Cautious buyers will want more private home viewings
Photo: James Bombales
Six weeks after Ontario declared a state of emergency and ordered businesses closed as a result of the coronavirus outbreak, details on reopening the province are now coming to light.
On Monday, the provincial government released its plan for gradually easing social distancing restrictions and restarting the economy over the coming months. The reopening framework would carry out incrementally across three stages, each lasting two-to-four weeks and paired with close monitoring from health officials who would adjust measures and timelines if needed. No specific timeline for when reopening will start has been set.
“The framework is about how we’re reopening, not when we are reopening,” said Premier Doug Ford at a daily press conference on Monday.
While no industries that would be given priority to reopen were named in the outline, businesses will see a possible opportunity to do so throughout the early stages of the provincial plan.
“We’re supportive of the Government of Ontario’s announcement on the gradual reopening of the province.” said Tim Hudak, CEO of the Ontario Real Estate Association (OREA) in a direct statement to Livabl. “It is a prudent framework based on the best advice from the medical community, front line workers and business groups like OREA.”
Real estate agent services are currently listed as essential, meaning they can still operate during the pandemic. However, it’s a waiting game for when and how typical in-person realty practices might resume once again. In early April, the provincial government prohibited open houses to limit the spread of the virus. Since then, in-person showings have been replaced by digital viewings while agents are also getting creative with video and other tools to advertise to clients who can’t visit in person.
“We have asked REALTORS to advise their clients to put non-urgent real estate transactions off until the State of Emergency has been lifted and use virtual tours and showings and other on-line tools,” said Hudak the statement.
When restrictions eventually begin to lift, Hudak predicted that a lot of interest in real estate will be generated given the amount of time families have spent in their homes. However, as in-person showings gradually become the norm once again, Hudak said that they anticipate higher demand for individual in-person showings as buyers narrow down their choices as opposed to random open house drop-ins. All showings, he said, will follow strict health and safety precautions, including open houses when they are once again permitted.
“In-person Open Houses with large numbers of people in a home at once will likely be restricted for a longer period of time,” said Hudak. “When they are allowed again, in-person open houses will follow high safety standards including proper social distancing and cleaning.”
As part of the reopening strategy, MPPs and the Ontario Jobs and Recovery Committee will consult with businesses across all sectors to shape such policy. Hudak confirmed to Livabl in the statement that OREA has been in contact with the committee and has presented some ideas for them to consider.
“The housing industry is one of the largest contributors to Ontario’s GDP. It creates thousands of jobs every year, supporting the livelihoods of Ontario families,” said Hudak. “Real estate can play a leading role in Ontario’s economic and confidence recovery.”