The coronavirus’ impact is being felt across every sector of the economy and the housing market on Vancouver Island is no exception.
Multiple realtors tell CHEK News, the housing market on the Island has slowed down significantly in the last week as the COVID-19 pandemic continues.
Sandi-Jo Ayers, president of the Victoria Real Estate Board, said there has been a noticeable decrease in the number of listings and sales of homes in the Capital region since last week.
“We have seen fewer listings and fewer sales. As the situation continues things will probably slow down a bit more,” she said, adding that data reflective of the last two weeks isn’t available at the moment.
Properties were once “flying” off the market are as late as last week, according to Nanaimo realtor Jay Deleskie, who described the market as a “mixed bag” filled with uncertainty.
“We’re still getting inquires and people calling about our properties. But it is very mixed. Some people are worried, and some people aren’t worried about the market,” Deleskie said, adding. “My buyers still have confidence in the market.”
But John Cooper, a Nanaimo-based realtor, said the only real interest he’s seen is from people who have already sold their home and need to find a new place to live.
“The only business that I’m seeing right now is from people who have got their house sold and they have to be out by a certain date, and they need somewhere to go,” he said. “But even with those clients, only vacant properties are open for people to view right now.”
That’s because, according to Cooper, most buyers and sellers aren’t comfortable with the idea of private showings or open houses right now and realtors are choosing not to meet with their clients in person.
“Buyers don’t want to go into strangers’ homes and the sellers don’t want strangers in their home,” he said, adding. “I don’t think there are any realtors that are going out with clients right now. Certainly, with our team, we’re all staying at home.”
The coronavirus is also changing the way realtors conduct business, according to Ayers. She said many realtors that she’s heard from are heavily relying on modern technology such as video conferencing, virtual tours and even using virtual reality technology to showcase homes to prospective buyers.
“It’s a different world than where we were even a month ago,” Ayers said. “Realtors, right now, are just trying to be very creative in the way they do business.”
In fact, both the Victoria Real Estate Board and the Vancouver Island Real Estate Board have advised realtors not to conduct open houses. The VIREB has also prohibited realtors from listing open houses on Reatlor.ca in order to reduce the spread of COVID-19.
“We’re recommending that viewings go to virtual methods. A lot of people who are home sellers aren’t wanting buyers in their house and I totally respect that position. I think if there is anything going on between buyers and sellers, it needs to be practised with informed consent,” said Kevin Reid, president of the Vancouver Island Real Estate Board and Comox Valley-based realtor.
All of the realtors that spoke to CHEK News said they’re mostly working from home and limiting time in their offices. They also said the future of the housing market on the Island is unclear at this point as the COVID-19 situation continues to change on a daily basis.
However, with the economy slowing down, Reid said it seems likely that tougher times lie ahead and that previously agreed upon contracts could face “very real and significant” challenges as people lose their jobs or see a reduction in their income.