What a year… in all ways we were tested. Could we really stay the fuck home? Our understanding of the dire situation out there and our desire to be good citizens, humans contributing to the collective good, came into direct conflict with our need to GET OUT.
And that’s exactly what people ended up doing. They made escape plans, one way or another.
2020 started with a bang in the real estate market in Burlington. We were busier than we had ever been. People wanted houses and were willing to pay for them. You just expected multiple offers on properties. And prices were increasing with every new sale. As realtors we had to stay right on top of the game or our buyers would lose.
Then… March 12. SCHOOLS ARE CLOSING. WTF. That’s when panic hit. That’s when we learned that everything is hinged on our kids being in school. If you didn’t already value the role of teachers, you were about to.
Though the world seemed to stop, real estate couldn’t. The government recognized something even I didn’t at the time, that real estate is in fact an essential service. At that time we had several clients “mid-transaction”. They had bought homes and HAD to sell. But how? How do you do that when everyone is staying home?
That next month we learned things… You really can’t just back out of deal, you will get sued… and not just for your deposit. The market can turn on a dime. Overnight we couldn’t give away a house. It wasn’t that values had fallen that much, it was that people were immobilized. We came up with creative new ways to market houses. We learned that financial experts and those of us immersed in the industry CAN GET IT WRONG.
Late March/early April 2020 property values are down about 10% and everyone is estimating another 20% loss, at least. I mean we saw that happen in 2017. Thirty percent gone, virtually overnight with the introduction of a simple foreign buyer tax. Now we are going through an unprecedented global crisis, affecting everyone existentially and financially… or so we thought.
The impact of this devastating virus disproportionately affected the least advantaged among us…. those already living in poverty, or just struggling to make ends meet (working in the service industries hardest hit like retail, restaurant and tourism). For the more privileged group of us, many reported that this period was financially beneficial. Working from home meant saving… saving money spent commuting, saving child care costs (even if the price was our sanity), saving money that would have been spent on vacations and other activities OUT IN THE WORLD WITH PEOPLE.
Now, with so much time at home, attention turned to THE HOME. How do we make this home better, larger, more functional, prettier? How can we feel like we are on vacation while staying on our own property? Suddenly contractors are booked solidly, lumber is impossible to find and there is a 2 year waiting list for a pool. Even the price of a dog is inflated.
Those who realized they could not work with the property they had, decided it was time to move. When fear of the virus subsided a bit, when the grocery store no longer felt like a walk into the Twilight Zone and masks were just another accessory to be complimented, we started getting calls. And the market went from dead to HOT overnight. It took about a month to recover from the 10% drop in value and by mid summer we were back to guessing what a home might sell for.
Many of our clients were moving within the city, upgrading. Others were selling and cashing out to retire to a cottage property. Then there were those who had finally decided it was time to break up with the Big City. Nothing will push you through your inertia like being trapped in a 700 square foot box in the sky with a toddler for months. Anyone on the fence about moving to “the suburbs” to get a house with a yard before the pandemic wasn’t feeling that way about 2 weeks into it. And suddenly the barrier of having to commute to work was removed for so many people. The way we work had changed, likely forever.
In the freehold market, all previous records were broken. Detached properties in Burlington increased an astonishing 30% by the end of the year. While that number shouldn’t have been surprising because we were actively working with Buyers and Sellers the whole time, somehow it still made me pause and express amazement with profanity. As expected, the neighbourhoods that surged the most during the year were those predominantly comprised of detached homes. Shoreacres, The Orchard and Plains all hovered around 20% increases in value by the end of October (when we calculated the neighbourhood stats). Areas with more townhomes or condos didn’t increase quite as much. The average sat around 12-15 percent.
We thought this might be a temporary fever, the virus hasn’t gone away, new restrictions have been announced but here we are, a couple weeks into 2021 and Buyers are just waiting for Sellers to get their houses listed. So if you’re contemplating a move this year, or know someone who is, it will be important to really understand this market and how to operate safely within it. If 2020 taught us anything, it’s that home is tremendously valuable, in many ways. Weunderstand that and are here for you.
We wish you all the best in 2021. Stay safe.
Erin, Julie and Kim
Ps. Real estate has been deemed an essential service. If you have questions about what that means or about how wehave adapted our business in this environment please feel free to ask.