COVID-19 could derail recovery of real-estate market in Vancouver and beyond

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      The housing market could be in for a rough ride because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

      That’s according to Brendon Ogmundson, chief economist with the B.C. Real Estate Association.

      Ogmundson stressed that it depends mainly on what’s going to happen to the economy.

      “What we know is that we’re going to get kind of like a sudden stop in economic activity for the next couple of months,” Ogmundson told the Georgia Straight in a phone interview.

      “So I think what we’re looking at for the B.C. economy is a couple of pretty, pretty lousy months for March, April, May, maybe extended to the summer.”

      But Ogmundson qualified that real estate is a “face-to-face kind of business” and it’s “hard to gauge how the impacts of people staying home may impact the housing market”.

      “So if we just get kind of a sharp kind of decline in the next couple months but things rebound in the second half of the year, I think that we’re going to end the year down but healthy,” Ogmundson said.

      However, Ogmundson said that it will be different if things get “a lot more serious”.

      “When the economy goes into recession, then we come across a situation where we’ll see sales decline for the year and then probably a bit of a decline in home prices as well,” he said.

      Based on figures so far this year supplied by the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver, the real-estate market is trending up.

      According to the REBGV, home sales in this region totaled 2,150 in February 2020, which was a 44.9 percent increase from the transactions made in February 2019.

      February sales were also 36.9 percent higher than the number of homes sold in January, when realtors with the REBGV sold 1,571 homes. That was 42.4 percent higher than January 2019.

      REBGV president Ashley Smith noted that even early numbers for the month of March this year suggest a “strong direction as well”.

      However, with the spread of the novel coronavirus, Smith noted that something else has emerged.

      “Anecdotally, over the weekend, we’re hearing kind of both sides of the story,” Smith related in a phone interview with the Straight on March 17.

      “We’re hearing about good activity in some cases, and, again, multiple offers in some cases,” Smith continued, “and then another side has some, you know, natural response to things like this, where people are cancelling showings, cancelling open houses.”

      Smith said some people have turned to private showings instead of open houses. She also talked about hearing of realtors asking people who come to home showings if they have recently been out of the country, in order to make sure that they are “healthy”.

      “So how this will all play out, I think it’s still unknown,” Smith said.

      Realtor Adam Chahl’s recent experience reflects much of what Smith related. According to Chahl, his open houses got visits from serious buyers, with the scare over COVID-19 keeping out a “lot of the lookie-loos”.

      On the other hand, Chahl noted, he has had a couple of clients who put their plans on hold.

      “I think, going forward, people are going to be more cautious about who they’re letting into their homes or if they even want to do open houses,” he told the Straight by phone.