virtual tours or video walk-throughs, using digital documents for contracts, and electronic signatures for finalizing agreements.

“Though buyers can expect to see a property in person before buying, they should expect to do more ‘browsing’ virtually,” RECO tells Daily Hive. “This may be a trend that stays beyond the pandemic.”

Market outlook in Vancouver

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Vancouver realtor Shawn Brown of The West Haven Group says the demand and supply for properties are similarly balanced to what it was before the crisis. He had several deals collapse in March, but after that, he was hit with new business. 

“I’ve had my busiest month so far in April,” he says. Brown notes that this is not the case for a lot of agents; that realtors need to ensure their marketing is effective and that the price is compelling for people to take the risk and buy now.

“Realtors are particularly careful right now with how they are conducting their business because they have been deemed an essential service and they don’t want any reason to be constrained further,” he says.

Brown says several of his buyers were getting left behind at the start of the year because of how competitive the market was, but they have now been able to buy again.

Toronto real estate transactions

Jesse Farb, a broker with The Real Estate Office in Toronto, was overseas right before things broke out in North America.

“When I got back, we reacted by looking at the advice of The Real Estate Council of Ontario, and then figuring out the policies and procedures that we need to put in place for the health and safety of our team, our clients, and then the general public at large,” he says. 

Farb explains that things changed quickly early on with moving to 3D virtual walkthrough tours on all his team’s listings, making sure the legal professionals they work with are operating in a safe manner using digital signings for closings, and also using wire transfers.

He stresses that every transaction is different, but some buyers are trying to enter the market now because they think they will get a better deal; in some cases, they have been right. However, a lot of sellers have been holding firm on pre-COVID pricing.

Farb thinks that when the economy starts to reopen, there will be a small boom during the warmer months as the spring market relaunches, but this could be short-lived due to the economic fallout resulting from the crisis.

Digitizing the process

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Matisse Yiu, a digital marketing specialist for the Vancouver rental platform liv.rent, says buyers are relying heavily on digital tools to “shop” and narrow down their options before requesting a viewing.

“Sellers, in turn, do not want to hold open houses and want to limit visits by prospective buyers to only those who are very serious,” Yiu tells Daily Hive.

She explains that this also applies to landlords and property managers who are now doing tenant screenings before in-person viewings are even held — something she is seeing liv.rent users rely on more.

“The need for proof of income has also become an important piece of documentation during this time when evictions are currently suspended,” says Yiu. This is an element that’s included in liv.rent’s rating system for renter reliability and credibility.

As the demand and interest for short term rentals have decreased drastically in Vancouver, Yiu says it will be interesting to see how this affects monthly rental asking rates and vacancy rates, as the availability of Airbnb listings and rental prices seem to be linked.

“Currently, we have already seen a shift of short term rentals returning to the long term rental market, therefore boosting the supply of housing.”

Transitioning to technology

Michael Ninian, the founder and CEO of illusity, a virtual commerce platform for global real estate development presales, says he is seeing a much higher interest in 360 web apps solutions, consumer direct platforms, and VR.

“In general, we are seeing a higher demand for 3D marketing material such as renderings, fly-through videos for use with websites, and social media outreach campaigns,” he explains.

Ninian says developers were caught out with the forced closures of sales centres and disruptions of the traditional sales cycle. “We are now seeing developers coming on board with the idea of bringing the entire sales centre experience directly to a potential buyer using technology like AR/VR/XR, AI, and ML, among others.”

He anticipates that more real estate developers will move to direct virtual commerce platforms when the crisis is over. “Consumers of today want access to information on their terms and similar to the retail and automotive industries, consumers demand informative and convenient sales platforms to purchase products.”

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For RECO, the authority states that while these are difficult times for many, real estate remains, and will continue to be, an essential service, both now and when the market shifts back into full swing.

“If we are looking for a silver lining, [the crisis] has sparked a tremendous amount of innovation and unprecedented digital adoption by both those in the industry and consumers, much of which may weave into some brokerages’ offerings permanently.”

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Former B.C. Realtor has licence cancelled, $130K in penalties for role in mortgage fraud

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The provincial regulator responsible for policing B.C.’s real estate industry has ordered a former Realtor to pay $130,000 and cancelled her licence after determining that she committed a variety of professional misconduct.

Rashin Rohani surrendered her licence in December 2023, but the BC Financial Services Authority’s chief hearing officer Andrew Pendray determined that it should nevertheless be cancelled as a signal to other licensees that “repetitive participation in deceptive schemes” will result in “significant” punishment.

He also ordered her to pay a $40,000 administrative penalty and $90,000 in enforcement expenses. Pendray explained his rationale for the penalties in a sanctions decision issued on May 17. The decision was published on the BCFSA website Wednesday.

Rohani’s misconduct occurred over a period of several years, and came in two distinct flavours, according to the decision.

Pendray found she had submitted mortgage applications for five different properties that she either owned or was purchasing, providing falsified income information on each one.

Each of these applications was submitted using a person referred to in the decision as “Individual 1” as a mortgage broker. Individual 1 was not a registered mortgage broker and – by the later applications – Rohani either knew or ought to have known this was the case, according to the decision.

All of that constituted “conduct unbecoming” under B.C.’s Real Estate Services Act, Pendray concluded.

Separately, Rohani also referred six clients to Individual 1 when she knew or ought to have known he wasn’t a registered mortgage broker, and she received or anticipated receiving a referral fee from Individual 1 for doing so, according to the decision. Rohani did not disclose this financial interest in the referrals to her clients.

Pendray found all of that to constitute professional misconduct under the act.

‘Deceptive’ scheme

The penalties the chief hearing officer chose to impose for this behaviour were less severe than those sought by the BCFSA in the case, but more significant than those Rohani argued she should face.

Rohani submitted that the appropriate penalty for her conduct would be a six-month licence suspension or a $15,000 discipline penalty, plus $20,000 in enforcement expenses.

For its part, the BCFSA asked Pendray to cancel Rohani’s licence and impose a $100,000 discipline penalty plus more than $116,000 in enforcement expenses.

Pendray’s ultimate decision to cancel the licence and impose penalties and expenses totalling $130,000 reflected his assessment of the severity of Rohani’s misconduct.

Unlike other cases referenced by the parties in their submissions, Rohani’s misconduct was not limited to a single transaction involving falsified documents or a series of such transactions during a brief period of time, according to the decision.

“Rather, in this case Ms. Rohani repetitively, over the course of a number of years, elected to personally participate in a deceptive mortgage application scheme for her own benefit, and subsequently, arranged for her clients to participate in the same deceptive mortgage application scheme,” the decision reads.

Pendray further noted that, although Rohani had been licensed for “a significant period of time,” she had only completed a small handful of transactions, according to records from her brokerage.

There were just six transactions on which her brokerage recorded earnings for her between December 2015 and February 2020, according to the decision. Of those six, four were transactions that were found to have involved misconduct or conduct unbecoming.

“In sum, Ms. Rohani’s minimal participation in the real estate industry as a licensee has, for the majority of that minimal participation, involved her engaging in conduct unbecoming involving deceptive practices and professional misconduct,” the decision reads.

According to the decision, Rohani must pay the $40,000 discipline penalty within 90 days of the date it was issued.

 

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Should you wait to buy or sell your home?

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The Bank of Canada is expected to announce its key interest rate decision in less than two weeks. Last month, the bank lowered its key interest rate to 4.7 per cent, marking its first rate cut since March 2020.

CTV Morning Live asked Jason Pilon, broker of Record Pilon Group, whether now is the right time to buy or sell your home.

When it comes to the next interest rate announcement, Pilon says the bank might either lower it further, or just keep it as is.

“The best case scenario we’re seeing is obviously a quarter point. I think more just because of the job numbers that just came out, I think more people are just leading on the fact that they probably just gonna do it in September,” he said. “Either way, what we saw in June, didn’t make a big difference.”

Here are the pros of buying/ selling now:

Pilon suggests locking in the rate right now, if you don’t want to take a risk with interest rates going up in the future.

He says the environment is more predictable right now, noting that the home values are transparent, which is one of the benefits for home sellers.

“Do you want to risk looking at what that looks like down the road? Or do you want to have the comfort in knowing what your house is worth right now?” Pilon said.

And when it comes to buyers, he notes, the competition is not so fierce right now, noting that there are options to choose from.

“You’re in the driver seat right now,” he said while noting the benefits for buyers.

Here are the cons of buying/ selling now:

He says one of the cons would be locking in the rate right now, then seeing a rate cut in the future.

The competition could potentially become fierce, if the bank decides to cut the rate further more, he explained.

He notes that if that happens, the housing crisis will become even worse, as Canada is still dealing with low housing inventory.

An increase in competition would increase the prices of houses, he adds.

Selling or buying too quickly isn’t the best practice, he notes, suggesting that you should take your time and put some thought into it.

Despite all the pros and cons, Pilon says, real estate remains a good investment.

According to the latest Royal LePage House Price Survey for the second quarter of this year, the average home price in Canada is $824,300. That’s up 1.9 per cent from the same time last year, and up 1.5 per cent from the first quarter of 2024.

In the Ottawa Housing Market Report for June 2024, the average price of a home was up 2.4 per cent from this time last year to $686,535, but down 0.6 per cent from May 2024.

Experts believe many potential buyers are still hesitant of jumping into the housing market and waiting for another interest rate cut of 50 to 100 basis points.

“I don’t think it’s going to be the rush that we see in the past, because people are used to more of a conservative approach right now,” said Curtis Fillier, president of the Ottawa Real Estate Board. “I think there’s still a bit of a hold back, but I definitely do think with another rate cut, we’ll probably see a very positive fall market.”

With files from CTV News Ottawa’s Kimberly Fowler

 

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Real estate stocks soar to best day of year on rate cut bets

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(Bloomberg) — The stock market’s worst group notched its best day of the year as a cooler-than-expected inflation report stoked bets that the Federal Reserve will start cutting interest rates in September.

Shares of real estate companies jumped 2.7% Thursday for their biggest gain of 2024, climbing to their highest level since March as investors snapped up homebuilder, digital and commercial real estate stocks alike. Real estate also was the best-performing group in the S&P 500 Index Thursday, with volume that was around 30% higher than the 30-day average, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Arguably the most significant news to come from the latest consumer price index reading was a pullback in housing-related inflation. Shelter costs rose just 0.2% for the slowest monthly increase in three years. Homebuilders, which have risen 7.1% this year, were up 7.3% for the session, the most since 2022. Shares of D.R. Horton Inc., which is scheduled to report earnings next Thursday, gained 7.3%.

“Housing has really been the last shoe to drop in terms of winning the battle against high inflation,” Preston Caldwell, chief U.S. economist at Morningstar wrote in a note to clients Thursday. “Leading-edge data has strongly indicated for some time now that a fall in housing inflation was in the works.”

A rally in real estate stocks is bad news for short sellers who have been piling into the group, which is the worst performer in the S&P 500 this year. To start the week, short interest as a percentage of float hovered near 49% in the SPDR Homebuilders ETF, the highest level since February for the exchange-traded fund, according to data from S3 Partners.

Property owners are rallying as well. Real estate investment trusts, which were brutally penalized during the two-year run up in borrowing costs, advanced by as much as 3%. And the outlook for the group appears to have turned a corner, according Rich Hill, senior vice president and head of real estate strategy and research at Cohen & Steers Capital Management.

“We think this is a compelling backdrop for listed REITs especially as fundamental growth remains on solid footing,” he said, referencing the latest inflation data and rate outlook. “The rally that started in October of 2023 pushing returns more than 20% above their trough looks set to continue if inflation cools and interest rates continue to decline.”

Shares of industrial REIT Prologis Inc., which reports second-quarter results on Wednesday, rose 3.3% to hit their highest level since April. U.S. Treasury yields tumbled, with the 10-year bond falling to 4.2% and the policy-sensitive two-year note slipping to 4.5%.

(Updates indexes and stock prices for market close.)

 

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