Windsor's real estate sales remain strong despite COVID-19 crisis

Wednesday, April 8, 2020

The Windsor Star/Dave Battagello


Despite fears of the spread of COVID-19 and a government ban on staging any open houses, Windsor’s real estate market has remained relatively active and has even featured bidding wars on many properties.
“It is a little bit surprising,” said Lorraine Clark, president of the Windsor Essex County Association of Realtors.
“For a lot of people it doesn’t matter what’s happening with the economy or going on in the world, they still have to buy or sell. A lot of people sold their homes before (the pandemic), so they have to buy and move or they will be homeless.”
With a ban in place on open houses and and unwillingness of many sellers to have people trotting through their homes because of fears over COVID-19, realtors have established new protocols to help ease health concerns when a home viewing is essential, she said.
Any home viewing is taking place without sellers at home. All lights are being left on by homeowners, while doors, cupboards and closets are kept open to avoid any touching of light switches or door handles. Buyers themselves are not touching anything in a home.
Use of videos and photos of home interiors prior to any transaction has also become more critical for both buyers and sellers.
In recent years, Windsor has remained a top Canadian city for annual price increases for homes, home building and housing demand.
And despite the tumbling economy due to the COVID-19 crisis, Clark noted Tuesday that over the last 24 hours, there were 37 new listings added in the Windsor and Essex County market and 18 properties sold.

With the overall number of available listings remaining scarce, some homes are selling over asking price with bidding wars on selected properties — primarily with those in the $300,000 or below range, she said.

“It has slowed down, but you are still seeing some bidding wars,” Clark said.
Damon Winney, president-elect for the local real estate association, agreed that “people already in the pipeline” are helping to keep the local housing market moving along.
But he expects the impact of the pandemic will be felt soon enough if business shutdowns ordered by the government are prolonged.
Winney noted realtors don’t operate in isolation, but require the cohesive involvement of mortgage companies, appraisal firms, home inspectors and lawyers.
“We are co-dependent,” he said. “Business practices have made some modifications. We are using electronic versions to communicate and nothing face-to-face with people — but it can be more difficult to close a transaction.”
The association’s latest local real estate figures show there were 489 homes sold in March. While that is down nine per cent compared to the same month in 2019, it was an increase from 427 homes sold in February before there were any widespread COVID-19 concerns.
There have been 1,250 properties sold overall in the Windsor area for the first three months of 2020 — that is only 50 fewer (3.8 per cent less) compared to the same time frame in 2019.
The average home sale price so far for this year is $372,481 — a 15.6 per cent jump from one year ago when it was $322,045.
For local home buyers, Clarked noted that out-of-town investors have essentially disappeared recently — especially those from the GTA — since there is a widespread inability among people to pay rent because of the vast number of layoffs and businesses shutdowns during the COVID-19 crisis.
She said there are also not many job transfers taking place, leaving much of the current housing market to local buyers.
“That’s really positive for local people because we were getting so many Toronto buyers and people here often just can’t compete,” Clark said. “They pay cash and have a lot of it.”