In the News

WhitneyGarside-Taking care of business
Taking care of business: Stay-at-home culture boost for real estate

A commentary by the principal of Happy Cat Real Estate at Remax Camosun. A reboot of our continuing series on the impact of COVID-19 on local businesses. Six months after a lockdown and re-opening, business people share the experience and their views on moving forward.

Five months have passed since my first commentary about the effect that COVID-19 had on the real estate market when the pandemic hit.

Wow, how things have changed.

Along with the overwhelming sales on face masks and hand sanitizer, sales for real estate “sold” signs have also skyrocketed.

Back in March the unfamiliar territory was putting fear into everyone. Buyers were leery to buy because of worry that the market was going to “crash,” and sellers were hesitant to list because they didn’t want strangers in their homes. The market was slow.

As things started to settle, we as Realtors began to adjust. New practices were adapted, such as face masks and gloves at ­showings, limited people in homes at a time, no open houses, shorter showings and lots of sanitizing.

Fast forward to June, and the market came back with a bang.

The city re-opened and people were realizing that if staying at home is encouraged, and travel is not, then why not find a home they love and hunker down for the long haul.

Home sales were back — along with hardware and garden store sales — because people were embracing the stay-at-home culture and making their nest as enjoyable as possible.

Coming out of the slow time has been a blessing, but the challenges we face now are trying to find homes for buyers. It’s a wonderful time for sellers, but if you’re are looking to buy you better be on the pulse of the market with an agent who is ready to drop everything to show you what may well be your next home.

I have been involved in six multiple offers in the past few weeks and I also just witnessed a colleague who received 20 offers on a home that she had listed. Things are moving. Mortgage brokers are going full speed, homes inspectors are slammed and our support staff is putting in long hours to make sure all these deals happen.

With all this activity, the bottom line is this — we don’t know the future of COVID and if there is another wave, then we may have a NEW-new norm. Travel is not an option and the “stay home-stay safe” mentality is life as we know it.

Be happy that we are on the Island with our low numbers of COVID cases because things could certainly be worse.

At the end of the day, I think Dorothy said it best: “There’s no place like home.”

How is your business doing? Let our readers know with a personal commentary. Send a submission in 500 words for consideration to:

WhitneyGarside-survive and thriev again
Comment: A real estate agent reflects on making moves to survive and thrive again

A commentary by an agent with RE/MAX Camosun, known as Happy Cat Real Estate. One of a series on how local businesses are dealing with the pandemic.

It’s like it happened overnight. One day, in the middle of March, I was representing a buyer on a single-family home in Saanich. Offers from the weekend were to be reviewed Monday morning.

We put in an offer early in hopes it would discourage other potential buyers, but we knew this home was a hot commodity and competition was inevitable. The weekend open house had more than 200 attendees, and by the end of the weekend, there had been more than 50 private showings.

It felt like the crazy market of 2017 and 2018 was back. Spring had sprung and the market was hot.

By Monday morning, the listing agent had 16 offers in hand, and many prospective buyers were on pins and needles. Going in well over the asking price with an appealing offer, my buyer was the successful bidder. She was thrilled.

Three days later, the market hit pause.

I was really excited about a new listing in Gordon Head. The home was in a great location near the University of Victoria, with a huge lot and a mortgage-helper suite in the basement. This one, I thought, was sure to sell quickly with the spring flowers blooming and the market abuzz.

Then COVID-19 hit. Just like that. There was a new vocabulary for everyone to adopt. Phrases such as social distancing, self-quarantine, self-isolation and pandemic versus epidemic were being heard everywhere I turned. And what was this curve that everyone wanted to flatten?

Overnight, the world changed, and in turn, the real estate market — and my career — was turned on its head.

Soon after the outbreak began, real estate agents were classified as an “essential service” because of the many reasons that clients must sell or buy.

There are buyers who have sold their homes and must buy within a certain timeline, and there are moves triggered by divorce, separation, death, job transfer or change in income.

Thus, life as a real estate agent must go on — we need to continue supporting buyers and sellers.

We have had to put many safety measures in place. Physical distancing is the norm, with only two people allowed in a home at a time. We use gloves, masks, hand sanitizer and a signed declaration for buyers and sellers to acknowledge the risk due to COVID. We pre-qualify buyers before showings.

We have adopted new practices, with virtual showings, virtual open houses and more FaceTime walk-throughs.

For a commission-based employee, the unknown can be worrisome. Real estate agents are faced with many monthly fees that don’t stop because of an unexpected pandemic.

The costs are similar to those for a small business, and although we don’t necessarily have the expense of a bricks-and-mortar location, we still have to pay for licensing, dues, insurance, education, office fees and all the hidden costs required to run a successful business.

As a Victoria native who has worked for more than 10 years as a real estate agent, I feel confident that with people working together and following safety measures, the real estate market will survive and thrive again.

I’m even confident that the Gordon Head home will find a loving new owner soon.

In the meantime, let’s throw on some gloves and keep on moving.

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