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Vancouver Island realtors brace for bumpy road ahead

The fallout from the COVID-19 health crisis hasn’t hit Vancouver Island’s real estate market just yet.

The Vancouver Island Real Estate Board is reporting that the virus had little impact on March sales. 

Last month, 333 single-family homes sold, island-wide, compared to 259 in February and 308 in March 2019. 

Apartment sales in March did drop by 44 per cent year over year, but there was a 40 per cent increase in townhouse sales from a year ago. 

Board president Kevin Reid said March sales reflect “the tail-end of the pre-COVID momentum from the sales that happened prior to the state of emergency.”

But Reid predicts the worst is yet to come.

“We’re going to see a massive drop in sales volume,” he said. “For the most part, real estate sales have slowed significantly. I use the phrase that sales have stopped but that’s not actually true.”

There is some activity in certain segments of the market, according to Reid: “So buyers who have already sold their home and need a home to live (in), or previously committed to a contract where they’ve got to be out of their house and they have to live somewhere. And people are pairing up with homes that are vacant and currently on the market for sale.”

In its most recent Market Intelligence Report, the British Columbia Real Estate Association states that no one knows how COVID-19 will impact the economy, long term. 

However, B.C. is facing a sudden stop in economic activity with little sense of when things may return to normal. 

Based on BCREA’s scenario analysis, B.C. home sales and prices will likely face declines in the spring and early summer but should recover along with the broader economy in the second half of the year, contingent on the outbreak resolving. 

The province has declared real estate as an essential service, so long as realtors comply with health and safety guidelines.

With that in mind, Reid said he’s proud of the way island realtors are adjusting to the new world of physical distancing.

“We’re the first real estate board in British Columbia to stop our open house facilities,” he said. “We’ve pulled down our open house web page. We’ve made it impossible for realtors to schedule new open houses. If showings are indeed needed, they take electronic form first – use the photos, use the virtual tools, use the livestream video tours as options.”

He said after “a massive drop in the number of homes being sold,” we will see pricing and volume recover happen over the course of seven months, once the pandemic ends.

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