Now that Ontario is gradually relaxing its COVID-19 restrictions, does this mean we will go back to how we used to buy or sell a home?

The pandemic has changed the way many businesses deliver their services, and real estate is no different. Where face-to-face interactions and multiple in-person open houses were once the norm, real estate professionals have now been challenged to serve their clients in ways that follow new safety guidelines.

As the saying goes, necessity is the mother of invention, and the real estate industry’s response to the pandemic challenges is one that will endure even once all restrictions are lifted. In fact, the process of buying or selling a home remotely has spawned products and practices that should make the experience more efficient and provide a better customer experience — such as optimizing the use of virtual tours.

Given what we have learned thus far, what can sellers and buyers expect in future real estate transactions?

Quality photographs and videos to support virtual tours have given the profession better tools to showcase homes for buyers, allowing them to narrow the properties they want to see in person. Sellers should expect that their real estate professional will want to take more photos and video clips that can be wrapped into a virtual tour to highlight more features of the property.

Well-produced virtual tours are a great marketing tool because they give potential buyers a sense of the character of the property. When you are looking for a real estate professional to help you sell your home, consider whether or not they provide virtual tours and photos as part of their service and, if so, make sure you are satisfied with the quality of the tours included in previous listings.

The process of buying a home has changed, too.

The pandemic compelled all home shoppers to spend time online to view real estate listings, and to assess important information and insights about properties’ features. Even with the return of in-person viewing, I believe this practice will continue.

The fact is, you can view many more properties online in one day than you can visit in person, and this can help you narrow your search before you visit a property. I would encourage buyers to carefully review the details of listings before deciding which properties are worth a look in person.

The documentation of real estate transactions has also become more efficient.

Prior to the pandemic, many legal procedures — such as the signing and notarizing of documents — were mostly done in person. Electronic signatures, which have been permitted in real estate transactions since 2015, are now the norm and are a valuable and safe option during the pandemic. Funds can also be transferred electronically instead of by cheque.

I expect these digital practices will continue to become more popular in real estate closings because they are faster and easier for all parties involved.

So, while the pandemic created some obstacles to buying and selling a home, the real estate industry has been nimble in responding with products and services that enhance the customer experience, even as restrictions ease.


This column is for general information purposes only and is not meant as legal or professional advice on real estate transactions.

Joseph Richer is Registrar of the Real Estate Council of Ontario (RECO). He is in charge of the administration and enforcement of all rules that govern real estate professionals in Ontario. You can find more tips at reco.on.ca, follow on Twitter @RECOhelps or on YouTube at http://www.youtube.com/RECOhelps.

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