Navigating Real Estate Transactions During Corona-Virus Pandemic

Latest News Kristina Crosbie 9 Apr

The real estate industry is changing its business model, like many other essential services amid the coronavirus pandemic, but that doesn’t mean those looking to buy or sell a home won’t be able to safely navigate transactions.

Broker of Record Pauline Aunger of Royal LePage Advantage (Smiths Falls/Perth) said she and her agents are taking every safety precaution they can.

“People have bought houses that are closing in the next 30, 60, 90 days who would be virtually homeless unless the transactions proceeded,” Aunger explained.

Aunger said that responsible brokerages had questionnaires weeks ago, asking potential clients if they have been out of the country, have a fever, or been tested for COVID-19.

In homes on the market, there are antiseptic wipes and disinfectant spray, and people are asked not to touch anything. Cupboards and closet doors have been left open, “so the realtor and the clients are not put at risk,” she said.

“We’re trying to do everything we can virtually, including final walk-throughs for a client.”

Aunger said she doesn’t go anywhere without precautions, and she’s constantly cleaning door handles, lock boxes, keys, and countertops with antiseptic wipes.

“We make sure keys are transferred through lockboxes … there are lots of things that have been put in place because we don’t want people homeless. We need to close (the sale) for them. We also want to make sure we are very responsible how we do it. We want to keep everyone safe.”

NEW HOMEOWNERS

For retired couple, Nina and Mark Gagnon, a move from Alliston, Ont., to the Perth area has been an adventure to say the least. They put their home on the market in January and it sold in four days. Then they had to find a home; one near their children and grandchildren in Smiths Falls

It wasn’t until Feb. 14 that the ink dried on an offer to purchase their new place — a great Valentine’s gift to each other, they said.

“Our real estate agent (Aunger) was wonderful,” Nina said in a phone interview just two days after moving into their new home.

“Pauline was fantastic. She knew of an inspector who came at the last minute. We had the inspection done and on the 14th it all gelled together, so that was really special.”

The Gagnons then went back to Alliston to pack up their old place and finish paperwork with their lawyer.

“That was when all these restrictions were starting to come into place (about the coronavirus),” Mark said. “He said to us, quite bluntly, ‘We’re not sure if you will be able to move.’”

They were concerned with the registry office being closed, and bank hours being reduced, not to mention a moving company and real estate services. It was such a relief to them, they said, that these were all deemed essential services.

“We were worried with the move,” added Nina. “We had been self isolating. I was very open with (the three movers), and asked if they’d been out of the country. They wore gloves, but one of the movers was high-risk and he had a child also high-risk. They had to persevere. These are brave people on the frontline.”

Nina said they got them all pizza for dinner. “We really appreciated them. They worked really hard until 11:30 p.m. that night.”

When they left Alliston, they made sure the house was spotless, leaving behind their last two roles of toilet paper — since it’s such a hot commodity.

When they told Aunger this, their agent ensured there were two roles of toilet paper at their new home.

“It’s just the little things but it means a lot,” Nina said, mentioning the virtual tour Aunger was able to provide of the home before it closed.

Nina said the former homeowners left them a note saying they hoped the Gagnons loved the house as much as they did. They also left fresh batteries in the smoke detector and a list of the paint colours used throughout the home.

“They really didn’t need to do that,” she said. “But it was very sweet.”

She also said their daughters visited — one split her birthday bouquet of flowers in half and placed it on their door step while practising physical distancing, the other and her grandchildren drove up to the house, waved and blew kisses.

“We got flowers from our church with a message that they hoped we arrived safely,” Nina said, as the gestures put smiles on their faces and filled their hearts with love.

The Gagnons said they have already fallen in love with the Perth area and their neighbourhood, and look forward to making new friends.

THE MARKET

Has the market been good or bad compared to last year?

“It’s too early to tell,” Aunger said. “We have buyers and sellers who were in the middle of transactions — conditions were still being worked through over the past couple of weeks and so their offers were written before the province declared (a state of emergency) — so the sales are reflective of business already written.”

As for house shopping now, there are ways to do so safely.

“We have so many virtual (options) right now,” Aunger said. “If people are looking to buy, they should consider everything. There are lots of videos, lots of photos. Take a drive through the neighbourhood. Make sure it’s a place you would want to live before you make that appointment to see it.”

For those who are on the fence about buying or selling during the coronavirus pandemic, Aunger suggests a sober second thought.

“It’s a discussion that every responsible realtor has with their clients,” she said. “Even though we will ask all the questions — Are you prepared to have people in your home? Do you have a compromised immune system? Are you elderly? Do you have small children? You want to give some thought to that because you don’t want to put yourself at risk.”

It’s not a no, per se, but on a case-by-case basis after that discussion with the agent.

“I think when this is over, it will rebound like it’s done after every downturn in the economy,” she said. “Real estate has been a constant that will bring it back.”

ONTARIO REALTORS

The Ontario Real Estate Association (OREA) urged Ontario’s realtors to stop all face-to-face business, including open houses, agent and public office hours, and in-person showings, particularity of tenant-occupied homes. In these unique situations — where a property listed for sale is occupied by tenants — the health and safety of those tenants, the realtors and their clients is of utmost priority.

Realtors have the modern tools and knowledge at their disposal to do virtual showings, video conference calls, and digital signing

Read the full article by Laurie Weir here.

Mortgage Help for Canadians – Ottawa Set to Announce $25B in COVID-19 Relief

Latest News Kristina Crosbie 19 Mar

As COVID-19 spreads across the country, many people have already lost their jobs, or have been laid off as small businesses close or limit their hours. Often the next question for those affected is, ‘How am I going to pay my mortgage or rent?’

Well, it looks like help is on the way, as the federal government is set to announce Wednesday a massive aid package worth more than $25 billion to help Canadians and small businesses get through the COVID-19 crisis, CBC News-Radio Canada has learned.

But private banks and lenders have already announced they’re taking action.

In a new release late Tuesday, TD Bank announced that the country’s six largest financial institutions will “provide financial relief to Canadians impacted by the economic consequences of COVID-19.

“Effective immediately, Bank of Montreal, CIBC, National Bank of Canada, RBC Royal Bank, Scotiabank and TD Bank have made a commitment to work with personal and small business banking customers on a case-by-case basis to provide flexible solutions to help them manage through challenges such as pay disruption due to COVID-19; childcare disruption due to school closures; or those facing illness from COVID-19,” the statement reads.

“This support will include up to a six-month payment deferral for mortgages, and the opportunity for relief on other credit products.”

Some other lenders, like RMG Mortgages, have also sent their clients emails about “Hold-a-Payment or Skip-a-Payment options.”

The federal package to be announced Wednesday could also include help for people to keep a roof over their heads. Last Friday, the government said it will help people financially to ensure they can pay their rent or mortgages.

“We are looking at ways to help Canadians directly, yes,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said.

Early the next day, CMHC tweeted that it “will support lenders in allowing deferral of mortgage payments for up to six months for those impacted [by the coronavirus].”

 
Nobody should have to worry about their mortgage because of financial impacts of COVID-19. We’re working with lenders to help, increasing our flexibilites to allow payment deferral of up to 6 months starting now

 
That help will come if your mortgage is already insured by CMHC, which usually happens if you put down less than 20 per cent of the purchase price when you bought your property.

Genworth Canada and Canada Guaranty will also be allowing mortgage payment deferrals on insured mortgages.

If your down payment was 20 per cent or more, you likely don’t have an insured mortgage. But in a statement Tuesday, the CMHC said it’s examining options to help you, too.

“We are also exploring, with others, potential relief measures for those who cannot make payments on uninsured mortgages and renters,” said Evan Siddall, president and CEO of CMHC.

What this means for renters and those with uninsured mortgages is still unclear.

In a series of tweets, Sidall said he understands that renters are often in more precarious situations and even though “we do not have direct relations with renters, income support measures (announced and forthcoming) will help renters.

“We have written our landlord clients to insist on no evictions,” said Sidall.

For homeowners, the important thing to figure out now, said mortgage broker Tom Miocevich, is what kind of mortgage you have and what the best options are for you.

For instance, “if you’re on a biweekly frequency and you’re ahead of schedule for a few months,”some banks already offer a payment-pause program that’s relatively easy, Miocevich said.

CMHC had a deferral program in place long before COVID-19, but the length of time granted was on a case-by-case basis, often shorter than six months.

Read the full article by Natalie Nanowski at CBC news here. 

Breaking News! Bank of Canada Follows U.S. with Half-Point Rate Drop

Latest News Kristina Crosbie 4 Mar

The Bank of Canada is cutting its key interest rate target by half a percentage point, dropping it to 1.25 per cent in response to the economic shock from the novel coronavirus outbreak.

The central bank says its target for the overnight rate is being trimmed because COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus, “is a material negative shock” to the country’s economic outlook.

In a written statement about the announcement, the bank said that prior to the outbreak, Canada’s economy had been operating “close to potential with inflation on target.”

“However, COVID-19 represents a significant health threat to people in a growing number of countries. In consequence, business activity in some regions has fallen sharply and supply chains have been disrupted. This has pulled down commodity prices and the Canadian dollar has depreciated.”

In January, governor Stephen Poloz opened the door to a possible interest rate cut if weakness in the economy was more persistent than expected.

“In light of all these developments, the outlook is clearly weaker now than it was in January,” the statement said.

“As the situation evolves, governing council stands ready to adjust monetary policy further if required to support economic growth and keep inflation on target.”

First key rate cut since 2015
The cut in the bank’s key rate is the first since the summer of 2015 and brings the rate to a level it hasn’t been at since early 2018.

Economists had widely forecasted the bank would cut its rate following an unexpected half-point cut by the U.S. Federal Reserve on Tuesday to its rate as an emergency economic buttress against COVID-19 concerns.

That decision came after a call among central bankers and finance ministers from G7 countries, including Canada, about how to deal with the economic shocks the outbreak might have.

“The Bank of Canada didn’t wait to see the patient ailing before delivering a dose of preventative medicine,” said CIBC economist Avery Shenfeld in a written statement, “but where it goes from here is a matter of epidemiology rather than economics.”

The Bank of Canada generally finalizes its decision on rates by late Tuesday, meaning the call for its decision came after the U.S. Federal Reserve made its move.

Financial markets had expected at least one rate cut this year, but forecasts have pegged the decision Wednesday as the first of what could be multiple reductions to the central bank’s key interest rate target.

Shenfeld said the central bank will be watching for news on both the virus and the economy, “but it’s reasonable to assume a further 25 basis point [quarter percentage point] cut in April, with the rest of this year’s story being dependent on which virus scenario plays out.”

Read the original article by CBC News here.