With Ontario now in the final phase of its three-part pandemic reopening plan, developers and sales professionals in the real estate sphere are adapting to the latest round of easing pandemic restrictions.
In recent weeks, we’ve seen the return of open houses, higher indoor capacity limits and larger social gathering pools. These newly-implemented freedoms are shaping how pre-construction project sales launches are taking place these days, in addition to influential market trends and the still-prominent integration of real estate technology.
Although current COVID-19 provincial policies permit bigger meetings and public events, the desire to use technology in real estate transactions remains strong. Tony Sbrocchi, TCS Marketing Systems’ Director of Business Development, explains that the pandemic forced pre-construction sales methods to “finally catch up” to what technology can offer in terms of simplifying the process.
“In our most recent launch, we had only a handful of clients with agents physically come into the sales centre. Under 10 percent of buyers stepped foot in the office,” said Sbrocchi.
These days, the use of social media platforms like YouTube, Facebook and Instagram by agents and developers to promote projects has changed how these opportunities are delivered to the client. As many cultures use their own social networks, such as WeChat, Sbrocchi explains that agents can also make use of these platforms “to target certain [buyer] groups.” The use of launch videos by developers and marketing professionals has made it easier for agents to be present for a sales launch with all of the information available in a digital format to send to their clients.
“Acceptance by the legal community of electronic signatures for pre-construction agreements has made the process of purchasing much more convenient for all,” said Sbrocchi. “I believe this is one of the biggest changes to how our business is carried out now.”
Glen Buttigieg, the Vice President of Sales at TCS Marketing Systems, explains that the firm is keeping a close eye on how the public is responding to Ontario’s third stage of reopening. Buttigieg believes that buying and selling processes will continue to play out in the same manner that they have over the last 16 months until there is more consumer confidence with respect to the pandemic.
“Stage Three allows for those buyers who want to ‘touch, taste, smell,’ the product to do so and make a more informed decision,” he said. “We have seen a slowdown in traffic, I believe, mainly due to people wanting to enjoy the re-opening of cities that coincided with summer.”
Historically, the summertime housing market is a slower season as children are home from school and employees take vacation time. While sales volume usually dips during this period, real estate prices tend to stay put. Buttigieg notes that market activity in August typically ramps up, with September marking the start of buying and selling activity back in full swing.
Recently, Buttgieg says that he has seen a steady volume of pre-construction sales as developers move forward with project launches. According to the latest data from the Building Industry and Land Development Association (BILD), 24,060 new homes were sold in the Greater Toronto Area during the first six months of 2021, a level that’s 25 percent above the region’s 10-year average.
“Low-rise [demand] continues to lead the way, however, we are seeing the resurgence of mid- and high-rise as of late,” he said. “[The] right product in the right location continues to do well. The old adage, ‘location, location, location,’ still holds true.”
Sbrocchi says that during the height of the pandemic in 2020, several developers held back projects, only to reap the benefits of a hot market during the spring of 2021. So far this year, launches have “fared very well,” according to Sbrocchi, who is anticipating a large number of fall project launches. However, developers will be monitoring market conditions to ensure there are no concerns around saturation, both in the timing of launches and the completion of projects.
“How we come out of the summer will indicate what the fall market will bring,” said Buttgieg. “We are anticipating a number of launches. If we have no setbacks with additional waves, I believe the fall market will be very active as the GTA returns to some normalcy.”