Residential Real Estate Transactions During COVID-19: A New Experience

As certain areas of Ontario, including Toronto, go into lockdown mode, we are once again shifting how we do things to accommodate the necessary health precautions put into place by the provincial and municipal health authorities. One process that has changed considerably over the past several months is the way we buy and sell a house. In the past, these transactions involved a great deal of in-person contact, from viewing the homes, meeting with realtors and lawyers and bankers, to signing the paperwork necessary to close the transaction. However, all of these aspects of buying and selling a home have undergone significant shifts, in order to keep everyone safe.

Listing a Property & Viewing Potential Homes

When one thinks of starting the search for a new home, the process often starts by looking online and then following up with a real estate agent to make plans to view the options in person. However, the province’s newly-implemented colour-coded restriction system bans open houses in any area designated as a red zone or a zone in lockdown. Currently, Toronto and Peel are in lockdown, while several surrounding regions, including York Region, Halton Region and Hamilton, are currently classified as “red zones”. This means that at the present time, nobody within these regions can host an open house.

However, realtors are still permitted to show homes in-person to potential buyers on an appointment-only basis. If both the buyer and the seller are comfortable with the idea, then a tour can be arranged, as long as all existing health protocols (such as social distancing and face coverings) are observed. As an alternative, many real estate agents are turning to technology to enable them to provide clients with in-depth property tours remotely. Some agents are hosting live-streamed home tours, allowing them to answer questions in real-time, or making professional-quality 360-degree videos to allow buyers to view properties in detail, remotely.

A poll conducted recently on behalf of the Ontario Real Estate Association (OREA) demonstrates that homeowners and potential buyers have changed their behaviours since the start of the pandemic. According to the poll, nearly half of all potential buyers are open to purchasing a home based solely on virtual tours of the property. This may come as good news to sellers, as nearly 40% of those who had planned on selling their home changed their minds once COVID-19 hit. With the news that many buyers are open to the idea of virtual tours, this might convince some sellers to move ahead with listing their properties. According to Sean Morrison, the President of OREA:

Consumers are adapting during this extraordinary time, and their willingness to embrace new tools tells us that the Canadian dream of home ownership remains strong, even during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Finding and Meeting with a Real Estate Lawyer

While real estate closings have typically required clients to travel in person to meet with their lawyer, particularly when signatures are required on documents, this is no longer the case. The profession has adapted quickly to manage these transactions virtually over the past several months. At GLG LLP, we are able to offer clients meetings via telephone and video conference, all using user-friendly tools and technology. In addition, we can have documents signed remotely, meaning clients can avoid the need to travel downtown, pay for parking and take the health risks associated with meeting face-to-face. In addition to providing these added conveniences and safety measures for existing clients, this also enables us to serve clients in more far-reaching areas of the province. Whether you are located in the GTA or in cottage country, meeting with one of our lawyers has never been easier.

The real estate lawyers at GLG LLP in Toronto assist clients with a full range of residential real estate services, including purchases and sales, financing and even litigation if necessary. To learn more about how our team can help you with your real estate transaction, call 416-272-7557 or complete the online form to arrange a consultation.