What a lovely little Sunday, I had!
With only one client to show around, I had planned to take a half-day. But no appointments were permitted on this cute bungalow on Midland Avenue on Sunday, so now here I was, without any work to do!
The morning was a little chilly but that didn’t stop us from getting out and moving about.
Rosetta McLean park was beautiful on Sunday afternoon. My wife, myself, my 4-year-old daughter, Maya, and my 14-month-old son, Duke, ventured out and walked around, with the kids exploring like they’d never seen anything like it before. Oh, wait, Duke actually has never seen anything like this before, since he was born one month before the pandemic started last year, and he would have been only a few months old last summer and not able to walk around at his leisure.
I heard the parks were closed, right?
And then suddenly, they were open?
I don’t know. But I’m also not sure that I care.
Many of you are cringing as you read this.
“What’s he going to say?” you’re wondering. “What side is he going to take?”
This is what society has devolved into over the last few days as people try to make sense of new pandemic restrictions, as well as make sense of the do-overs and walk-backs that the government has issued in the past two days.
I’m not really on a “side” per se, although I’m shocked at the number of people who are.
Make the mistake of going onto social media and you’ll see, first-hand. I’m bewildered by the number of real estate agents – those who are public figures, who make their living with their personalities and personas, who are putting outrageous comments into print for all to read. That goes for both sides of the pandemic “debate.”
I would like to attempt to leave politics out of this today, but that’s tough. I think all three levels of government have done a poor job with this pandemic, and although it’s the federal government’s job to get the vaccine and the provincial government’s job to distribute it, it seems the province has been taking the most heat.
History will show how the provincial government has made a mess of this, but I only hope that the federal government won’t remain unscathed as they generally have thus far.
When Doug Ford talked about giving the police powers to pull people over to ask where they were going, I think we all felt this was going past a point that is acceptable to the public.
I have been exceptionally careful since all this began in March of 2020 and I have taken very few if any risks. I’m in favour of the government attempting to mitigate transmission of COVID-19, and I’m in favour of almost all of the precautions we’ve taken, collectively, as a society, thus far.
But we’re at the point now where it’s clear that nobody knows anything. Not what’s happening today, not what will happen tomorrow, and sure as hell not what to do about it.
So, when in doubt just head to the park and enjoy a Tim Horton’s coffee…
Since the pandemic began, we’ve gone through a constantly evolving set of rules, regulations, acceptable practices, and parts of the economy opening and closing. These have evolved, changed, gone back and then forth again, and been turned upside down and backward as individuals themselves choose what to think or believe.
In the real estate market, we began the onset of the pandemic by basically freezing and not knowing what to do. Listing and buying activity were both down 80%, with many agents just packing it in for the time being, and many Toronto brokerages actually locking their doors.
Within a couple of months, we were back up and running at “full speed,” and as history has shown, the market ended up taking off like a rocket, pandemic or not.
I also believe that history will ultimately show that the pandemic was a cause of the appreciation in the market, whereas most people would have thought the opposite when this was thrust upon us back in late-March of 2020.
I sure thought the opposite!
How could we not?
But the pandemic caused people to look at their lives and take stock of everything in it. I have identified over the past year that my family is more important to me than I ever understood. “When this is all over,” as we continue to tell one-another, I am going to ensure my mother and my father are a greater part of my children’s lives, and I’m going to try to take more time off to spend with them, and my family.
Every single one of us has had those thoughts, both about what we’ll do “when this is over,” but also about the things we value and can change now.
How many people took up some form of exercise during the pandemic or changed their diet in search of better health and fitness?
Who among us developed a love of cooking, or reading, or another pastime that was completely foreign, pre-pandemic?
I bought my house in the summer of 2018, and I did so knowing that this was a “forever home,” so when it came to taking stock of our surroundings during the pandemic, I didn’t feel the need to make any changes there.
But a lot of people did exactly that over the last fourteen months, and they continue to do so. I’ve experienced just about every “type” of move you can imagine. I’ve had clients sell their houses and move out of the city, feeling that the outdoors is more important than ever, and trading their 3-bedroom semi-detached houses for acreage up north. I’ve had claustrophobic condo-dwellers feel the need to get into a detached house with a backyard. I’ve had clients quit their jobs, start a home-based business, and move to the “boonies.”
Keep in mind, all of this happened during a pandemic.
We started 2021 with record sales in each of January, February, and March, which is to say that each month set a new record for Toronto-wide sales in that individual month.
So can this continue now that we have a new “stay-at-home order?”
That’s the question that was on everybody’s mind in the past week and it’s dominated talk in real estate circles.
In short, the prevailing answer seems to be “yes,” but some cynics among you might argue that this will be our answer no matter what.
I have two listings with offer dates on Monday, both of which I expect to be busy. Both were listed last week before the stay-at-home order, but both continued to get significant interest through the weekend.
I am bringing two more listings to market this week and I’ve had conversations with both sellers about expectations moving forward.
There’s no real way of knowing what’s going to happen with respect to showings but we all seem to be highly optimistic about the market.
Not a single one of my buyers has changed their criteria or put a hold on their search. In fact, most seem to be more aggressive now than ever before.
There’s going to be a sentiment out there that “things will slow down” but I think those sentiments are borne of desire.
Buyers want the market to slow down. They want to see fewer buyers out there competing against them and they hope that the stay-at-home order keeps buyers away.
Sellers want to see fewer sellers out there too. They’re hoping that a good number of sellers think, “This isn’t the right time,” and delay listing, so that there’s less competition.
And of course, many interested market onlookers would love to see buyers staying at home, interest levels waning, and sales declining.
But is this actually going to happen?
I honestly don’t think it will.
Part of my reasoning comes back to the effectiveness of the stay-at-home order in the first place. I’m not, in any way, suggesting that people ignore this, but rather I am observing that people are ignoring this, and have been for some time.
I’m not going to any house parties any time soon. But I am going to run on Sunday night. Is that allowed? If it weren’t, would I care?
We’re all going to do as we see fit, and for some of us, that means assessing the rules that are in place and deciding whether we believe in them or not. I’m sorry to point out the obvious, and this is a classic don’t-shoot-the-messenger case. I’m merely pointing out what’s going on in society.
There are those that will think now is not the time to be buying or selling a house or condo.
And then there are those that disagree.
I could not believe the battle that was raging on our office Facebook group this afternoon.
Agents versus agents.
One agent saying she would love to see any data that suggests touring houses, responsibly, in masks and gloves, with one other person, is leading to a surge in COVID cases.
Another agent was going on about India having 300,000 cases per day, and Brazil having 4,500 deaths per day, and that all Realtors have a duty to discourage sellers from listing and buyers from booking showings, so everybody can remain indoors.
It went on, and on, and on.
Then another guy starts with the graphs and charts, pointing out that cases declined in January during the previous lockdown.
And another girl talks about how lives around the country are being ruined by shutdowns, and how COVID is killing fewer people than the measures taken to stop the spread.
This should come as nothing new to any of you. Whether in person (from a distance…) or online, there are opinions raging everywhere.
I’m not going to wade into that today, except to say that I’ll continue to take precautions as directed, and as it pertains to real estate, I’m ready for anything.
I expect the market to continue to be busy, and even if we saw a modest decline in buyer activity, I don’t expect it would make a material difference.
Case in point: do I really need 19 offers on a condo listing?
No, I don’t.
And yes, I will admit that this is not healthy for the real estate market, but that’s a topic we’ve already explored.
But if three of those buyers left the market, truly choosing to “stay at home,” we still would have had 16 offers, and we still would have sold for the same price.
A few buyers leaving the market wouldn’t have an impact.
But what if fewer sellers decided to list? That’s certainly the last thing the overheated market would need.
There are those out there who believe that the stay-at-home order will actually promote more showings than less. Schools are closed, people are working from home, and there’s nothing open, and nothing to do. But, oh, wait – you can go look at real estate.
And then there are those, myself included, that simply look back at the last “lockdown” in January as an indication of what impact, if any, these new restrictions will have. Recall that January was a record-setting month for the real estate market, and the lockdown didn’t keep any buyers or sellers on the sidelines.
I dunno, folks. I just don’t see any impact ahead.
I realize that this is a touchy subject. I don’t want people to think that I’m promoting the idea that real estate enthusiasts should get out there and try to transact during a stay-at-home order, but rather, I’m acknowledging that it’s already happening.
Regardless, a good listing agent can feel his or her way through any market, and adapt on the fly.
Case in point: I had a listing recently that I thought was going to be a gong-show. It was the nicest place I’ve had in quite some time, staged and showed to perfection, and I told the sellers we would have 50 showings inside of one week. On the first day of the listing, we had two showings booked. I told the seller not to worry, and that I would let him know when to be concerned. After we only had two showings booked on the second day of the showing, I called him and said, “Okay, now we can be concerned.”
Our goal went from holding firm on the offer date and trying to get fifty showings that week, all of a sudden, to trying to work with a bully offer.
We had one lead, and we played it off as though we weren’t interested in working with the bully offer. Nobody knows whether we’ve had four showings or forty showings, so it’s all in how you play it.
In the end, we sold for the price we had hoped for, via an offer night, but through a bully offer after a limited number of viewings.
You can always adapt on the fly.
No matter what happens in this market over the next day, week, month, or season, all the real estate market participants have to be paying very, very close attention to which way the wind is blowing. It can change in an instant, and yet many buyers and sellers are too slow to change with it.
When you go from a cool market to one that’s heating up, it means opportunity, and I think a lot of people experienced that in the condo market in early 2021 when they caught some condo sellers off-guard.
Whether it’s pricing strategy, listing strategy, offer strategy, or something in between, any change in market activity is going to change strategies that both buyers and sellers are going to take.
While I don’t expect much, if anything, to change in the next couple of weeks, I’ll most certainly be on the lookout.
Whether the market is up, down, or sideways, there’s always an opportunity to catch other market participants being slower to adapt.
So here’s hoping that everybody out there is still staying safe, responsible, and above all, reasonable.