October 28th, 2020

Realtors adapting to changes brought on by COVID-19


By Jensen, Randy on April 25, 2020.

A real estate sign marks a house as sold on the city’s southside. The local real estate market was having another solid year prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. Herald photo by Ian Martens @IMartensHerald

Greg Bobinec

Lethbridge Herald

gbobinec@lethbridgeherald.com

As the COVID-10 pandemic remains an unknown situation for the future, home investments may be sitting in the back of families’ minds as the market continues to change.

Housing has remained an essential service and Realtors have continued to work through the new protocols. The Lethbridge & District Association of Realtors was working within weeks of the pandemic to find new ways to continue the flow of the local market, which saw promising numbers at the start of the year.

“It was about a couple weeks after the announcement of the pandemic that we started making some changes on how we are going to do business,” says Cathy Maxwell, CEO Lethbridge & District Association of Realtors. “We are deemed as an essential service, so we continue to meet (with clients), but they have to follow protocols on how to do showings safely, what to clean before and after, cleaning off the lockbox, and before that, getting permission from the vendors to have a Realtor go in. There are protocols about the questions to ask regarding health-related issues, but we have documents in place now for participants to follow.”

When the pandemic first hit, Maxwell says there was a number of concerns from clients, many with compromised immune systems, but the market continued as many homebuyers and homeowners worked with the new standards and procedures.

“This pandemic came upon us very quickly, so we all had to adjust our thinking, but some vendors, especially if they were compromised in any way with their health, they would just not want to show,” says Maxwell. “Others are OK with proper protocols, they want to continue on because people still need to buy and sell their homes. It was a bit of a combination of some people are too scared to do it at this time, but others are fine knowing that protocols are in place.”

Virtual tours have been a popular tool for Realtors over the last number of years and become a helpful tool during these times. Another way many ways local Realtors have been working to show clients homes is by hosting online virtual open houses, where the Realtor walks through the house live and interested buyers can get an understanding of what it has to offer.

“One of the tools that we put into place quite quickly is a program called Live Streaming Open House. That is something we had to arrange on our MLS system and the Realtors will walk around the house to do a livestream open house,” says Maxwell. “Technology has been our friend through this, for sure, so that has been a good tool to be utilized during this time, but it never takes the place of seeing a house in person, but it’s helping.”

Real estate is a large part of a local economy, with tens of thousands of dollars being put into the local economy with a single sale of a home. Maxwell says that the real estate market at the start of the year was really strong, and although there may be a lull during the worst part of the local outbreak, the market will just adjust the same way they have seen other markets around the world bounce back.

“Real estate is a very important part of our local economy. Every time a home is sold, there is about $50,000 of economic spinoff, so it is an important part of our economy, but we will see that come back,” says Maxwell. “Real estate is always a solid investment in my mind. We have also had a great start to the year. February we were up 20 per cent, March we still had an increase of nine per cent year-after-year. April still hasn’t completed yet, but to be fair the first couple weeks in April we are down in sales, so that spring market that we normally count on is just deferred.”

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