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Technology helping Newfoundland real estate during pandemic

Nicholas Mercer

Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

In some ways it will seem like the real estate sector has been building toward a digital marketplace for some time.

Gander-based realtor Mike Turner, co-owner and manager of the Royal LePage Turner Realty, has been giving 3-D tours of his listings for the last couple of years.

Others around the province have been doing video tours of their listings via Facebook and other means for at least a couple of years.

“Right now, 3-D tours are being pushed because it eliminates unnecessary showings,” said Turner. “I’ve been doing 3-D tours of all of our listings. Anything that is vacant because it felt safe to go in those.

“Anything listed going forward will have a 3-D tour. You can virtually tour the property, you can see if there are enough bathrooms, you can see if there are enough bedrooms. If the house isn’t going to work for you, you don’t need to go look at it.”

This digital and technological push in real estate has been coming for much of the last decade, says Bill Stirling, CEO of the Newfoundland and Labrador Association of Realtors.

“Our industry has really invested in technology over the last 10 years,” he said. “Its pretty well all online anyway. We can work from anywhere.”

While the real estate industry appears to have been ready for the societal shutdown that has come in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, it has still had an effect on business.

In central Newfoundland, there were 66 new listings in April 2020, which is down from the previous year, and overall sales are down about eight per cent for the year to date.

“It is the slowest I have seen it in 10 years,” said Turner.

For the province, at the end of last April there were 1,021 sales compared to 942 up to the same point this year, according to the Newfoundland and Labrador Assocation of Realtors’ multiple listing service numbers.

That's coming off a February that was the best the sector has seen in a decade, Stirling said.

“We haven’t seen a big dropoff yet, but we don’t count a sale until it actually closes,” he said. “So, deals that would have been written in April would be closing in May or June. So … if there is going to be an impact, we will start to see it then.”

Spring and summer is usually the time when prospective buyers start to look at homes. Under the current lockdown restrictions, those people are not getting out, but they may be able to soon.

With the province set to lower its coronavirus alert level to Level 4 on Monday, Turner says the year can be salvaged.

“If we can get back to showing houses and people not being worried about anything, I think we can have a very busy year,” he said. “June, July, August are always busy months for real estate.”

Nicholas Mercer is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter covering Central Newfoundland for Saltwire Network

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