Photo: John Schnobrich / Unsplash

The COVID-19 pandemic has been a colossal agent of change for how real estate is bought and sold, from the introduction of socially distanced closings to virtual open houses.

It’s not just processes that have changed. Homebuyer perceptions and preferences have also shifted as the pandemic reshapes how we live and work.

About 4 in 10 Ontario homebuyers are open to purchasing a home even if they could only view it virtually, according to new data released in a survey conducted by Nanos Research for the Ontario Real Estate Association (OREA). The report, which surveyed 1,073 Ontario residents that are currently active in the real estate market, examined how COVID-19 is impacting consumer perceptions.

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“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,” said Sean Morrison, president of OREA, in the report.

While 1 in 3 Ontario buyers said that they are not open to buying a property sight-unseen, younger homebuyers are the most keen when it comes to purchasing virtually. The report found that 47 percent of participants who said that they were open or somewhat open to buying a home virtually were between the ages of 18 to 34 years old.

Of the 42 percent of buyers who said that they would be open to purchasing a home they’d only seen virtually, about 8 in 10 of those individuals reported that it would be important for them to hire a realtor to help with their purchase.

Staying at home during lockdown has left some home shoppers yearning for extra space — 1 in 4 buyers have reportedly changed their preferences in a new home, with 28 percent of prospective purchasers now craving a bigger property with more space, and 25 percent of buyers looking for a home with more outdoor space.

While market conditions have been rocky, and may continue to be for some time, 6 in 10 of the Ontario buyers surveyed said that buying a home today is still a very good (19 percent) or good investment (37 percent), even during the pandemic.

“We have historically had a strong real estate market here in Ontario,” said Morrison in the report. “This new data underscores the important role real estate can play in Ontario’s economic recovery as we move towards a post COVID-19 world.”

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