Tag Archives: open houses

How house hunting will forever change due to the pandemic

Realtor Chris Strand is seen at a townhome he’s selling in Vancouver, on Aug. 14, 2020.DARRYL DYCK/THE GLOBE AND MAIL

Medical waivers. Masks. Virtual showings. Seven-figure purchases, sight unseen.

Home buying and selling has seen a head-snapping shift during the COVID-19 era, as both parties deal with the demands of physical distancing, virtual showings and previously unheard-of safety considerations.

One thing that hasn’t changed is the competition: Most major Canadian markets are as buoyant as ever after a brief slump and in defiance of gloomy forecasts about the impact the pandemic could have on real estate activity.

But the nuts and bolts of the process – how buyers and sellers interact and how realtors work with both – looks dramatically different than it did a few months ago, forcing years’ worth of sales innovation into just a few months.

Here are a few of the biggest changes:

Say goodbye to open houses

So much for perusing open houses as a weekend pastime. Physical distancing brought group showings to an abrupt halt this spring. As restrictions eased nationwide, open houses slowly started up again. In Ontario, for example, the province lifted its prohibition in most areas on July 17 as part of its Stage 3 reopening.

Still, open houses are nowhere near as common as they once were. Sellers remain wary of inviting large groups of people to traipse through their homes and some renters’ groups have spoken out against them as well.

Mr. Strand says a decline in open houses as we once knew them may be one of the biggest long-term changes to house hunting to emerge from the pandemic.DARRYL DYCK/THE GLOBE AND MAIL

“Before you could have upwards of two or three different agents with groups, at any given time, showing the same property,” says Darren Josephs, a Toronto Re/Max agent. “Now, the windows are 15-to-30 minutes and no overlap.”

Also, each client goes through individually, following sanitizing protocols before and after each visit. And there’s no such thing as dropping in with a moment’s notice, Mr. Josephs says.

“I think a lot of people were never entirely comfortable with open houses, especially sellers,” he says. “I think we’ll see a real long-term effect from this and more qualified showings, which tend to weed out people who aren’t serious.”

Vancouver-based independent realtor Chris Strand says there’s a “split in the realtor community” on the issue. He points out that realtors can often pick up new clients at open houses. However, he agrees that a decline in open houses – at least as we once knew them – may be one of the biggest long-term changes to emerge from the pandemic.

Better digital sales tools

The era of out-of-focus photos and sparse online listings is over, according to Patti Ross, a Royal LePage realtor in Halifax.

“You’ve always seen listings and asked, ‘Why are the photos so bad?’” she says. “We were proactive in my brokerage years ago in stepping up online marketing and building a photography and video department and it’s really paying off now.”

Mr. Strand says a rise in virtual house touring may be due to the current bull market in housing.DARRYL DYCK/THE GLOBE AND MAIL

Realtors have also long been limited in the number of photographs they can use on listings but, from coast-to-coast, those limits have been bumped up, allowing potential buyers to get a better sense of a property before arranging a viewing.

“Our real estate board just upped our photo count from 20 to 40,” Mr. Strand says, “and we’re seeing more people hiring professional videographers and using virtual walk-through tools.”

Sometimes that means 360-degree photos tours and, for high-end properties, it can mean full-blown immersive 3D renders of a property’s interior. That can help drive more selective, qualified showings, and fewer potential buyers arranging a viewing out of curiosity, only to show up and quickly realize the property isn’t right for them.

More safety protocols

When in-person viewings do take place, safety has become a top priority. In most cases, realtors will go into homes in advance, opening every door, cabinet and cupboard for clients.

“We ask that visitors treat the house like a museum,” Mr. Josephs says. “No touching.”

Potential buyers sign waivers attesting to their lack of COVID-19 symptoms and international travel. And everyone – buyers, sellers and agents – wear masks and keep the mandated two-metre distance.

Even Ms. Ross’ photographers and videographers make sure their gear is sanitized before it enters a property and they clean it thoroughly once they leave.

Some realtors hope that better safety protocols can instill more confidence in sellers to list their homes.

Major markets nationwide are currently grappling with a serious imbalance between supply and demand, as buyers return to the market in droves, but sellers remain shy. “

You definitely see people waiting or holding off on listing,” Ms. Ross says. “But once you talk to people and tell them about process, they feel better.”

More risk-taking

That imbalance between buyers and sellers has also made markets more competitive. In Halifax, Ms. Ross recently sold one suburban property listed at $229,000 for $55,000 over asking, after entertaining more than 30 offers. In Vancouver, Mr. Strand is seeing similar activity, as is Mr. Josephs in Toronto, where he recently sold one home for $350,000 over asking, after 26 offers.

More buyers are also signing off on purchases remotely. In June, Nanos Research conducted a poll for the Ontario Real Estate Association that revealed 42 per cent of buyers were open to buying a home even if they could only see it online beforehand.

Ms. Ross says she’s noticed more buyers willing to purchase places sight unseen. (Atlantic Canada’s current self-isolation restrictions for out-of-region travellers mean visiting the region to house-hunt is especially impractical).

“We’re doing virtual tours that allow people to shop from Ontario or Vancouver,” she says, “and walk through the house remotely.”

She’s also begun doing walk-through video tours of neighbourhoods. A video tour showcasing sports facilities and outdoor trails near one property recently helped seal the deal with one out-of-province family.

Mr. Strand is seeing the same kind of activity in Vancouver.

“We’re using FaceTime, and I’ve had potential buyers from Ontario, Alberta, and several from Hong Kong,” he says.

Mr. Strand says some of that activity may be due to the current bull market in housing. But most industry watchers, including major banks and the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation, are still forecasting at least a modest decline in home prices over the coming year. As sellers re-enter the market, spiralling prices may well simmer down – good news for buyers already struggling with deteriorating affordability.

But even if markets re-balance, there seems little doubt that COVID-19 will result in lasting changes to the way Canadians buy and sell homes.

“Anything could happen in the next few months,” Mr. Strand says. “We’re all just waiting to see what sticks as we keep going through this and what goes back to the way it was before.”

Source: Globe and Mail MATTHEW HALLIDAYSPECIAL TO THE GLOBE AND MAILPUBLISHED AUGUST 17, 2020

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A turret is on your wishlist, you say? Here’s your chance (plus, it comes with a massive house)

Royal LePage

Someone who wants to entertain family and friends in a warm and inviting environment — and be surrounded by exceptional craftsmanship — will enjoy this home, says listing agent Anita Rapp of Royal LePage Real Estate Services. “No luxury detail has been overlooked and many of the furnishings were custom made to blend seamlessly with the open family-friendly floor plan.”

For example, a curved couch was designed and built to fit into the window-wrapped turret and will be left for the new owner to enjoy.

The custom-built brick-and-stone home offers more than 7,000 square feet of living space including a finished lower level that has heated floors and a fireplace in the recreation room. A large, classic skylight sends natural light downstairs through the staircase opening.

Royal LePage

Royal LePage The 7,000-square-foot house is on a 74×176 irregular lot in an exclusive neighbourhood.

 

A grand entrance is sure to impress guests. The foyer — at 28×17-feet — has heated marble flooring and white wainscotting. The living room has a fireplace; the dining room also has wainscotting. Both rooms have coffered ceilings that lend a grand feeling; other rooms have elaborate tray ceilings. The main floor is lush with extensive mouldings and a warm palette.

Outfitted for casual dinners or entertaining a crowd, the kitchen has a breakfast area with a rich wood built-in desk with storage and bookshelves and a walkout to a deck.

The 74×176-ft. irregular lot has a completely fenced yard with lush gardens, a pool and a waterfall feature, Rapp says.

Royal LePage

Royal LePage The master ensuite is very spacious and features the same detailing as the rest of the house.

 

The library, family room and master bedroom each has a fireplace for quiet relaxation in front of the fire. A cathedral ceiling lends an airy feeling to the master suite. His-and-hers closets keep fashion plates happy. The large ensuite has an inlay marble floor, furniture-like cabinetry, a standalone tub surrounded by windows, a large glass shower and separate WC.

Each of the bedrooms has a four-piece ensuite, so bathroom lineups are non-exisitent.

A games room with a dance area provides a fun place for young and the young at heart to boogie, and overnight company can enjoy the guest suites. A wine cellar helps makes entertaining a breeze, and to work off the extra glass of red, a gym beckons upstairs.

“Many dollars have been spent on sensational upgrades,” Rapp says.

“My favourite spaces are the family room, with its enormous bowed window overlooking the stone patio and resort-like pool area, and the master bedroom, which has the look and feel of a five-star spa with heated, inlaid marble flooring, a deep soaker tub and a steam shower,” Rapp says.

St. Andrews Windfields
21 Don Ridge Dr. (York Mills Road and Yonge Street)
Asking price: $5.95 million
Taxes: $27,273 (2015)
Bedrooms: 2; Bathrooms: 7
MLS# C3368728

Royal LePage

Royal LePage The tree-cloaked rectangular pool features a trio of waterfalls, a spa and several seating areas.

Source: Connie Adair, Special to National Post | February 8, 2016

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It’s Open House Season! Here’s the Essential Check List for All Your Home Tours

open

Open houses are an exciting adventure, but have their own set of rules. You need to follow them in order to turn open house shopping into a dream house purchase. While they can be fun, but they also require prep work, keen attention to detail, and follow-up. Below I’ve rounded up the important “must know” items to make the most of any open house experience.

  • Start online. Almost all purchases begin with online research, and home shopping should be no different. Online tools such as  Trulia.com allow home hunters to find properties open in the neighborhoods they’re interested in. To stay ahead of the game, sites like Trulia have a mobile app with GPS capabilities allowing for new open houses to pop up nearby. This will allow you to quickly swing by and check it out that day!
  • Look But Don’t Touch. Even if you walk into your perfect house, you are not going to buy it that day. You must shop around first. Never make an offer on the spot, especially if you’re a novice home buyer.
  • Declare Your Independence. If you love the home and are planning to go after it, tell the listing agent you’re already working with a real estate agent. Never hire the seller’s agent to represent you in the purchase of that home. You always need an unbiased advocate who is in your best interest to be your right hand in any potential negotiations.
  • Hold Your Cards Close. Don’t reveal too much about yourself, your situation or your need to buy. It’s especially important to never reveal the top price you are willing to pay. You don’t want that information to be used against you later down the line in negotiations.
  • Evaluate the Exterior. As you walk into an open house, pay close attention to the exterior paint and the state of the roof. Does the paint look fresh or is it chipping/dirty? Do the shingles look like they need replacing in the next 2-5 years? Are there large trees nearby or moss growing? What is the condition of gutters or any other key items on the exterior? This is a tell tale sign in what you’ll find inside.
  • Walls and Windows. Determine the conditions of the walls.  Can you see any significant damage, dents or other red flags to one of the most visible parts of the home? If these visible items are not in the best condition, it may be a red flag and indicate larger issues.
  • Take Pictures and Take Away the Takeaways. Take pictures and notes as you walk around a home. If you see multiple homes in one day, they’ll all start to blend together. Gather and keep the brochures or printout information sheets on the houses you see, to keep track. Save them and share with your Realtor.
  • Keep Your Interest Under Wraps. Even if this is is the perfect house for you, it’s important to keep your best poker face. Get at least a block away and then call your Realtor. Don’t jump up and down with excitement in the driveway or lobby. If the seller’s Realtor sees you, you can potentially lose leverage as a buyer.
  • Not the right house for you? “Buy” the agent instead. If you decide to pass on the home, it may not have been a complete waste of time! If you haven’t selected a real estate agent, this is a fantastic opportunity to find an agent or broker too.  You actually get to see them in action. Is he/she knowledgeable, informative, hard working? Or is he/she sitting in the dining reading Us Weekly while you stroll through the house? And most importantly do you like him or her? Your realtor will eventually become your house hunting team member and you will be spending a lot of time with them. Take their card and jot a quick note on the back to jog your memory later.

Source: Huffington Post; Posted: 04/18/2014 12:27 pm EDT

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