Most of us are currently confined to our biggest asset, our home. We have likely never spent as much time in our homes as we have since the arrival of COVID-19 in March. This pandemic has us thinking about a lot of things much more deeply than we might have before. Now more than ever, how we think about where we and our families live is front and centre.
This pandemic has shifted how we perceive and approach real estate and what we want for the future. The market has become fluid and rolls in different directions from day to day. While statistics can reassure or scare us, there is one thing we know to be true – Ottawa is and has always been a stable market. Being a capital city, we have sound employment and people who come and go regularly.
CAUGHT IN THE MIDDLE
We have been in a seller’s market since 2017. Until mid-March, we were heading for more record-low inventory and a busy spring. Since selling was so easy and buying so difficult, many people got caught mid-process. Some bought quickly as something good came along, thinking they would sell in spring. Others sold while inventory was essentially non-existent so they would know their true buying budget for the highly anticipated spring market. Then COVID-19 came along and these people were suddenly stuck with the prospect of having two homes or none at all!
FEELING A HOUSE
Thankfully, some semblance of a real estate market is continuing. What has changed since March and continues to evolve is the way we buy and sell real estate. Unlike other investments, real estate is emotional. It is what makes negotiation for a home unique. A home is totally subjective. It reflects who we are. So it’s understandable that in order to decide on a home, the buyer needs to feel it, not just see it. Feeling a house is not so easy when there are restrictions on personal interaction. It has been amazing, incredible and mind-boggling to see just how much adaptation has happened in such a short time. With respect for social distancing and keeping ourselves and others safe from COVID-19, we have quickly become proficient at all things virtual. Rather than getting as many people as possible into homes, for example, high quality virtual tours are replacing viewings, and open houses are attended from your living room sofa. When showings do take place, they are done with strict protocols in place. This has been a huge relief for those for those whose sales or purchases are now essential.
THE HOME AS INVESTMENT
This pandemic has had other effects, too. The Glebe is one of Ottawa’s most desirable neighbourhoods, and this is reassuring to current and future residents in terms of investment. There is a sense that investment here is lower risk and less volatile than in many other areas. The same cannot be said for the stock market, which makes a real estate investment top of mind for many. Bricks and mortar may offer something more tangible than other investments. For those of us who live and breathe real estate, this is instinctive. But for many, this pandemic may be a wake-up call to diversify.
FEELING YOUR SPACE
On the more personal side, all this time spent together in our space is helping some people to see more clearly what they might like to change. Experts tell us that during stressful times, everything is felt more intensely; how you feel about your space is no exception. People sharing their space with children or housing relatives may be wishing for more room! Many will emerge from this with a clearer vision of what they need their homes to have and may decide a move or renovation is in order.
It has been encouraging to see the real estate community as a whole step up and respect the need to social distance while helping those buyers and sellers stuck in a bad situation. Doing paperwork electronically has been around for a while but is now more than ever the norm. Meeting buyers and sellers via video chat has replaced in-person meetings, and it works! In fact, some of these strides and accommodations are transforming the way we will be conducting business when we emerge from all of this. And we will.
Diane Allingham is a broker and team leader with Jennifer Stewart of the Diane & Jen Team at Engel & Völkers Ottawa Central. Both have been Glebe residents and have been selling real estate since 2004.