After months of uncertainty, things are finally starting to return to something beginning to resemble normal (maybe?), though that normalcy is still a far cry from what pre-COVID days looked like.

The Ontario government is currently in the midst of phase one of reopening the economy, which means many businesses and services are allowed to resume operations, including stores with street-level entrances and allowing short-term rentals to resume operations. What's more, the provincial government is expected to release details on the next stage of reopening the economy early next week.

A sense of, dare we say hope (!?) has also started to return to Toronto's real estate market, which, after a deeply challenging March and April, began to see signs of recovery in May.

A new report from Toronto-based real estate agent Doug Vukasovic suggests that the biggest concern right now is a lack of inventory, which held true in May with new listings down 61% for freehold properties and 38% for condos on a year-over-year basis.

Nevertheless, demand remained, and so much so that it sufficiently drove average prices up 3% in Toronto in May compared to the same time in 2019. The average condo price rose 11% to $674,621 in May, while freehold properties saw a 9% price increase to $1.3 million, driven by semi-detached homes.

READ: OREA Releases New Guidelines for Real Estate Agents During Stage 1 Reopening

Vukasovic says that while this appreciation can be chalked up to the decreased supply, what he sees is that demand for Toronto real estate still very much exists.

"Buyers haven't gone away; they were just biding their time," says Vukasovic, adding that both homeowners and agents are now becoming more comfortable with virtual tours. What's more, in-person home tours – with appropriate COVID-preventing measures in place – are also resuming as more restrictions are lifted.

Vukasovic says in-person home tours bounced back in May, increasing an impressive 95% from April, which is also in line with a recent survey from Point2 Homes that found online searches for homes have also gone up – reaching and even surpassing pre-pandemic levels.

Vukasovic explained that many brokerages use BrokerBay, a platform that organizes and logs showing requests for properties. "Whenever anyone books an appointment to view a property it's logged with BrokerBay."

He noted that not all brokerages use this service, as there are competing service providers, so this number doesn't capture the entire market. "From what I understand they are a large share of the market, however. Nonetheless, the data point captures the spirit of the market and I think it would be fair to conclude that it would be representative across the board with other service providers."

READ: What Real Estate Agents Are Doing to Keep Showings Safe During COVID-19

"With this in mind, I expect more and more sellers will be confident putting their homes on the market – recognizing that there is indeed pent-up demand. Even now, most properties hitting the market are ripe for bidding wars and many are being snatched up within a few days of being listed," adds Vukasovic.

Only time June will tell if May was an anomaly or the beginning of a return to 'normal'.

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Real Estate