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Ask An Agent: What Has COVID Forever Changed About the Real Estate Market?

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Arif Qureshi prides himself on his connection to his community.

To that end, the Re/Max Realty One agent is the principal sponsor of the Raptors Republic Live Post-Game Show Podcast on YouTube and at RaptorsRepublic.com and as much as he loves The Raptors – “I love the action,” he says – his sponsorship is meant to keep him connected to the young basketball fans rehearsing that next Game 7 buzzer beater on those Toronto courts.

It’s that connection to the city, and 17 years in its real estate industry, that makes him a realtor with enough intuition and understanding to answer this week’s question.

What has COVID forever changed about the real estate market?

While much of the world has changed irrevocably because of this pandemic, real estate has changed also.

We used to take our clients to homes in person to see them. In some cases, we are still doing that, but for the most part we’ve adapted to online showings, live streamed open houses and doing almost all of our marketing through social media. Of course, all of this technology was available pre-pandemic, but it wasn’t used as much.

Meanwhile, the housing market in Toronto remained very strong through 2020, despite the lockdowns and phased re-openings of the pandemic, and I expect that to continue through 2021 and beyond. The Toronto real estate industry is forecasting increased demand from buyers who had delayed purchasing a home early in the pandemic because they thought prices would come down.

So, along with the strong Toronto housing market, what is going to stay long past the pandemic is the opportunity to tour and close on a home virtually. It made buying a home simpler in 2020 and will only expand further in 2021. This technology has helped buyers save time, save their commute time to showings, and narrow down their choices from ten to 15 homes to just a couple of homes.

READ: Ask An Agent: Where Do You Expect Average Toronto Home Prices to Go in 2021?

All realtors in Toronto continue to take advantage of these virtual tours and have started using alternate online and virtual marketing opportunities to an increased degree for both sellers and buyers. In fact, the Toronto Real Estate Board has introduced a livestream open house function on their website where all members can now promote and livestream open houses.

This is going to stay. Basically, it features interested clients who join us in real time as we walk them through the properties, detail their features and answer any questions. The use of online platforms rose in 2020 and will continue to do the same through 2021 and onwards. Livestream open houses will be a new norm going forward and has proven to be an amazing tool that can be viewed on all social media platforms along with the TRREB website. Before we were speaking to our clients one-on-one and now we are speaking to everyone. These livestream open houses have had the affect in real estate that Zoom has had everywhere and Zoom has doubled or tripled its market share.

The pandemic has permanently changed the buyer and seller’s journey. People are not afraid to use technology anymore and these things were around before, but more people have adapted to the new reality. Some love it, some hate it, but realty has made technology the only option and that’s here to stay — there’s no going back. Homes are being bought and sold online and paperless contracts are being signed with digital signatures. Meanwhile, sellers are now providing home inspection reports as they put their homes up for sale, which expedites the sale process along with wire transfers and Zoom meetings with real estate lawyers. This has made all of our lives very easy.

The pandemic has forced us to make use of all this technology and it has proven to be great: 2020 was one of the best years for Toronto real estate on record. I believe this upward trend will continue and we will further see these technological changes be adopted as a way of life because they increase productivity and, at the end of the day, increase sales.

Sellers and buyers have also recognized the increased health risk of many people congregating at once, so I see social distancing, hand washing and mask wearing remaining in place (particularly if the buyer, seller or agent is feeling sick) remaining in place for up to a few years after the pandemic, if not permanently, when in-person interaction at open houses returns. At minimum, there will be an emphasis on increased sanitation and keeping one’s distance during in-person interaction, with no more literal “handshake deals”.

This shouldn’t cause fear though as I believe the market will still be stronger than ever and sales will continue their upward trend, especially with so many people now being able to view properties from anywhere online.

This interview has been adjusted for both clarity and length.

Please note: The opinions in this article are those of the interviewee and not those of STOREYS. When considering real estate advice speak with your own agent and lawyer.

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