Quebec real estate brokers got some good news Monday when COVID-19 restrictions were lifted.
For the husband and wife real estate duo of Daniel Arsenault and Jennifer Smith of Royal Lepage Village in Pointe-Claire, it means they’ll be able to once again visit a potential client at their home, albeit two metres apart.
But it’s not completely business as usual as new pandemic protocols must be observed in the buying and selling of properties.
The traditional practice of holding open houses, in which properties for sale are showcased to the general public, will undergo tweaks.
“For example, if a family of five visits a home, only one person at a time is allowed inside,” Arsenault noted. “Given proper social distancing and limited numbers of people in a house at any time, proper sanitation, we’re pretty well back to business.”
In the new normal, virtual tours, or online visual tours of properties, will likely grow in popularity among both buyers and sellers looking to reduce person-to-person contact.
“We were doing it already, but more people will probably do it (now) is drone photography and 3-D virtual tours and floor plans,” Arsenault said. “That will become more of the norm because we want to make sure the people are qualified before visiting.
“In real estate, as in any sales business, you should qualify to lead. Now it’s much more so the case. We need to qualify that the buyers are financially prepared, that they’ve worked for a bit to decide what locations they want to go to.”
The onus on prospective buyers will be to filter info such as location, proximity to transportation lines and schools.
“(The pandemic) is going to affect economy in ways we can’t even imagine,” Arsenault said. “Where there were 10 buyers before, now there might be five, so supply and demand might force prices down a bit.”
Arsenault said homes under $500,000 will likely remain attractive in a sagging economy.
“The low end of the market, in good locations, is insulated from (a downturn) … because if you’re in a bigger house and you need to downsize you’re going to go to the lower end. It’s more frugal.
“On the other hand, houses in a fringe location or are outliers in terms of size … is going to be a challenge. In other words, the house that was harder to sell before will be harder to sell now.”
Arsenault speculates that other factors, such as the type of housing and proximity to others, could affect the real estate market going forward.
“If people were on the fence, this will be a catalyst,” he said.
But other factors, such as proximity to medical services, must also be weighed if people move farther away from the city.
“We’re going to see fear of proximity,” Arsenault said. “No matter what the government is telling them, there is going to be a vast portion of the population that is going to be afraid to be around other people.
“Historically, after every major economic crisis, one of the trends was more people moving into smaller properties closer to major cities. So reduce your financial footprint.
“And now we have both happening at the same time. We have the financial crisis but we also have fear of proximity.”