The Toronto real estate market has gone on a wild ride over the past year. Interest in buying has soared while inventory levels remain low — a perfect storm for high competition and, consequently, high sale prices.
This has made it a hectic time for both sellers and buyers, but one other group that’s having to deal with the red hot market day in and day out is realtors.
Sam Massoudi, a Toronto real estate agent with Strata.ca, explained to Daily Hive what the past year has been like trying to find his clients homes in the highly competitive Toronto market, including working longer hours and submitting multiple offers for each client before they land a home.
Massoudi’s workday starts earlier and ends later than your typical Torontonian’s. He’s up at 6 am to go through client’s emails, finish up offers from the night before, and read through real estate news and market statistics.
“After 9, the offices open,” Massoudi said. “I book and organize my showings for the day — my showings are usually in the afternoon and evening.”
Throughout the day, Massoudi says he may have some showings but is otherwise touching base with existing clients or meeting with new clients. After 4 pm is when the showings and offers really kick-off and go well into the evening.
Although the skyrocketing market that pandemic conditions have allowed for may seem like it would be great for realtors, Massoudi says it has brought with it a unique set of challenges. Getting access to buildings and units, for one, has become increasingly difficult.
“Getting access to certain buildings is very hard these days,” he said. “And once we’re in, using the elevators can be tough due to COVID rules that usually don’t allow more than three people inside. Tenants can sometimes make it very hard for us to show the units. They’ll deny access because they feel uncomfortable having people inside their space.”
And once they do get inside, Massoudi says he’s usually not able to show clients the entirety of the building they could potentially be moving into.
“All amenities are closed, so in most cases, we are not able to see them,” he said. “Some buyers really want to see the amenities of the place they might buy, which is completely understandable.”
Before each showing, both clients and the realtors are now typically required to fill out forms confirming that they are not at risk of having COVID-19.
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With the financial uncertainty that the pandemic brought for many Torontonians, some homeowners, particularly older homeowners, have been less interested in selling, leading to lower levels of inventory on the market.
At the beginning of the pandemic, Massoudi says, there was less buying competition, with many buyers waiting for prices to fall before entering the market, so the inventory levels weren’t necessarily an issue.
“In most of my sales before the new year, we were the only offer that sellers had on the table,” he said. “So we could negotiate the price below-asking and had conditions in our offer(s), such as financing and status certificate.”
Now, he says, there’s been a drastic change in the market and competition is off the charts. He’s having to spend more time with clients seeing properties and submitting offers, with many clients having to submit offers on multiple properties.
“The inventory is very limited, and there are far more buyers out there looking,” Massoudi said. “Unlike, say, three to four months ago, most listings are getting multiple offers, and they go well above asking price.
“Also, things were much smoother and laid back in 2020. You could take your time. Now it’s all very rushed. If a listing that’s good enough hits the market today, you have to see it today and act on it today — even if they have an offer date. Otherwise, you may not even be able to see the place before it gets sold.”
One thing that the pandemic did make easier for Toronto realtors, however, is the number of in-person showings that they have to do.
“Buyers are more selective with the places they would like to see in-person, in order to minimize their physical contact with people outside their bubble,” Massoudi said.
“Some only ask for virtual tours, which a lot of times are provided by listing agents. And they would only go for an in-person viewing if they are more or less sure they’ll put in an offer. However, this was more the case at the beginning of COVID, and now I feel people are becoming less cautious. I still encourage them to be, though.”
As vaccines start to roll out and an end to the pandemic feels near, it’s not clear what the future of the Toronto real estate market holds for sellers, buyers, and realtors. But one thing is for sure: the sellers’ market is not yet over.