Home sales in St. Albert have taken a nosedive in comparison to this time last year amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to the Realtors Association of Edmonton's April report, housing sales across the Edmonton metro region fell by 55 per cent year over year. In St. Albert, sales plummeted by 64 per cent.
“The Edmonton market experienced a significant decrease in year-over-year unit sales, with some downward impact on pricing,” said Jennifer Lucas, association chair.
“Of course, with the outbreak of COVID-19 and the social distancing measures currently in place, this type of market decline is not surprising."
Real estate is not only being impacted by COVID-19 but also by what is happening in the oil and gas industry, Lucas said in an email to the Gazette.
"We are continuing with protocols to ensure that homeowners and buyers are safe but I don't expect things to return to normal overnight," Lucas wrote. "I predict a long and slow recovery."
In April, the average price of a single-family home was $408,146, falling 21 per cent from the average price in April 2019.
Sales for single-family homes slumped by 57 per cent, with 29 homes selling this year in comparison to 68 last year.
Looking at sales from January to April this year, sales for single-family homes dropped by 27 per cent compared to the first four months of 2019.
While the price for a single-family home took a dramatic dive, the average price for a condo in St. Albert rose by a few percentage points compared to this time last year. The average price for a condo this April was $266,523, rising 1.9 per cent from 2019.
Condos are typically harder to sell, and while the prices have seen a slight increase, sales have taken a hit. This past month, the market saw a decrease in condo sales by 45 per cent from last year.
Looking at the first four months of the year, condo sales have declined 4.8 per cent compared to the same period last year, from 62 to 59.
Shandrie Lewis, real estate agent and broker for RE/MAX Professionals, said it's still too early to tell what impact the pandemic will have on the condo market.
However, as people struggle with possible job loss and economic hardship, condos could be seen as a more affordable option compared to a single-family home.
"People are going to have to lower their budgets if they've lost their jobs or they can't be approved for what they were hoping for in the single-family market, so it might actually help the condo market," Lewis said.
In April, the St. Albert RE/MAX Professionals office had more deals fall through than in the first three months of the year, meaning there will be fewer possessions than usual in May and June, she said.
New listings also saw a 40 per cent drop in April compared to last year.
Late spring market
While this latest report paints a grim picture, Lewis said her office has seen a flurry of activity since the province announced its phased reopening plan.
"From March 15 until about April 15, there definitely was a lot of panic and people were putting the brakes on. But in the last part of April and even in this last week, it seems like the clouds have parted," she said.
"People are just settling into a new normal, and they see that they can still sell their home or buy a home. They just have to proceed differently."
Usually, the spring months have real estate agents run off their feet. As consumer confidence grows going into the year, she said she predicts a late spring market in St. Albert.
"In my opinion, we are going to have more of a spring market in the summer this year. And then our fall might be a little bit stronger than it typically is. It's just delayed," she said.
Real estate moves online
Since the onset of COVID-19, the real estate market has transitioned its services online as more buyers and sellers stay home, Lucas said.
Documents have been created to ensure the health and wellness of anyone needing to tour a home in person.
Many homes have sanitation stations, and agents are leaving lights and interior doors open to reduce contact within the home.
Agents are also performing 3D and virtual tours and open houses so buyers can have a fairly comprehensive look inside a property without actually having to go in.
When it comes to documentation, many have switched to an electronic and digital platform for signatures to further encourage social distancing.
"Real estate hasn't stopped and our members have done an exceptional job in a relatively short period of time to be able to provide services to their buyers and sellers," Lucas said.
There could be some benefits for people looking to buy or sell their home to get involved with the market now, she said.
People have more time to check out listings online, so sellers could see more of an interest in their properties.
Prices haven't decreased significantly in the area and buyers still have a lot of options to choose from, so anyone touring a home during the pandemic will likely be keen on making a purchase, she said.