PEI

Island realtors hopeful sales will pick up after dismal spring

P.E.I.'s real estate association says it's hopeful the market will start to rebound after a spring plagued by low sales and a shortage of listings. 

Industry group says pandemic largely to blame for near 50% drop in sales since April 1

According to P.E.I.'s real estate association, sales in April and May were down nearly 50 per cent over last year. The number of listings dropped 25 per cent. (John Robertson/CBC)

P.E.I.'s real estate association says it's hopeful the market will start to rebound after a spring plagued by low sales and a shortage of listings. 

According to the association's figures for April and May, sales across the Island were down nearly 50 per cent compared to the same period last year.  

The number of listings dropped 25 per cent, further reducing an already short supply of homes on the Island market. 

"The biggest obstacle is access to homes," said Greg Lipton, the association's president.

"People are afraid to allow people to come into their homes."

Pandemic restrictions and financial uncertainty 

At the end of March, as the pandemic was gaining steam across the country, the association ordered agents to stop doing open houses and in-person showings, forcing them to rely on photos and virtual house tours.   

Lipton said those restrictions have eased in the past few weeks, as the Chief Public Health Office has loosened its own rules around indoor gatherings. 

Greg Lipton, president of the P.E.I. Real Estate Association, says while the pandemic has made for a shaky couple of months in the industry, he's confident things will somewhat rebound this summer. (Steve Bruce/CBC)

Though the financial uncertainty facing some Islanders who've lost jobs or pay during the pandemic still remains an obstacle, he said. 

"There's people that have a lower income so far this year. So, if you're on 75 per cent income, is the bank going to look at you favourably?" said Lipton. 

Another challenge facing the real estate market — the continued restrictions on people visiting the Island. 

"There's the fact that people can't come onto the Island from away," said Lipton. "And that's a big part of who buys on P.E.I."

No house, no coming here 

Those restrictions were almost enough to foil Peter and Karen Lefantaisie's Island house buying plans. 

They were living in Ontario, and put an offer on a year-round home in North Rustico last November. 

Having never actually seen the home in person, their plan was to drive to P.E.I. this spring and to walk through the house before closing the deal. 

Peter and Karen Lefantaisie sit on the deck outside their new home in North Rustico. The couple moved from Ontario two and half weeks ago, despite having to buy the house without seeing it in person just to get here. (Steve Bruce/CBC)

Instead, they had to finalize the sale from Ontario and become Island residents ahead of time. 

Only then were they permitted to drive to P.E.I. They also had to self-isolate for two weeks when they arrived in mid-May. 

The couple said they're not surprised others planning a move to the Island are holding off. 

"We felt we really wanted the house and it was something we really wanted to come to," said Peter, adding they moved from a small town in Ontario with no cases of COVID-19. 

"But there's always the fear that you get to the border in another one of the provinces and they say 'thanks but no thanks' and you have to turn around and go back."

Prices stable, mortgage rates low 

Lipton suspects given those challenges, out-of-province buyers may be tougher to attract this summer. 

But he said there are signs sales among Islanders may pick up.

We've just got to get back on that horse and ride it again.— Greg Lipton, P.E.I. Real Estate Association

While house prices haven't lowered through the pandemic, he points out mortgage rates have dropped. 

Lipton said that may entice more people to try to get into the housing market this summer. 

He said he's also starting to see more listings pop up, with some owners looking to offload their short-term rentals ahead of a shaky summer for the tourism industry. 

Lipton said he is optimistic it will all add up to a better summer of house sales than some feared. 

"It won't be a banner year for anybody.  Everybody's going to take a loss," he said. 

"But it might not be as bad as you think. We've just got to get back on that horse and ride it again."

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