Your COVID-19 real estate questions answered

Your COVID-19 real estate questions answered

The return to lockdown has left many of us with questions. This FAQ has info on how COVID-19 may impact your search, rental, sale or renovation. We will keep adding answers as we learn them, so check back often.

General FAQ Banner

Yes. Real estate is an essential service, so companies like ours are still operating. However, right now isn't necessarily the easiest time to buy. During COVID, there are a lot of extra precautions you'll need to take when viewing properties.

Yes, but our strict COVID guidelines require that you do as much as you can online first. Open houses are currently prohibited, and while in-person showings are permitted by appointment, they will be limited to urgent situations. Take a close look through photos, virtual tours and whatever else has been provided, and if the place looks like a winner, book a showing and follow COVID guidelines while you're there.

What guidelines are in place to keep your clients safe during the outbreak?

Our agents continue to do in-person showings by appointment, following all health and safety best practices. They have all been fully briefed on all necessary health measures for in-person visits. Beyond that, they will complete your entire transaction electronically, including paperwork, mortgage and legal transactions.

All agents who book showings on our listings must confirm that they and their clients have agreed to the following terms:

  • They aren’t showing any symptoms of COVID-19.

  • They haven’t come into contact with anyone experiencing COVID symptoms, who have tested positive in a COVID test or who are waiting for the results of a test.

  • They haven’t travelled outside Canada in the last 14 days or been in contact with anyone who has.

  • They have viewed the property online first before an in-person visit.

  • They limit attendees to 2 people (not including the agent).

  • They will respect physical distancing guidelines of 2m / 6 ft.

  • They will not use washroom facilities, touch any surfaces including light switches and interior doorknobs.

  • They will wash and sanitize their hands prior to entering the home and wear masks throughout the visit.

  • They will space out showings and limit the number of people at each showing to one family group at a time, limited to the contract parties.

Yes they are - and they’re doing it in record numbers. Housing is considered essential, and the government has therefore not prohibited real estate transactions. However, COVID has changed the focus to detached houses, semis and townhomes and driven up demand for freehold properties in the 905 and beyond. The demand for condos has softened significantly, especially for smaller units.

Read more: Your definitive guide to today’s housing market

It’s a very good time to sell a house – and to buy a condo. If you’re selling a detached or semi-detached house or townhouse in the 416 or the 905, this is the time to do it. Demand is crazy, bidding wars and bully offers are the norm, and prices are breaking records all over the place. A house is the Holy Grail of real estate – in Toronto or outside the city, people are clamouring for more space, something that’s suddenly become far more important as we spend most of our time at home.

However, the story for condos isn’t quite the same: supply is outpacing demand in a pretty big way. Airbnb investors have put their vacant units on the market, new investors aren’t buying because both rents and demand for rentals have dropped and they won’t be able to cover their costs, students aren’t moving to the city (so their parents aren’t buying them condos), and the halt in immigration has taken a huge pool of potential buyers out of the mix.

So for the condo market, it’s a great time to buy, especially if you plan to live in the unit yourself, or you’re able to carry an investment for a while without renters.

One thing to remember, however, is that we haven’t seen what the long-term effects of COVID will be. Things are constantly changing. Once mortgage deferrals have ended, and we see what long-term unemployment numbers look like, that could cool what’s currently a very hot freehold market. More properties could come up for sale as financial difficulties force homeowners to sell, not to mention unemployment, decisions to leave the city due to the ability to work from home, and reduced immigration, shrinking the pool of potential Toronto buyers.

Use this time to prepare. Get your credit checked, and get pre-approved to figure out what you can realistically afford. Do your research and sit down with a Condo Pro to get educated. With greater knowledge and a good team, you'll have a better chance of getting in at the right time.

That’s very unlikely. Property closings weren't impacted by the initial lockdown, and we don't expect that to change this time around.

If you have a firm deal, legally you are still required to close on the transaction. If you don’t, you could be open to legal action. Talk to your lender to see if they can suggest any options.

For condos –especially those in Toronto's downtown core – yes. It has turned into a market that favours buyers. Supply is up significantly over this time last year. Prices are about the same as they were last year, but if you compare them to the price spike we saw in January and February 2020, however, they have come down. Condo sellers are motivated and some agents are reporting that they've been able to negotiate sales for less than the asking price.

For houses, however, we are firmly in a seller’s market. Detached, semi and townhome sales across the GTA have been breaking records all over the place. With very low borrowing costs, the increase in work-from-home jobs, we've seen an increased demand for homeownership.

Selling FAQ Banner

Our agents continue to do necessary in-person showings by appointment, following all health and safety best practices. They have all been fully briefed on all necessary health measures for in-person visits. Beyond that, they will complete your entire transaction electronically, including paperwork, mortgage and legal transactions.

All agents who book showings on our listings must confirm that they and their clients have agreed to the following terms:

  • They haven’t come into contact with anyone experiencing COVID symptoms, who have tested positive in a COVID test or who are waiting for the results of a test.

  • They haven’t travelled outside Canada in the last 14 days or been in contact with anyone who has.

  • They have viewed the property online first before an in-person visit.

  • They limit attendees to 2 people (not including the agent).

  • They will respect physical distancing guidelines of 2m / 6 ft.

  • They will not use washroom facilities, touch any surfaces including light switches and interior doorknobs.

  • They will wash and sanitize their hands prior to entering the home and wear masks throughout the visit.

  • They will space out showings and limit the number of people at each showing to one family group at a time, limited to the contract parties.

Yes, in record numbers. However, COVID has changed the focus to detached houses, semis and townhomes and driven up demand for freehold properties in the 905 and beyond. The demand for condos in the core has softened significantly, especially for smaller units.

Read more: Your definitive guide to today’s housing market

It’s a GREAT time to sell a house – and an excellent time to buy a condo. If you’re selling a detached or semi-detached house or townhouse in the 416 or the 905, this is the time to do it. Demand is crazy, bidding wars and bully offers are the norm, and prices are breaking records all over the place. A house is the Holy Grail of real estate – in Toronto or outside the city, people are clamouring for more space, something that’s suddenly become far more important as we spend most of our time at home.

However, the story for condos isn’t quite the same: supply is outpacing demand in a pretty big way. Airbnb investors have put their vacant units on the market, new investors aren’t buying because both rents and demand for rentals have dropped and they won’t be able to cover their costs, students aren’t moving to the city (so their parents aren’t buying them condos), and the halt in immigration has taken a huge pool of potential buyers out of the mix.

So for the condo market, it’s a great time to buy, especially if you plan to live in the unit yourself, or you’re able to carry an investment for a while without renters.

One thing to remember, however, is that we haven’t seen what the long-term effects of COVID will be. Things are constantly changing. Once mortgage deferrals have ended, and we see what long-term unemployment numbers look like, that could cool what’s currently a very hot freehold market. More properties could come up for sale as financial difficulties force homeowners to sell, not to mention unemployment, decisions to leave the city due to the ability to work from home, and reduced immigration, shrinking the pool of potential Toronto buyers.

That’s a decision that completely depends on your personal situation. If you have a condo in the core and you're looking to move into a house or get more square footage outside the city, then selling may be the right choice. Keep in mind, however, that it may take a while to sell because there are a lot of condos on the market right now. So it's important to differentiate yourself with great staging and strong marketing and to work with a committed agent who will market your property properly.

If you've owned your condo for more than a year or two, you will still likely make a reasonable profit over what you originally paid. If your unit is an investment property that's on the smaller side (you may have purchased it for use as a rental or an Airbnb) that's where the greatest oversupply of listings is right now. You'll have a harder time selling, so our recommendation is to be patient, or if you can, wait it out until after the pandemic is over when people want to be living downtown again, and demand for short-term rentals rebounds when travel starts up again.

Since tourism is down to zero, nobody is renting Airbnbs. So if you have an investment condo you’ve been using for short-term rentals, you’ve probably taken a huge hit. You basically have three options:

Wait it out. COVID-19 will eventually pass, the borders will open back up and tourists will come back to TO. Toronto is still one of the best cities in the world and will attract tourists and business travellers again. So if you can sit tight for a while, hold on to a unit.

Try to rent it out long-term. If you need revenue to carry the property, contact one of our Condo Pros to get the unit up for rent as soon as possible. However, this may not be easy: the rental market in downtown Toronto has softened dramatically: there are far more empty units than available tenants and prices have dropped by 10% or more to 2018 levels.

Sell. If you can't carry the unit any longer, put it on the market. Just keep in mind that there are a lot of other investors unloading their Airbnbs right now, so the market is saturated and units aren't moving very fast, especially the smaller ones right downtown. If you can wait out the crisis, wait: you'll make the most money that way.

The exodus has become a definite trend: with working from home pretty much the norm right now, many downtown dwellers don't see the need to pay a premium to live near work anymore, so they are trading in their cool urban pads for more square footage further out, where things are a little less expensive and has more space. If that's something you're considering, here are a few things to think about:

  1. It’s hard to come back to the city after you’ve left. While you get more space for less outside the core, if you decide to return, it will be much harder to buy: it's tough to give up 3,000 square feet in Newmarket to buy 1,000 square feet in Toronto for a similar price.

  2. COVID isn't forever (even though it might feel that way right now). With current working from home setups and restaurant and retail closures, living in a small downtown space might not have as much appeal as it used to. But businesses will want people to work in the office again. Maybe not every day, like before, but a lot of companies are realizing that having a workforce that's 100% remote isn’t ideal. And restaurants, stores and entertainment venues – all the things that make downtown life worth living – will reopen again. Being around the corner from that great little French bistro or having a coffee shop right in your building never loses its appeal, having everything you need within walking distance isn't as much of a thing in the car-focused ‘burbs.

  3. Selling your condo might take a while. There's an oversupply of condo listings at the moment, and fewer buyers looking to get into a place downtown. If you've owned your condo for more than a year or two, you should be able to make a profit once you do sell. But unless you have a particularly unique property, you probably won't be attracting multiple bidders and will likely get offers below your asking price.

Renting FAQ Banner

That completely depends on your agent and/or the building’s property manager. But right now, people are figuring out all kinds of workarounds - just ask.

Yes. There have been no restrictions on move-ins to buildings at this point. Buildings all have COVID-19 precautions in place for moving day: make sure you know what they are well in advance.

Yes it is. The supply of rental condos – in the 416, especially – is way up and demand for places in the city is down. So there are lots of rentals to choose from, and prices have dropped to 2018 levels. Buildings are offering unprecedented incentives like one to two months of free rent, signing bonuses, free insurance and even VISA gift cards. You can get a nicer place for less, which is great if you're looking to save some money or upgrade your space. However, due to the latest lockdown, some buildings may have precautions in place around viewing a property or moving in. It’s best to check with the building beforehand.

Pay it if you can. Landlords are getting hit just as hard as everyone else right now. Some landlords, however, may be open to compromises such as partial payments. After all, if they have some money coming in it's better than having the unit sit empty and get nothing. Have a talk with your landlord: if you're a good tenant they may be open to the conversation.

While it is currently possible for a landlord to evict a tenant for non-payment of rent, that may change. The Ontario government is exploring all options available to put a temporary residential evictions moratorium in place to ensure Ontarians are not forced to leave their homes under the new state of emergency. Stay tuned for more news in the coming days.

Yes they are. Before COVID, rents were high, demand was even higher, and supply was low. But the pandemic has given renters a bit of a break, making living in the city more accessible again. With high supply and low demand come falling prices: the average price for all unit sizes across the GTA is uniformly down.

As a result, right now we’re in a renters market. Toronto hasn’t had this kind of availability and pricing in YEARS, especially downtown. Job losses have forced many renters out of their apartments. Colleges and universities in the city are operating online, so students are mostly out of the equation. And with immigration at a standstill, another source of renters has dried up. Tourism in Toronto has also ground to a halt, and Airbnbs have been added to the long-term rental market, contributing to the oversupply. Plus, as condo sales have slowed, owners having trouble finding buyers are also putting those properties into the rental pool.

It has created a perfect storm for renters: landlords are catering to tenants instead of the other way around, and you’re looking at better prices, more choice and more time to compare your options.

“We’re seeing a drop of as much as 20%, depending on the building and unit type,” says Adam Hoffman, Sales Representative. “Places with great layouts, spectacular views and upgrades are still moving well, but the properties that don’t show as a 10 are sitting on the market. If you’re okay with taking on a place that isn’t perfect – maybe it needs painting or the kitchen is a little outdated – you can probably negotiate and save hundreds of dollars a month.”

In this market, the renter has the advantage. You can shop around, and in some cases, even negotiate a lower price.

Not necessarily. If you don’t want to move right now, or you need some time to make a decision, it looks like the Toronto market will favour renters for a while, especially with the pandemic’s economic impact on industries that have high rates of renters, and the fact that students aren’t moving in for the school year anytime soon.

A rent freeze for Ontario has been proposed. If the Helping Tenants and Small Businesses Act passes, it will prevent certain residential and commercial rent increases in 2021.

While it is currently possible for a landlord to evict a tenant for non-payment of rent, that may change. The Ontario government is exploring all options available to put a temporary residential evictions moratorium in place to ensure Ontarians are not forced to leave their homes under the new state of emergency. Stay tuned for more news in the coming days.

Money Matters FAQ Banner

Yep. Even if the pool is shut down and the gym is locked up, this is not a negotiable element of condo ownership. As a partial owner of the common areas in your building, it’s your responsibility to keep paying to keep them running smoothly. Plus, if you don’t pay, your condo association could hit you up for the costs later -̶ they have lien rights on your property. If you still don’t pay, they could foreclose on your unit. It’s not worth the risk. But if there are excess dues, that’s not a bad thing: the association can use them to make improvements, or even lower next year’s monthly fees.

Yes, if you haven’t started it yet. Renovations started before January 12 will be permitted to continue, but those that have not started won’t be allowed to begin. The government has not indicated when these new measures will be lifted.

Non-essential construction, including below-grade construction, has also been further restricted, exempting survey.

Want to know more?

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