Real Estate Industry Adapts to COVID-19 environment

We may be in a second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic but that hasn’t stopped the resale housing market in Calgary from continuing to be busy as the industry adapts to the ever-changing environment.

In the city, November marked the sixth straight month of year-over-year MLS sales increases. And so far in early December sales activity is up by a stunning 43 per cent from a year ago.

There’s no question there are buyers and sellers out in the market. 

But real estate consumers should be aware of the current restrictions in place as they consider purchasing a home or putting their home on the market.

When a public health emergency was declared November 24 in Alberta, the Alberta Real Estate Association reacted and acted swiftly to the increased measures the province was putting in place. 

AREA reinstated the ban on in-person open houses for realtors as professional service providers. The Alberta government mandated that professional services businesses, such as lawyers and accountants, be able to work by appointment only. Showings can continue with appointment only and limited to two family-unit members at a time, said AREA.

“As long as there’s an appointment and proper protocols are followed, they can continue their business,” said Brad Mitchell, CEO of AREA. “We were just worried that if we continued to allow open houses we could be offside with government regulations.”

AREA represents the interests and concerns of more than 10,500 Alberta realtors from 10 local boards and associations.

“There has been no known COVID-19 transmission from open houses, but an abundance of caution is in the best interest of our members and their clients,” says AREA.

Mitchell said the COVID pandemic certainly negatively impacted the resale housing market in the city during the first lockdown earlier this year in the spring months. 

“Nobody really had a great understanding of the virus and how dangerous it was. So now I think people are trying to get on with their regular lives while following all of these protocols,” said Mitchell.

“When people need to move, they need to move. Last year was a pretty weak year. This is still pent-up demand and business needs to be transacted.”

The real estate industry continues to ensure measures are in place to deal with the challenges of the pandemic.

For example, Mitchell said there is a new rule for MLS listings where they can continue to be listed when the owner restricts showings. 

“We’ve relaxed that rule for COVID. Previously if you weren’t going to allow showings you had to de-list the property. Now if somebody has COVID or they can’t allow a showing because of COVID protocols they’re allowed to keep the house listed,” explained Mitchell.

“Realtors are very entrepreneurial. You can do virtual open houses. You can do a whole bunch of different things. There’s still lots of marketing techniques available to the members. We just think we need to do our part to make sure we don’t put the public or our members at risk.

“The challenge with open houses is that realtors were complying with all the rules but the challenge is it’s very difficult to control an open house when it’s in an house and people can just walk in.”