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Coronavirus: Real estate agents say pandemic playing role in red-hot Okanagan market

Click to play video 'Real estate experts in the Okanagan believe COVID-19 is pushing home sales up as people re-examine the kinds of homes they want to live in' Real estate experts in the Okanagan believe COVID-19 is pushing home sales up as people re-examine the kinds of homes they want to live in
It is the kind of increase in home sales not seen in decades. The Okanagan real estate market is red hot despite a pandemic. As Klaudia Van Emmerik reports, while Covid-19 is hurting many sectors of the economy, it seems to be a catalyst for home buying – Nov 4, 2020

The real estate market is sizzling hot in B.C.’s Southern Interior, according to the Okanagan Mainline Real Estate Board.

“It’s taken us all by surprise on what’s happening in the real estate market,” said Kim Heizmann, Okanagan Mainline Real Estate Board (OMREB) president.

Homes sales have risen dramatically from this time last year in the three zones that OMREB covers — the Central and North Okanagan and Shuswap-Revelstoke.

According to OMREB, residential sales are up by about 70 per cent.

Read more: How the pandemic has turned downtown Toronto condos into ‘challenging’ investments

While low-interest rates are driving up sales, industry experts believe the pandemic is also playing a big role.

“We believe COVID has had a huge impact on people re-evaluating their lives and looking at their homes in a more holistic way because our homes have become our offices, our playgrounds, our gyms, our sanctuaries,” Heizmann said.

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“We think that is a big push into the real estate market.”

Coldwell Banker Horizon Realty realtor Ellen Churchill agreed, saying the pandemic is having an impact on the market.

“For some people, it’s a wake-up call and so they’re saying we’re going to move now, we’re not going to wait any longer. Life is too short,” Churchill said.

Click to play video 'Real estate is one of the few sectors showing strong growth in Canadian economy' Real estate is one of the few sectors showing strong growth in Canadian economy
Real estate is one of the few sectors showing strong growth in Canadian economy – Oct 4, 2020

Churchill added that COVID-19 is, for some people, fast-tracking their long term plans, including for those who live outside the region and were planning on eventually moving to the Okanagan.

“I think COVID has expedited some goals and dreams for some people, “Churchill said. “They were wanting to move in three to five years, now they say ‘Let’s do it right away.'”

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Churchill added that working from home has also been a catalyst in home buying.

“I think people are realizing ‘I’m working from home, I don’t need to live in Edmonton. I can live anywhere I want. Let’s move to Kelowna,'” she said.

Read more: More home buyers purchasing homes with ‘no conditions’, according to Kingston real estate agents

According to OMREB, home prices have jumped by roughly nine per cent from this time last year.

In the Central Okanagan, the benchmark price for a typical single-family home is now $728,300.

OMREB blamed the increase in price on supply and demand.

‘The low inventory,” said Heizmann. “The fact that we don’t have a lot on the market is causing a little bit of pressure in regards to prices rising.”