Business may not be quite as usual during the current COVID-19 pandemic, but Ottawa’s real estate market remains resilient. The Morris Home Team has quickly adapted to serving clients at this time of social distancing.
The Morris Home Team continues to be one of Ottawa’s most successful real estate teams, recognized for its wealth of experience and strong community ties. By expanding on its use of technology and enhancing safety protocols, the team has been able to maintain its commitment to helping people buy and sell their homes with the utmost professionalism.
In addition to using video walkthroughs and digital signatures—already widely used by realtors—the team has added approaches such as touch-free showings and virtual open houses.
“Safety remains our greatest priority,” emphasizes Rob Kearns, team leader and sales representative for the Morris Home Team. “As we continue to adapt to this new normal, we are constantly improving our protocols and practices to provide a safe environment for everyone, including clients, staff, and home inspectors. It’s about responsibility and respect, and not seeing people unnecessarily.”
Before COVID-19 arrived, Ottawa had a highly active housing market, posting the strongest sales numbers for January and February that the city has ever seen.
On March 23, soon after the coronavirus hit, the Ontario government listed real estate as an essential service.
“Even during COVID-19, people need to buy and sell their homes,” says Kearns. “Many people put their plans on hold, but others can’t afford to. People who sold their home before COVID-19 need to find a new place to live, while others have to sell their property so that they can finance the new home they bought before the pandemic.”
To maximize safety, the real estate industry and Royal LePage Performance Realty—the brokerage to which the Morris Home Team belongs—invoked specific protocols for its members to follow.
All buyers and agents must sign a health disclosure form before viewing a property, while sellers must consent to showing their homes.
When Kearns conducts a showing to potential buyers, the time limit is 30 minutes, and a maximum of two people—the people who would be on title—are permitted to attend. Sellers are instructed to leave lights on and interior doors open to prevent any unnecessary contact.
“If anything needs to be opened during a showing, I do it, and I have wipes with me to wipe down whatever has been touched,” adds Kearns. “We’ve had some sellers require that buyers wear masks. Basically, we try to be touch-free.”
Fortunately, Ottawa’s housing market continues to show its resiliency despite the restrictions, says Kearns.
“The Ottawa market is unlike any other place in Canada. We’re a government town with a high level of job security, so we’re better positioned to weather the pandemic.”
Kearns notes that even though the number of home sales is down compared with a regular springtime market—usually the peak time for home sales—prices are still up year over year, and demand remains strong.
“We’re still seeing multiple offers in various price ranges,” he says. “Market activity is a bit restricted by social distancing requirements, so we’re functioning more at winter levels, but the springtime level of demand is there. As restrictions ease, the market will pick up again.”
Kearns anticipates that many of the new real estate protocols and guidelines in place during COVID-19 will be maintained after social distancing ends. And there are a lot of Ottawans waiting in the wings to enter the market.
“Demand is what drives the market, and demand is strong in Ottawa,” says Kearns. “As long as everything can be done safely, the market is going to take off again.”