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Changing the way new homes are sold

Changing the way new homes are sold

Sales people are setting virtual appointments with buyers to walk them through the sales presentation much like they would at a sales centre.

Home builders convert web sites into digital sales offices

With many people in the market for a new construction house ready to digitally sign on the dotted line without ever stepping foot in a model home, homebuilders are ramping up their technological game during the COVID-19 pandemic with tools like virtual house tours that could forever change the way we buy homes.

“New home shopping has never been easier. Step into one of our stylish new homes with ease and peace of mind,” Brookfield Residential says on its website. Prospective buyers can book a private tour online and visit a new home at a time convenient to them. “It’s a simple, convenient way to get you closer to your dream home.”

A growing number of builders are converting their websites into digital sales offices, says Lianne McOuat, vice president of client service and strategy at McOuat Partnership, which offers real estate marketing across North America and beyond.

“This is something I think buyers have been wanting for a long time.” In lieu of constructing model homes, many builders are offering finishes and kitchens in their sales centres, which makes interactive and 3D floor plans and maps helpful for buyers wanting to visualize things like furniture placement.

Salespeople are setting virtual appointments with buyers to walk them through the sales presentation much like they would at a sales centre — but now with tools like Zoom and Skype.

Many builders are even posting their agreement of purchase and sales online so buyers can download and read it without feeling rushed like they might in a sales centre.

But don’t expect to buy a home online like you would groceries anytime soon. “I think buying a new home will always be a guided purchase,” McOuat says.

That includes helping buyers understand the difference between one home and another is about more than price. One townhouse might be 28 feet wide while another is 22 feet wide, for example, and one might have more extensive features and be in a more premium location than another. “It’s just too important a purchase in people’s lives to have an entirely online experience,” she says.

Builders are finding other innovative ways to sell homes during the pandemic. Some are tempting buyers with price reductions on inventory homes and accepting down payments of just five per cent, notes Lloyd Martin, president and CEO of Trimart Corporation, an organization that serves the new home residential industry for sales services and market research.

The year began with a bang: 4,665 new homes (which includes single-family homes and condominium apartments) sold in the Greater Toronto Area in February — up 211 per cent from February 2019 and 57 per cent above the 10-year average, according to Altus Group, the Building Industry and Land Development Association’s source for new home market intelligence.

It was the highest number of new homes sold in February since 2002 and the third highest in the past 40 years. The GTA new home market continued to see above-average sales and a decline in inventory in March.

There were 3,730 new home sales, which was up 67 per cent from the previous year and seven per cent above the 10-year average, Altus Group reports. And while measures to contain the COVID-19 outbreak by governments at all levels across Canada over the past six weeks have had a profound effect, effectively shutting down the economy, Canada’s housing market is resilient.

“Housing markets in Canada are traditionally sensitive to economic conditions, but the unique nature of this economic slowdown means that the impact on housing markets will likely be mild and short lasting,” says the Altus Group.

With dates for most planned launches now being pushed off and buyer hesitation, sales in April are expected to be much more muted. Trimart expects new home sales will gain momentum once recovery from huge layoffs has taken place and that housing in more affordable growth locations —such as Hamilton, Bowmanville, Barrie, Orangeville and areas around Metrolinx transportation hubs — will thrive again.

“The full impact is yet to be determined,” it says in a market update. “A downward price adjustment may occur. The low-interest rate environment will make new purchases attractive and continue to drive sales.”

McOuat agrees. “There is definitely a group of buyers nervous about their future job prospects and it may take them a few months to recover from their lost revenue now,” she says. “However, in general, the GTA real estate market has very strong fundamentals and I don’t see any significant price reductions due to the strong demand and will to buy.”

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