B.C. real estate market frozen over COVID-19 uncertainty

Author: Eco-World Property Management

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The local real estate market is mostly frozen as fears about the spread of COVID-19 have halted most home showings and there is uncertainty in the market for buyers and sellers.

The list of causes for this uncertainty is long, from personal health well-being to job security to newly announced policies such as the B.C. government’s ban on rental evictions, according to real estate agents.

B.C. Premier John Horgan said Wednesday that a temporary renters’ supplement of $500 a month will be paid to landlords and that it should be used by renters who have seen a drop in their work hours or layoff notices.

This will help renters who have lost jobs and wages, but it will also squeeze some mom-and-pop investors, said Vancouver real estate agent Steve Saretsky.

Saretsky is worried that the ban on evicting tenants might “green-light renters into thinking, ‘I don’t have to bother paying.’

“To me, it’ll be a bit of relying on the honour system,” he said.

Saretsky thinks small, individual landlords will have trouble making their mortgage payments if rent payments, even with the government supplement, are forced to be smaller.

Meanwhile, since earlier this week, there is no longer an option on the Multiple Listing Service to register an open house, so Vancouver real estate agent Justin Smith has been offering quick walkabouts via his Instagram live video. He’s offering it as an option and there have been times in the past when sales were easily sealed with a video tour, but “not right now.”

“No one is eager to buy. They (buyers) just are seeing what comes of it,” Smith said.

In recent weeks “there had been a small bounce in sentiment (in sales), depending on how you were priced and what you offered,” said Smith, but word of sales that have closed this week are being seen as the last for a while.

On the flip side, Saretsky said there are still some private showings that are happening, even though most real estate agents aren’t doing them to cut down on social interactions that could spread COVID-19.

The ones that are still happening, he said, come as real estate agents are being pressured by sellers to meet with potential buyers. He explained that as these sellers see a fast-closing window for getting out of the market they’re telling agents that if they don’t show a property, then they’ll take it to another agent.