New Brunswick

Ontario family makes virtual home purchase in NB in midst of pandemic

In the midst of a global pandemic, an Ontario couple and their newborn daughter packed up their life and moved to New Brunswick without any family ties to the province, and without being able to tour their new home in person. 

Real estate agent said it's a trend during the pandemic

Andrew and Ashley Newell with their 8 month old baby, Nancy, moved to Fredericton on Oct. 1 from Ontario. (Submitted/Andrew Newell )

In the midst of a global pandemic, an Ontario couple packed up their life and moved with their newborn daughter to New Brunswick, without any family ties to the province and without first being able to tour their new home in person. 

Andrew Newell and his wife, Ashley, arrived in Fredericton on Oct. 1 — closing day for their new home they purchased while living in Peterborough. 

Because of the COVID restrictions, the family wasn't able to visit and view the house until all the paperwork was processed, and the family's move was official. 

"It was a good experience overall when we got here, and there wasn't any surprises," said Andrew.  

Real estate agent Bradley MacDonald said giving virtual walk-throughs for clients outside of the Atlantic bubble is becoming more common during the pandemic. (Gary Moore/CBC)

The Newell family made the purchase from their home province while their real estate agent, Bradley MacDonald, showed them properties through various social media apps on his phone.

MacDonald walked through each listing that caught the eye of the Newells — virtually. 

Newell said the process worked well and he relied on MacDonald for details the camera couldn't pick up.

"I have to remember to ask, 'Does it smell strange in there?' or something like that, right," Newell said. 

The husband and wife had visited New Brunswick in the past and were shocked with the price of houses compared to Ontario. 

And for a growing family, that was enough to pull them to the East Coast.

Ontario family buys a home in New Brunswick without seeing it in person. 1:50

"I think the average price in Peterborough when we left was somewhere around $550,000, and you're lucky if you can get two bedrooms for that price," Newell said. 

The pandemic's new way of working and living made the move possible. Newell works in information technology. While most of his work was done from home before the pandemic, everything shifted online in recent months. 

As for the move: the transaction was executed entirely digitally — right down to the dotting of the i's and crossing of the t's.

The Newells' story of moving from a larger centre in Canada to the East Coast during the pandemic is becoming a trend, said MacDonald, who works for the Syroid Group of Gardiner Realty Royal LePage.

Bradley MacDonald helped the Newell family virtually tour listings the family was interested in while they were still in Ontario. (Gary Moore/CBC)

"A lot of families are discovering that they don't need to work in an office in a big city," the real estate agent said, adding that the affordability and lifestyle of Atlantic Canada are part of the appeal.

To accommodate the demand from families looking to move from outside the Atlantic bubble, MacDonald said the way he shows houses has changed. 

"It's been a lot of WhatsApp video calls," he said, which is how he showed the Newells the listings they were interested in touring. 

"I like to do a video call with them in person, so I can point out things that I see in a house," he said.

Although the Newells are some of New Brunswick's newest residents, the family has yet to explore their new neighbourhood because they are still self-isolating. 

Once the isolation period ends, they're eager to explore their city beyond Google street view.

About the Author

Gary Moore

CBC News

Gary Moore is a video journalist based in Fredericton.

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