Island real estate agents work to adapt to a changing market amid COVID-19

As non-essential businesses on the Island close, real estate agents are changing the way they do business as they navigate the COVID-19 pandemic.  

'It's difficult times'

Island realtors Kevin Quinn, Laurie Carruthers and Wendy Flemming weigh-in on the changing landscape of real estate on P.E.I. amid COVID-19. (Sam Juric/CBC)

As social distancing becomes a part of daily life on P.E.I., local real estate agents say they're changing the way they do business as they navigate the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Typically, Charlottetown real estate agent Kevin Quin says he has no trouble helping potential home buyers take a peek at a property they're interested in purchasing but since the emergence of COVID-19 on P.E.I., that's changed.

"Ordinarily, as soon as you get a request for a show, you'll be in your car, at the door and go to the showing," Quinn said.

"You're a little bit reluctant to do that [right now] because, of course, we want to try and keep our distance from clients and not put them at risk or put yourself at risk." 

P.E.I.'s chief public health officer Dr. Heather Morrison has laid out several health recommendations in an effort to protect the public from contracting and spreading the coronavirus, which include social distancing and self-isolation upon return from international or interprovincial travel.

'The market's pretty much shut down,' says Island realtor Laurie Carruthers. (Kelly Bennett/CBC)

Quinn said he received a request on Thursday to show one of his listed properties. The house is currently vacant, its owners do live not there.

Should he choose to show the listing, he said he'll be sure to maintain a 2-metre distance from the prospective buyer and wipe down any surfaces touched. 

If a prospective buyer becomes interested in one of his properties where the owners do currently reside in the home, he said he would push back the viewing to a later date, when health risks are minimized. 

The market's pretty much shut down.— Laurie Carruthers, Island real estate agent

Island real estate agent Laurie Carruthers said she's hesitant to do any home showings amid COIVD-19.

"I would say there's a lockbox on the door. Help yourself. I'd be too scared. Too much of a germ-a-phobe," said Laurie Carruthers who only sells new vacant homes.

The way the market looks, Carruthers said people buying need to be in a position where they have disposable income — enough to afford a second property — since sales are so low. 

People who are in a position where they have to sell their property in order to be able to purchase will find the market challenging. 

We've definitely come to a halt.— Wendy Flemming, Island real estate agent

"The market's pretty much shut down," she said. 

After having two potential sales fall through in the past week, there was good news Thursday for Carruthers, who said she sold a $500,000 listing. 

But for many other realtors, business is remains slow. 

Postponing showings, open houses

"People don't want to purchase homes if they can't go in and have a look at them," said Wendy Flemming who has been a realtor for the past 12 years.

"We've definitely come to a halt," she said. 

Flemming said she's been postponing showings and open houses for about a week.

She said the curent situation is frustrating for real estate agents and buyers alike — especially with the plummet of the current interest rate down to .78 per cent.

Despite COVID-19, photos and virtual tours of listings continue to be accessible for prospective buyers online, she said.

In addition, in an effort to adapt to the new health recommendations which limit people's ability to see listings in-person, Flemming said when people buy a property they can include a condition which stipulates that the purchase is conditional upon an in-person viewing at a later date.

"It's difficult times," she said. 

COVID-19: What you need to know

What are the symptoms of COVID-19?

Common symptoms include:

  • Fever.
  • Cough.
  • Tiredness.

But more serious symptoms can develop, including difficulty breathing and pneumonia, which can lead to death.

What should I do if I feel sick?

Isolate yourself and call your local public health authority. Do not visit an emergency room or urgent care centre to get tested.

How can I protect myself?

  • Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
  • Be aware of evolving travel advisories to different regions.

More detailed information on the outbreak is available on the federal government's website.

More COVID-19 stories from CBC P.E.I.