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With the real estate market plummeting, Realtors turn to high-tech solutions – SaltWire Network



Realtors have always wanted their listings to be tidy and smell nice, ideally like fresh-baked bread.  Now they prefer the aroma of Lysol.

While COVID-19 has made the real estate open house a thing of the past, and doldrums doesn’t begin to describe the state of the market across Canada (stats released Friday have sales down 57 per cent), savvy realtors are turning to technology.

“When we get a listing we give the option of virtual tours, which consist of photos, video and what’s called Matterport, a virtual tour you can interact with.  So instead of physically walking through the home, this program allows you to virtually walk through…so it gives you a three-dimensional look at the home without touching anything,” said Shane Anderson, a realtor with Royal LePage’s Pike Group in Halifax

Anderson said his group has been using video for years, which has allowed his colleagues to stay ahead of the curve in embracing technology that the coronavirus is making necessary.

“We want to minimize, for obvious reasons, the number of people going into somebody’s home,” he said. “Everybody going in has to have a mask and gloves. And they can’t bring their parents, their grandparents, their kids, coming in.  It’s the buyer. The person writing the cheque, or the couple, is the only one allowed to go into the property, along with the agent.

“The agent goes in, turns all the lights on and opens all the doors, so that way the person coming in doesn’t touch anything.  They just walk through the home, and the shorter time, the better.”

As well, prospective buyers are now only allowed to visit one property per day, and have to sign a document declaring they haven’t been out of the province.

“What that does, which I think is good for the business going forward when this is over, is weed out the tire kickers. That’s the whole purpose of having virtual tours, and it’s one of the questions we ask the agent (representing a buyer): is your client pre-approved…has your client watched the virtual tour? And we want a financing letter. If you answer yes to all this and they still want to proceed, then they can book a showing,” Anderson said.

“The big thing now is confirming job security.  Has your income been affected by the pandemic? I’ve had deals fall through because they’ve been fired or laid off.”

“The agent goes in, turns all the lights on and opens all the doors, so that way the person coming in doesn’t touch anything.  They just walk through the home, and the shorter time, the better.”

–  Shane Anderson, Royal LePage’s Pike Group

Anderson himself has remained busy, but home sales and new listings in Nova Scotia have dropped to their lowest levels in at least 25 years.

Residential sales activity recorded through the Nova Scotia Association of Realtors declined 47 per cent in April, as compared to a year ago. The average price of homes sold in April 2020 was $265,981, edging up 3.5 per cent from April 2019.

The picture is a little brighter on Prince Edward Island. Canadian Real Estate Association figures for March show a 4.8 per cent decrease compared to March 2019. In the first three months of 2020, P.E.I. had 327 homes sold, a 10.1 per cent increase compared to the same time period in 2019.

The 150 new residential listings in March 2020 was a 33-per-cent decrease compared to the previous year. The average price of homes sold in March 2020 increased by 19.6 per cent, to $273,206, compared to March 2019. 

Realtors on the island have gone high-tech, too, and it’s already a well-established habit for Michael Poczynek of Century 21 Northumberland Realty.

He was using video technology and analytics as a main way of marketing and selling homes long before the pandemic hit.

“It’s all about leveraging technology and it’s about spending money. We spent probably $2,000 or $3,000 over the last few weeks just experimenting with some stuff we’re doing on Google and on YouTube. But at the end of the day, it paid off because initially we were only getting about 4,400 views (on Youtube) in seven to 10 days. Now we’ve got almost over 20,000 views, spending the same amount of money,” said Poczynek.

Poczynek, who’s been an agent for 21 years, is active on social media and writes a blog. He recently improved the quality of his video productions by investing in cameras with a 360-degree view.

The technology allows potential buyers to see a home and decide if they want to view it in person. The technology, along with analytics, allows Poczynek to sell homes on P.E.I. to off-Island potential buyers “sight unseen.”

“It’s my job as an agent to market P.E.I. to potential buyers. I don’t guess. I don’t think, well, maybe they’re in B.C. (or) Utah. I can see through statistical analysis and the reports that Google and YouTube give us, and keyword tools … where the buyers are coming from,” he said.

That approach has paid off. He’s well-known on the Island for selling a mansion in Cable Head East for $4.75-million, at the time a record amount for the province.

Even with the pandemic, he still shows houses in person, taking the necessary safety precautions. But he has also turned people away from seeing a home in person when he feels they aren’t taking safety precautions seriously.

“My number one concern is the health of my clients,” he said.

No drives and a wipedown

Carol O’Hanley, co-owner of Exit Realty P.E.I. with her husband Steve Yoston, has 26 real estate agents across the province.

She said the first priority of showing homes during COVID-19 is making sure the seller is comfortable with people going through their home. Sometimes that’s not the case, especially when a seller has a medical condition.

If the seller is comfortable with an in-person showing, the agent and potential buyer are required to wear gloves and sanitize any part of the home that has been touched.

An agent and potential buyer can wear masks but O’Hanley said it’s not a requirement.

To maintain physical distancing, agents won’t drive potential buyers to a showing, and after the showing, the seller is instructed to wipe down the home.

Buyers and sellers also have to sign a waiver before an in-person showing to ensure they haven’t been outside the province in the previous 14 days and that they’re not showing signs of COVID-19.

O’Hanley said the P.E.I. real estate market hasn’t seen any drastic differences because of the pandemic, but there may be some changes yet to come. She added that potential buyers can take advantage of lower interest rates, but prices haven’t changed the way they have in other Canadian cities and provinces.

“I think people are under the assumption that prices are going to go down. But personally, and with our company, we haven’t really seen that yet,” she said. “Buyers might have the impression that sellers will take less because of the situation. We’re not finding that.”

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CHL Leaders: QMJHL grad Vermette enters exciting new career in real estate – Canadian Hockey League



Gabriel Vermette spent four years in the QMJHL lacing up the skates while also learning many life skills he continues to use today.

“Balancing school, life, playing hockey at the same time, it’s a lot, and it teaches you a lot in life,” recollected Vermette in speaking with Junior Hockey Magazine as part of its CHL Leaders segment. “The big thing is to manage the stress with all of the things that you have (to do). You just have to go with one thing at a time.”

Following four full seasons in the QMJHL from 2009-13 that spanned 246 career contests with the Chicoutimi Sagueneens and Drummondville Voltigeurs – highlighted by a playoff elimination of the Memorial Cup host Shawinigan Cataractes in 2012 – Vermette elected to pursue an education, majoring in psychology at the University of Ottawa where he also suited up for another two seasons with the varsity Gee-Gees.

In all, it was an opportunity that became a reality given Vermette’s ability to access the CHL’s invaluable post-secondary scholarship program.

“At the end of my junior I shifted my plan and began thinking about what I would do in real life if it’s not hockey, so (the scholarship) is vital,” Vermette said. “It took away a lot of stress of having to pay a lot.”

Today, Vermette puts his skills to use in enjoying a new career as a real estate broker with RE/MAX Vision Gatineau in his home province of Quebec.

“It has been one year,” Vermette concluded. “I am really happy with what I am doing. I think I have had quite a lot of success so I am really proud.”

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Gloomy B.C. real estate forecasts not as bad as some predict: agent – CityNews Vancouver



VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — The forecast for buying and selling real estate in B.C. isn’t what it could have been, but it’s not as bad as the double-digit price drops some analysts have predicted, according to a Richmond presale condo and townhouse agent.

Vince Taylor admits he’s biased, but said the facts are not — supply is low in B.C. and interest rates are historically low, so prices will be relatively stable.

“I am expecting a drop-off for sure. I don’t expect the market to rebound in 2020 like it was going to in March, but I see no structural, no macro or micro economic reason for the kinds of drops that have been reported,” he said.

“Tell me how that makes any sense that prices are going to go down when you have the lowest interest rate in 40 years, limited supply, and not that many people actually lost their jobs.”

He adds the COVID-19 cloud is dark, but there is a silver lining, and nothing structurally has changed about the real estate market.

While Canada is seeing the worst GDP numbers in a decade, Taylor said the easing of health and safety restrictions will bring more buyers and lower prices to the market.

The Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. expects home prices and sales to decline substantially this year and still won’t have recovered by the end of 2022.

The federal housing agency’s special housing market outlook predicts home prices to decline between nine and 18 per cent, and as much as 25 per cent in oil-producing regions, before starting to recover by mid-2021. The report also suggests average home prices in B.C. could drop close to $100,000 this year.

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Will real estate prices plunge? That may depend on the sellers – Financial Post



The economic uncertainty surrounding COVID-19 has contributed to contradictory estimates of future housing prices and sales. Leading the bears is the Canada Mortgage Housing Corporation (CMHC), projecting average housing prices to fall by nine to 18 per cent.

Others, including economists at the Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA), are not convinced prices will fall as steeply as the CMHC projects. Many homebuyers and sellers have been left perplexed by these conflicting forecasts — much can go wrong if they rely on the wrong estimates in their buy and sell decisions.

Regardless of the sophistication of algorithms, forecasts are necessarily a byproduct of the assumptions forecasters make and the data they use. Assumptions, inherently, are neither right nor wrong. They are informed guesses about future outcomes. When reviewing a forecast based on modelling, always remember the advice from the famed statistician, George Box: “All models are wrong, but some are useful.”

The CMHC forecasts were generated using “a specific set of assumptions for the market conditions and underlying economic fundamentals,” CMHC noted in the report’s appendix.

But how precise are they? CMHC estimates that average Canadian housing prices in 2020 will be anywhere between $493,200 and $518,400, representing a nine to 18 per cent decline from pre- COVID-19 levels. The number of sales transacting through the Multiple Listing Service is expected to be between 416,000 and 450,500.

The above forecasts are for the average price in Canada. Local market forecasts could be much different. CMHC reported provincial estimates for prices, sales and housing starts, with all provinces seeing the same trend of falling metrics through 2020 and a rebound starting later in 2021.

The lowest average price forecast for British Columbia at $609,515 is still more than double that for Alberta at $288,522. Both numbers are for the second quarter of 2022. The lower bound forecast for Ontario at $531,715 is slated for the second quarter of 2021, which suggests that CMHC expects housing markets to recover sooner in Ontario.

CMHC’s report does not disclose the methods or data used to generate forecasts. The report mentions that CMHC forecasts deploy the “full range of quantitative and qualitative tools currently available.”

The report claims that the forecast’s “range provides a relatively precise guidance to readers on the outlook while recognizing the small random components of the relationship between the housing market and its drivers.” However, the wide range of forecast for prices and sales is indicative of the “high degree of forecast uncertainty” partly due to the “unprecedented nature of the COVID-19 pandemic.” To us, therefore, the claim for precision may be a stretch.

Homebuyers and sellers need to be able to understand what forecasts mean for their decision-making processes. Economists prepare estimates with care. However, when predictions differ from the real outcomes, economists readily revise their projections. Homebuyers and sellers, once they have transacted, cannot “revise” their transactions. Hence the stakes are higher for the ones active in the market.

Another way of thinking about future housing prices is to think about the willingness of sellers to accept lower bids for their listings. If one is of the view that sellers will be, on average, willing to accept bids 18 per cent or more below than what they could have received before March 2020, a significant decrease in housing prices could be inevitable. However, this seems to be an unlikely scenario.

If prices start to decline significantly, sellers can slow or even freeze the market by not listing their properties, withdrawing them from consideration, or refusing a lower bid. Sellers’ unwillingness to sell dwellings at lower-than-expected prices can protect against a freefall in housing prices. Also, when less inventory is available for purchase, buyers may have to compete, which could put upward pressure on prices.

Lastly, the average decline in the average price does not imply that an individual dwelling will experience an average drop in valuation. Why? Because the average price forecasts ignore the differences in sizes and quality of housing or the fact that when economic conditions worsen, higher priced homes stop transacting, and lower-valued homes dominate the sales. The shift in the structural composition of housing gives a false impression that housing prices are falling. Thus, CREA’s estimates of constant quality homes are not as severe as CMHC’s.

Homebuyers and sellers should have a look at the market forecasts. But they should base their decisions on their circumstances and local housing market conditions. Remember, forecasts are useful, but not necessarily accurate.

Murtaza Haider is a professor of Real Estate Management at Ryerson University. Stephen Moranis is a real estate industry veteran. They can be reached

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