September Calgary home sales and prices surprise experts; open house activity drops

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WATCH: Calgary's real estate market is surprising the experts with sales and prices so far this month, increasing from last September. But as Carolyn Kury de Castillo reports, one realtor says open houses aren't as popular as they used to be – Sep 21, 2020

Calgary realtors say they are surprised by the level of activity in the city’s housing market but open houses aren’t what they used to be.

Froydis Ellingsen is venturing into the unknown. The Calgary woman has never sold a home during a global pandemic. But one thing she is certain of, is that she won’t be having an open house.

“We don’t know where they have been and what they have touched. So it’s easier and more controlled if you just have viewings,” Ellingsen said.

Read more: Calgary home sales slump to recent record lows in April amid COVID-19 pandemic

The chair of the Calgary Real Estate Board (CREB) said much has changed when is comes to open houses because of COVID-19.

Sarah Johnston said people going inside homes need to wear a mask and sanitize at open houses, and only one family or cohort is allowed at a time. The doors are all open, so there’s no need for touching.

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“Depending on the property, there is often times more comfort having open houses when the property is vacant,” Johnston said.

RE/MAX First realtor Justin Havre says he’s doing fewer open houses since the pandemic started and there’s been less traffic at them too.

“I would say roughly about 80 per cent of homeowners in home-owner occupied homes are reluctant to have open houses to just let random strangers come through their homes. We are also seeing less traffic to the open houses from potential buyers,” Havre said.

Havre said COVID-19 has resulted in more people using the 3D technology that was already being used to let people go on virtual tours.

“In a typical marketplace open houses are somewhat effective. Probably not as affective as the public seems to believe.” Havre said.

“With the  use of technology such as the 3-D scans of the interior of the homes, this actually allows us to have open houses 24/7 online and the website traffic we are seeing out there has definitely spiked since the pandemic hit,” Havre said.

Read more: House prices in Canada’s largest cities expected to drop amid ‘severe declines’ in sales, construction: CMHC

So far in September, home sales in Calgary are 21.6 per cent higher than the same time period last year and the average price is up 1.9 per cent, according to CREB figures.

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“It is very surprising to see the kind of activity we are seeing in the marketplace right now although the low interest rates are definitely helping the activity we are seeing,” Havre said.

Inner-city properties are still retaining value despite more people working from home and not going downtown as frequently anymore.

“We’ve actually seen some people decide they want to move a bit closer because a lot of these inner-city communities really have their own vibe,” Johnston said. “I think it has just surprised us all a little bit, caught us a bit off guard, just how steady it continues to be.”

A CMHC report released on Monday says there continues to be an oversupply of homes in Calgary with the number of completed and unsold units in the second quarter of 2020 approaching a historic high. The report states that is driven, in part, by weakness in the oil and energy sector.

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