Some real estate agents are convinced that the online transition of home sales will fundamentally reshape the Metro Vancouver real estate sector. Others say that merging an old stalwart – live auctions – with new technology could smooth and speed more housing sales.
Realtors have progressively provided clients with online videos of homes for sale, and websites such as REW.ca have started to add property listings that have virtual tours to give buyers a better sense of what homes look like. The pandemic has accelerated demand for virtual tours as some buyers and sellers want to limit physical access to properties.
The new reality for some realtors is that they speak with clients on smartphones as they walk around homes, and show the clients the property via video on FaceTime or other apps.
But some believe that online auctions of homes provide a less cumbersome way to get buyers and sellers together.
The North Vancouver branch of New Zealand-based Harcourts has been selling B.C. homes in online auctions since 2017.
Five bidders took part on July 9 in a Harcourts auction for a Squamish home. They were able to see the most recent bid in real time and to continue bidding until the auction closed. An accepted bid is now in the process of closing.
Among the homes Harcourts has sold in online auctions are a luxury home at 4310 Rockridge Road in West Vancouver for more than $5.5 million in 2018 and homes at 14210 Malabar Avenue in White Rock for almost $1.8 million and at 2350 Ottawa Avenue in West Vancouver for more than $2.4 million, last year.
Upcoming auctions are set for July 23 and August 6, although no Metro Vancouver properties are likely to be in online auctions until later in August, Harcourts principal Greg Paddy said.
“The actual auction livestream is only a small part of the sales process, but it does allow people to participate from wherever they may be," he said.
“We’ve had inquiries for [future] auctions from as far away as Invermere, Prince George, Kelowna, and Vancouver Island. We get more calls in a week from people who are looking for another solution for selling their homes than we’ve ever had before.”
Harcourts is, however, poised to get some upstart competition.
Vancouver-based Lambert Premier Auctions has partnered with Vancouver’s Luxury Alliance Group (LAG) to create Vancouver Luxury Real Estate Auction and hold a series of online auctions for up to nine luxury Metro Vancouver properties starting in late August, Lambert CEO Alec Lambert told BIV.
Lambert has auctioned six B.C. homes since 2013, with most of those sales involving Okanagan properties at physical auction sites.
He developed an online platform last year and is partnering with LAG, he said, because LAG principal Craig Stowe has a “significant database” of high-end buyers in Metro Vancouver who may want to buy real estate.
“We’ve got it to the point where we’re confidently going to be able to do multiple homes per year, and multiple homes at one time,” Lambert said. “We have three homes for the first auction.”
Properties in the auctions are expected to be in North Vancouver, West Vancouver and the west side of Vancouver, while dates for the auctions have yet to be set.