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If it feels like everything in the world is different right now, it’s because it is. We are facing an unprecedented health care crisis that will affect our health, our finances, our lifestyles and our homes. COVID-19 – and our response to it – will define our generation. 

Before I start talking about Toronto real estate in the midst of this pandemic, I want to pause and give thanks. 

I want to thank the nurses, the doctors, the PSW’s, the paramedics and all the other healthcare workers who are putting their own lives at risk to fight COVID. They are our soldiers. It’s because of their sacrifices that we will win the COVID war.  


 

I want to thank the grocery and pharmacy workers, the toilet paper delivery people, the soap makers, the Uber drivers and all the other people we didn’t appreciate enough in our pre-COVID world. They are the links that will help us navigate these unchartered territories.

I want to thank the Helpers. The people delivering groceries, cooking for neighbours, taking leadership in their industries and sharing their Purel. The Helpers are the ones delivering hope and kindness.


 

OK, now it’s time to talk about real estate. 

I know you’re all wondering what’s happening in Toronto amid the COVID-19 crisis. Has the market slowed down? Have prices fallen? Has the process to buy or sell a home changed? What does it mean to Toronto homeowners? How is BREL responding? 

As our world seemingly changes by the hour, so does the market and our response to it. Here’s what’s happening right now (March 18, 2020):

Real estate in Toronto has slowed, but it hasn’t stopped. We’re still seeing some multiple offers and homes continue to sell, but how we do real estate has changed. The safety of our team and clients is at the centre of every decision we make. 
Beyond social distancing and good hygiene habits:

  • Last Tuesday, we closed our offices and started working from home. As a tech-first company where most of us already work from home, it wasn’t much of an adjustment: we’re signing offers electronically; we’re accepting deposits via Electronic Fund Transfer; using Zoom and Slack for meetings and consultations and Facetime for showings. When you call the BREL phone number? You’re now calling Andrea’s house. 
  • We have a video call at 9 am each morning to discuss how COVID is affecting us personally, what it means for our clients and how we can help. From there, we disperse and put our daily plan into action. 

We’ve adapted our business and how we work with Sellers in a number of ways.

  • We moved from public open houses to virtual ones, with detailed property videos and 3D tour support for our listings
  • We doubled-down on our digital marketing efforts
  • In almost all cases, we’ve paused our staging services
  • We’re screening potential Buyers and their agents before showings
  • We added new legal clauses that address COVID-19 in our offers
  • We started an off-MLS group for GTA REALTORS, to help match people and homes, without the limitations and expectations of being listed on the MLS. 
  • We’re working with our lawyer and lender partners to build strategies to deal with closing issues
  • We’re helping our Sellers who have not yet listed their homes decide whether to list now or take a pause.

How we work with Buyers has changed too. While some of our Buyers have decided to pause their home searches, some still need to buy – they may have already sold the home they live in, given notice to their landlord or are moving to the city. Others see the uncertainties of COVID as an opportunity to buy a house they might not have been able to buy a few weeks ago. But it’s not business as usual:

  • We’re no longer driving together in cars
  • We’ve reduced in-person showings as much as possible, instead, using video and previewing properties on behalf of our clients
  • We’ve added new legal clauses to address COVID-19 in our offers
  • We’re helping our Buyers balance the risks and uncertainties of our current reality with their individual needs
  • We’re working with our lawyer and lender partners to build strategies to deal with closing issues

In times of crisis, we all revert to our comfort zones, and for us, that means helping. 

We’re checking on neighbours, assisting with groceries and supplies and helping get our friends and family get back to Canada. We’re also leading the charge with our REALTOR colleagues across Ontario and helping them navigate through COVID with education, ideas and support. 

We’re also going back to our comfort zone of blogging and social media. While we’ve taken a pause from both for the last week, you can expect to see and hear more from us in the days and weeks ahead. It won’t be our usual content – but we hope it will help educate and entertain you during these COVID days.


We’re homeowners too, and we know that you’re worried about what this means to your home’s value. As the COVID situation and the government response to it seemingly changes every hour, it’s impossible to predict what’s going to happen. 

But we do know that:

  • Interest rates are low
  • Homes are NOT currently being sold below market value; while today’s Buyers are factoring the COVID uncertainties into their offers, homes are still being sold for what they would have a few months ago. 
  • The Canadian government and our banks will be offering mortgage deferral options, to assist with the pay disruptions that many of us will soon encounter
  • If property prices dip temporarily, remember: that only matters if you decide to sell your home.

Our homes are featuring in our lives even more, these days, as we shelter in place, self-isolate and quarantine.

Stay home. Stay safe. Be kind to your neighbours and each other. 

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