It’s hard, and pretty unpleasant, to pinpoint a start date to this period of COVID-19 disruption to all of our lives, but for the sake of measuring its impact on the Yellowknife real estate market, March 15th is a reasonable starting point. We are now one month past that date, which makes this a good time to assess the situation. As it turns out the market is doing pretty well, and frankly this comes as a surprise to most of us at Century 21 Prospect Realty. 2020 has actually outperformed two out of the last six years (2017 and 2015). There have been 17 total MLS transactions in Yellowknife over the last 30 days (based on Yellowknife Real Estate Board data.) The average during the same period for the five years from 2015 to 2019 was 23.8 transactions. So we’re currently at 71% of the five-year average. That’s pretty surprising. We had our weekly team Zoom meeting this morning, and based on our discussions it seems like we can expect this pace to continue for at least the next 30 days. In fact, in several price ranges, demand seems to be piling up.
For some folks this may raise eyebrows. Given everything that’s happening in the world, why hasn’t our local real estate market dropped off a cliff? I think there are several factors that have come into play. First and foremost, the NWT’s Chief Public Health Officer acted very quickly and firmly in applying regulations to help limit the spread of COVID-19. As a result, while Yellowknifers are being extremely cautious, they seem confidant that we will reach the other side of this, and therefore they haven’t felt the need to put their lives completely on hold. We in the industry are also being extremely cautious – putting in place strict rules for who can view homes and how viewings are to be conducted. The combined result is a slower but consistent pace forward in the real estate market.
Secondly, although in-person interaction is the best way to get homes sold, many brokerages including ours have developed a very solid Plan B – we can show homes “virtually”, in excellent detail, thanks to tools like our iGuide virtual tours and interactive floor plans. Our virtual tour traffic has tripled since this all started. The attached photo shows the traffic from a listing that only went live last Friday and had an accepted offer in place within three days. You’ll note that 28% of “visitors” spent more than 5 minutes exploring the virtual tour. That’s pretty incredible.
The third factor is that Realtors can be very creative and they are quick to pivot when faced with an obstacle. You may have noticed that more and more members of our team are hosting “virtual open houses.” They don’t have to physically enter the house to do this. From the comfort of their own home offices (or living rooms couches in some cases) they simply share their screens using Zoom or Facebook Live, and they take potential buyers through the house via the virtual tour, browse the photo gallery and chat about the features of the house. Prospective buyers are giving our Realtors great feedback on these tours and the tours themselves are getting better and more detailed as time goes on.
So, although these are just early days, it seems like people are proceeding with buying and selling homes, albeit cautiously. 71% of a regular real estate market is pretty darned strong under the circumstances. Nobody could have predicted all of this, but now that it is upon us, I am counting my blessings that we have a talented professional photographer, all the technological tools we need and an innovative and hard-working team of Realtors who can put it all together and collaborate to get homes sold.