That’s the sound you hear in the Tri-City real estate market as panicked buyers and sellers sit on the sidelines. Statistics compiled by the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver suggest the market downturn in Lower Mainland home sales is the biggest since 1982 and Coquitlam, Port Coquitlam, and Port Moody are not immune, with huge drops in both sales and listings.
But local realtors working behind the scenes said that while it’s not business as usual, they are still fielding inquiries and taking in clients despite the dramatically altered climate.
“People are feeling enough stress right now, [they’re saying] let’s wait a few months. But if it’s something they’re interested in, there are buyers out there,” said Gayle Kossaber, owner and managing broker with RE/MAX All Points Realty Group with branches in New Westminster, Coquitlam and Port Moody.
According to the REBGV, sales dropped by 50% or more since March for single-family, townhouse and condos in the Tri-Cities, with listings taking a similar hit.
In Coquitlam, for example, 73 detached homes sold in March, but only 34 sold in April, similarly for townhouses, there were 48 properties sold in March, and only 17 last month, while 79apartments were sold in March compared to 42 in April.
Still, there may be a bright spot in the COVID-19 pandemic downturn.
One-bedroom apartments are a big seller, if priced right, for people wanting to start out on their own perhaps, or investors looking for a good deal.
In Coquitlam, last month, the median apartment price of $510,00 in March rose to $520,000 in April as buyers flocked to moderately affordable housing options.
It’s no buying frenzy, but a slight bump in condo prices is not surprising, according to Kossaber.
People are still interested in purchasing one bedroom homes in particular, and she’s had situations with multiple offers.
Still, it’s not business as usual and real estate agents had to change business practices quickly, according to Melodie Kinsey, managing broker at All Points, who is Kossaber’s partner.
She said realtors are still taking in clients but virtually; in-person open houses are banned; transactions are done online; office staff wear masks provided by the firm if they need to come in and if a home visit is required for a virtual showing, full personal protective equipments is donned, including masks, gloves and booties.
“Buyers and the buyers’ realtor quite often will meet at a home for a final showing, for them to actually walk the properly, they will do it socially distanced. They arrive in separate cars and they are asked not to touch anything,” Kinsey said.
While stories abound of people buying homes sight unseen, the partners said they haven’t witnessed that phenomenon in the Tri-Cities and at the very least a home inspector should be scrutinizing the property.
For them, the biggest caution is for people who might sell without a property in place they want to buy, and those whose finances are shaky because of the current job market.
Realtors have to ask tough questions, Kinsey said, to make sure buyers are in good standing.
“We don’t want them entering a contract and can’t complete or be in dire straights down the road.”
Meanwhile, the two hope there will be light at the end of the tunnel as B.C. appears to have avoided the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic so far, but it’s too soon to predict the future.
“Every sector is facing the unknown,” Kossaber said.
For the full REBGV April report, visit here:
According to media reports, March sales were also down from February, putting 2020 on a downward course for real estate in the Lower Mainland.