All businesses, industries and sectors of the economy have had to adapt to the current circumstances surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic in one way or another. The local housing market and real estate industry is no exception.
Housing sales in Cranbrook have dropped quite a bit over the past several weeks, while Kimberley’s numbers have remained fairly normal compared to 2019.
Jason Wheeldon of Royal LePage East Kootenay Realty says it’s a logical expectation that numbers in Cranbrook were down “drastically” in April due to COVID-19.
There were 12 sales of single family dwellings in Cranbrook in April of this year, compared to 30 the year prior, down 21 per cent. There are currently 69 homes available for sale in Cranbrook.
“Prices will continue to fall slightly but it will be a 12 to 18 month process to see how those numbers play out. Supply is holding fairly steady right now, but lots of people are putting their plans for selling or buying on hold,” said Wheeldon. “Many people already had the wheels in motion to move or re-locate. They had no choice, and we want to make sure those people are taken care of.”
Kimberley currently has 43 single family dwellings available, along with approximately 21 residential condominiums. Kimberley saw five sales of single family homes in April of 2020, compared to eight in 2019.
Darren Close, Realtor and Office Manager for Royal Lepage in Kimberley says that supply and demand remain as key factors in the area, which has been the case for some time.
“Generally speaking, things did slow down with COVID. There’s no sign of any major adjustments as far as prices go, it’s more of a balancing between supply and demand that’s taking place here in Kimberley,” said Close. “We’ve struggled with inventory for quite some time and that has not changed a whole lot. In terms of April’s numbers, 2020 versus 2019, things have not changed that much, the numbers are fairly similar.”
Wheeldon adds that the industry as a whole, like many others, has had to adapt and change and that takes time. Real Estate is deemed an essential service in B.C. This means new safety procedures, no open houses, and ensuring that buyers are pre-qualified for a mortgage.
“We’ve adapted safety procedures and we have to take care of our clients who are in need of housing,” he said. “We are pre-screening buyers and making sure that they are pre-qualified for a mortgage. We’re a little more adamant about that than before. We’ve also set new policies in place for showing houses such as not bringing kids or other family members, and there’s a no-touch policy when houses are shown.”
Many agents are able to show houses virtually, whether it’s through a video-chat as Close has been doing, or through 3D imaging equipment like Wheeldon’s.
“I’ve made video walk-throughs available…If showings are requested, we’ve got a bit of a challenge there just because access has been restricted in some homes. Either the seller does not want anyone in their home, or they have renters with similar concerns,” said Close. “We have a zero touch policy, so all of the lights are left on, doors are opened inside the house and many of the buyers wear masks as well. Everything is sanitized and cleaned, and if I as the realtor need to touch a door or any other surface, it is sanitized as well.”
Both Close and Wheeldon reiterated the fact that supply and demand remain as critical factors. Interest rates may remain low for some time, and a shortage in available homes is very much still a reality.
According to a May 6 article by the Canadian Press, preliminary figures indicate that about one in ten Canadian home owners have deferred their mortgage payments. The Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. expects real estate prices to be weak for two years.
Wheeldon says that construction activity in this area is still moving forward because of the housing shortage that has taken place over the last several years, which should help to mitigate some of those impacts.
Chad Jensen, President of New Dawn Developments says it’s still to early to forecast trends for the next 12 to 18 months, however many construction projects are still moving forward and inquiries remain steady.
“It’s still too early to tell. Some projects have been put on hold by the buyer, while some continue to push ahead,” said Jensen. “Our web traffic and inquiries from larger city centres have gone up recently, but that doesn’t necessarily indicate an increase of people moving here from larger cities. In terms of inventory, we may be seeing that increase because what people are looking for simply isn’t available.”
Despite COVID, Close says he expects the spring market to remain consistent in Kimberley.
“The supply is still quite low, and the demand is still significant,” said Close. “Over the summer I still expect Kimberley to have a fairly consistent, normal market.”
Wheeldon says mining, forestry, and government support are all important to the housing market going forward.
“The mining and forestry sectors will have a big impact,” said Wheeldon. “The government has done a lot to help ensure that people who own a business don’t go under, but many of them still won’t be able to open,” he said. “This pandemic is inevitably going to have an impact on the market and I think a lot of people are holding off because of the stay at home orders. It all comes down to supply and demand.”
With files from the Canadian Press.
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