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Andra HopuleleAlthough real estate is what economists call a ‘lagging indicator’, it appears that the first signs of a real slowdown are starting to be felt, especially in Canada’s largest housing markets.

After the initial response to news about the spread of Covid-19, which entailed drops in traffic on real estate platforms like Point2 Homes and significant changes in search patterns, as revealed by an analysis of Google Trends data, the ripples of the outbreak continue.

To keep an eye on changes in homebuyers’ attitude and to record the evolution of buyer sentiment, Point2 Homes started a flash survey for the visitors of the website. The first results show that prospective homebuyers are cautiously optimistic about the whole process.

There have been some changes, like a bigger reliance on real estate agents and available online tools replacing viewings, but overall people are still interested in finding the right property and buying their ideal home once they find it. Almost half of the 5081 respondents (44 per cent) said they are still keeping an eye on the market, while 57 per cent of survey takers stated they intend to buy in the next six to 12 months.

The first of the five questions was: “Are you still looking to buy a home given the Covid-19 pandemic?” Twelve per cent of survey takers stated that they are still very much interested in buying a home, once they find the right property. 17 per cent said that they are still looking, but they are not as actively searching as before.

Therefore, it is possible that these home seekers are a bit more cautious, waiting to see where the market is headed next. Forty four per cent said that they haven’t given up their searches and that they are keeping an eye on the market. So if 12 per cent are definitely very determined to buy, 61 per cent have toned down their efforts, but haven’t given up. Tweny seven per cent of respondents hit the brakes, stating that they are either stopping for the time being, or that they will start again after the outbreak is over.

The second question was: “How soon are you hoping to buy a home?” To this question, 31 per cent answered they would like to buy in the next six months, while 26 per cent of visitors would want to make the same move in the following 12 months.

This means that over half of the people who took the survey (57 per cent) feel very strongly about buying and would not want to be deterred by the current events. Twenty seven per cent of respondents, on the other hand, said that they have not decided yet, while 15 per cent see themselves buying property much further in the future, in five years or more.

The third question our survey asked Point2 Homes visitors was: “What are you most concerned about regarding homebuying in a time like this?” To this question, a surprising 35 per cent stated that they have no concerns in particular. An almost equal percentage, however, 34 per cent, said that they worry about whether or not they will be financially stable enough to afford future payments on their home.

With this outbreak threatening to disrupt the economy, it is no wonder some home seekers take the financial aspect into account. Equal shares of the survey takers (13 per cent) expressed concerns about the number of listings that will be available, fearing that many sellers might pull their homes from the market, and also about their safety during the homebuying process.

The fourth question for the visitors on the Point2 Homes platform was: “How has your homebuying process changed during these times?” Again, the majority of respondents (35 per cent) said they had noticed no changes up until the point they took the survey.

Twenty nine per cent stated that they are expecting delays and that they believe the whole process, overall, will be slowed down and will take longer to complete. At this point, only two per cent of survey takers said that they expect to ask for financial help from relatives in order to be able to meet their homebuying goals.

The fifth question was focused on the changes that the home seekers themselves are prepared to make in order to adapt to the new conditions: “What is the main change in your home selection process?” Almost half of respondents (48 per cent) said that the main change they plan to make is to focus more on the online features and tools that are available in order to avoid going out, while another six per cent stated they will rely more on the information their agent will be willing to provide. Twenty seven per cent said they don’t expect to make any changes yet, while 16 per cent said they plan to put the whole process on hold.

Andra Hopulele is a Senior Real Estate Writer at Point2 Homes. With over seven years of experience in the field and a passion for all things real estate, Andra covers the impact of housing issues on our everyday lives.

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