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Victoria realtor reports from the frontline

Re/Max broker Whtney Garside explains how agents are dealing with pandemic restrictions
| Darren Stone

It’s like it happened overnight. One day, in the middle of March, I was representing a buyer on a single-family home in Saanich. Offers from the weekend were to be reviewed Monday morning.

We put in an offer early in hopes it would discourage other potential buyers, but we knew this home was a hot commodity and competition was inevitable. The weekend open house had more than 200 attendees, and by the end of the weekend, there had been more than 50 private showings.

It felt like the crazy market of 2017 and 2018 was back. Spring had sprung and the market was hot.

By Monday morning, the listing agent had 16 offers in hand, and many prospective buyers were on pins and needles. Going in well over the asking price with an appealing offer, my buyer was the successful bidder. She was thrilled.

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Three days later, the market hit pause.

I was really excited about a new listing in Gordon Head. The home was in a great location near the University of Victoria, with a huge lot and a mortgage-helper suite in the basement. This one, I thought, was sure to sell quickly with the spring flowers blooming and the market abuzz.

Then COVID-19 hit. Just like that. There was a new vocabulary for everyone to adopt. Phrases such as social distancing, self-quarantine, self-isolation and pandemic versus epidemic were being heard everywhere I turned. And what was this curve that everyone wanted to flatten?

Overnight, the world changed, and in turn, the real estate market — and my career — was turned on its head.

Soon after the outbreak began, real estate agents were classified as an “essential service” because of the many reasons that clients must sell or buy.

There are buyers who have sold their homes and must buy within a certain timeline, and there are moves triggered by divorce, separation, death, job transfer or change in income.

Thus, life as a real estate agent must go on — we need to continue supporting buyers and sellers.

We have had to put many safety measures in place. Physical distancing is the norm, with only two people allowed in a home at a time. We use gloves, masks, hand sanitizer and a signed declaration for buyers and sellers to acknowledge the risk due to COVID. We pre-qualify buyers before showings.

We have adopted new practices, with virtual showings, virtual open houses and more FaceTime walk-throughs.

For a commission-based employee, the unknown can be worrisome. Real estate agents are faced with many monthly fees that don’t stop because of an unexpected pandemic.

The costs are similar to those for a small business, and although we don’t necessarily have the expense of a bricks-and-mortar location, we still have to pay for licensing, dues, insurance, education, office fees and all the hidden costs required to run a successful business.

As a Victoria native who has worked for more than 10 years as a real estate agent, I feel confident that with people working together and following safety measures, the real estate market will survive and thrive again.

In the meantime, let’s throw on some gloves and keep on moving.