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‘Good fundamentals’ help region see second-highest home sales ever in 2020

Home sales in Southern Georgian Bay totalled $219.3 million for the month of December, but it didn’t look good in April and May.

Last year started out with promise for the real estate industry, and in the end 2020 had the second highest number of home sales of any year on record.

But in the middle, things got bleak.

Mike Scholte, president of the Southern Georgian Bay Association of Realtors said those in his industry started the year with optimism. Then COVID hit.

In April, home sales in the Southern Georgian Bay region dropped by 60 per cent, after an almost continual month-over-month growth pattern. In May, sales were still declining.

“There was a lot of fear,” said Scholte. “I don’t think there was a realtor, a business owner, or anyone out there who didn’t have fear of what was going on. The biggest challenge is there’s no map.”

Real estate was deemed an essential service, and realtors, like most business owners in the province, had to pivot their operations to fit with pandemic-related restrictions.

“We had to do things completely different…how do you sell a house in a lockdown?” said Scholte, who sells real estate across the region from his Collingwood office. “The reality is people have to move.”

He made what he called “aggressive pivots” to keep his business going.

“We invested in quite a number of technologies that would allow us to interact with our clients and show them in detail what’s in the house,” he said. “I would walk through properties holding my cell phone up asking, where do you want me to show you next?”

The local real estate market made a comeback in June as sales for June 2020 were double sales from June 2019. By July, home sales were smashing records.

Scholte said customers started becoming more accustomed to digital platforms for viewing and even document signing. And by the time they arrived at the home for a “hands-in-pockets” tour they were ready to make an offer.

“I would say that tech did pay off and it’s an innovation that’s here to stay,” said Scholte. “I think the industry needed it for a long time. Our world and industry is evolving.”

He said people consider the whole region of Southern Georgian Bay a destination rather than the individual municipalities that make up the region.

“People love the fact that they have lifestyle amenities, space to go outside, a bit more breathing space,” he said.

And though that might not be new, Scholte said there is a shift in the types of homes people are looking for.

“They want space for their extended family,” he noted. And that might include space for adult children.

The pandemic has also pushed more people than ever to work from home, and ,as a result, they’re looking for homes they can work in.

“Everyone wanted open concept, now they’re looking for private space where they can take those Zoom calls,” said Scholte.

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