How Will Coronavirus Impact The Housing Market?

The coronavirus has already had a huge impact on how we all live our lives, leading to mass unemployment worldwide, changes to our day to day structure and permanently forcing us into our homes for the time being. In a time where there is so much focus on houses and the protection they bring, how is the housing market going to look on the other side of this crisis.

Talk of a potential collapse has circulated for years, as we get further and further away from the 2008 financial crisis. Now that we’re looking down the barrel of unprecedented change without an end date in sight, what has been the early impact on the housing market and what can be expected?

A change in price

While we’re still in the early stages of both a national and worldwide fightback against the virus, it has been long enough for significant financial changes to take place. Like many industries, the housing market saw closures, unemployment and furloughing in the early days of the crisis. Like the majority of the world, Surrey ground to a halt when more extreme lockdown measures were implemented to contain the virus.

Many couples and individuals who were lining up to sell their house in the not too distant future will be asking when they can expect to get an appropriate return on their investment. While the year started somewhat strongly, with the Vancouver housing market considered to be stable and strong despite some soft lowering in house price, the immediate coronavirus fallout has put everything into limbo, leading experts to fear the worst.

Fortunately for potential sellers in the Vancouver area looking to offload their home within the next couple of years if not months, it is estimated that the coronavirus crisis will not lead to a significant drop in house prices, with some experts estimating appreciable gains within the next couple of years. This is a positive sign for real estate, as it seems rather than leading to a complete collapse as some may have thought, it will simply set the market back by a year with a small estimated decrease.

While the financial implications of this crisis will lead to some buyers being unable to participate in the market and some sellers holding off for a couple of years, there are still millions of people nationwide looking to buy a new home and sell their current one in the immediate future, crisis or not. Thankfully, Surrey is considered to be a “safe bet” when it comes to the housing market, with prices remaining stable in the area despite fluctuation in neighbouring towns and cities.

Sales will collapse

Unfortunately, while house prices may be able to find some level of stability in the aftermath of the crisis, the same cannot be said for the number of sales.

Coronavirus’ greatest impact has been on our way of life, removing all sense of human interaction. Between viewings, contract signings and the moving process, buying a selling a house is all about human interaction, and simply not feasible under lockdown measures or while the threat still looms. This lead to an immediate fall in the number of sales between February and March of this year.

Unlike the travel industry where lost finances from 2020 are expected to be somewhat recouped through delaying holidays and travel to 2021, house purchases are not being delayed in the same manner. This presents the industry with a huge hole in the yearly revenue total with no obvious sign of when it is going to be filled.

Deals are in limbo

While future deals are being cancelled, ones that were in process as the virus started to make an impact are now in limbo. This presents a challenge for the market to protect these assets and the challenge of how finances surrounding present deals will be affected by coronavirus changes.

There will be many people who had sold their current house and were in the process of buying another when the lockdown was announced and businesses closed, and vice versa. Many buyers aren’t able to get into their new homes. Potential sellers are unable to hold viewings on their homes, delaying the process by many months.

This has created similar issues in the rental market. Not only have there been talks of and developments concerning freezing rent payments during the crisis as low paid or unpaid tenants deal with the fallout of rising unemployment, but there is the issue of people whose contracts have run out during the crisis and have been unable to secure new housing due to cancelled viewings.

This had lead to an increase in online services as estate agents who were in the position to move to an entirely remote setup thrive in a less crowded market. Companies throughout the process of purchasing a house have moved into this model such as online mortgage broker Breezeful. Likewise, many estate agents have been offering virtual viewings of a 3D mapped and controllable walkthrough of a property, thanks to scanning and display software from Matterport.

While no substitute to being inside a property, there were signs of the industry heading this way before the full impact of the virus became apparent, but its impact could increase their popularity and potentially the speed and processes of selling and buying a house, which could be essential to market recovery as we leave quarantine.

With some of the biggest banks in Canada offering homeowners the chance to defer mortgage payments for up to six months, there is already evidence of a significant response to the coronavirus’ impact on the housing market. While not forecast to be the disaster it has been to industries such as retail and the arts, we are yet to fully understand what it could mean for the finances and practices of the sector.

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