by Huixia Sun
Empty restaurants, shuttered flower shops, and stranded businesses are everywhere in Toronto, the largest city of Canada.
Economic bounce-back is still elusive across Canada except a few provinces that reopened offices and factories last week. However, one industry, along with grocery stores and hospitals, has never shut down during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The real estate sector was designated as “essential service” by the Ontarian provincial government in mid-March. Real estate agents in Toronto have quickly adapted to the coronavirus pandemic by resorting to innovative communication tools.
A DEAL STRUCK CONTACTLESS
A Torontonian couple put their property on the market on March 19, just two days after the state of emergency was declared in Ontario, where Toronto is the capital city.
Despite the grim situation where everyone was locked down at home to avoid the virus, the couple with two young kids was not in panic. They believed that their townhouse would still be a hot commodity with the assistance of innovative tools because it was in a good location: on Johnson Farm Lane in highly sought-after Willdowdale neighborhood.
Open houses were banned in mid-March in order to reduce physical contact and slow the spread of the virus. But the real estate sector found ways to do their business.
“So far I have not seen any potential buyer or their agents in person,” said Isaac Quan, the listing agent for the townhouse. “FaceTime, Zoom and virtual tours were all employed to show the property.”
“There were 200 visits to the webpage of photos and the video clip and 25 showings,” Quan told Xinhua. “I also went to the townhouse and showed the place to a prospective buyer via the cellphone.”
Some serious buyers chose to see it in person. Quan would make sure showings were separated by an interval of at least half an hour.
He would rush to the townhouse to disinfect doorknobs, light switches and the kitchen, which a visitor may have touched.
Each and every potential buyer and their agent must declare that they were not infected with the virus before they could set their foot in the townhouse in accordance with the provincial real estate regulator’s requirements, said Quan.
“The purchase and sale agreement was signed through the Docsign app,” he told Xinhua. “It was a contactless deal from the beginning to the end.”
The townhouse was sold on March 23, four days after it was listed on the MLS operated by the Toronto Real Estate Board. It was sold for 1.318 million Canadian dollars, 17.8 percent above the asking price of 1.118 million. A unit with the same layout in the compound was sold at 1.28 million half a year ago.
Similarly, a condo of three bedrooms and two washrooms on 10 Stonehill Crescent near Warden Street and Finch Avenue was sold in April at a price higher than its listing price after receiving 67 offers.
HOME PRICES REMAIN HIGH
Greater Toronto Area reported 2,975 residential transactions in April, down by 67 percent from April 2019, according to the data released by Toronto Real Estate Board on May 5. However, the average selling price of all home types in April was up by 0.1 percent year-on-year despite a sharp fall in sales.
Low lending interest rates and unchanged housing market fundamentals contributed to the high sold price, Nicole Liu of Aimhome Realty Brokerage told Xinhua on Wednesday.
The Bank of Canada cut benchmark interest rates twice in March to 0.25 percent, the lowest in over a decade, to stimulate demand and mitigate the pandemic-driven economic contraction. Some commercial banks are offering mortgage loans of as low as 1.5 percent.
Liu also noted that housing prices in GTA had soared early this year but the growth pace slowed upon the onset of the pandemic. The average selling price for all home types combined was up by 16.7 percent in February year-on-year.
“Actually it is a rare time window to buy as housing prices stay relatively flat and Toronto remains one of the most livable cities on the planet, ” said Liu. “Once the pandemic is over, the prices will rebound quickly due to the sudden release of the pent-up demand.”
Low inventories in GTA continue to be a constant factor behind Toronto’s red-hot property markets as more people come here to live and work. Many homeowners are now reluctant to put their properties on market during the pandemic.
Sellers are often those who just divorced or those who received estate properties from their late parents or relatives while buyers are those who want to upgrade and already sold their homes, according to Liu, a real estate agent who has been active in the GTA market for over a decade. Enditem