For those transacting in the Ontario real estate market right now, you may be wondering what’s allowed and more importantly, what’s not allowed, under the new “stay-at-home” order that took effect this morning. To help clarify things from a real estate perspective here’s what home buyers and sellers need to know.
Why were the new rules imposed?
The new rules aim to reduce mobility and curb the spread of COVID-19. As the number of positive cases continues to rise in Ontario, Premier Doug Ford declared a second State of Emergency in the province earlier this week, imposing tighter restrictions on businesses and gatherings, a “stay-at-home order,” and enhanced enforcement measures. The move was prompted by new modelling data released by Ontario’s COVID-19 advisory panel, which came with a dire warning: “Without significant reductions in contacts, the health system will be overwhelmed and mortality will exceed the first wave totals before a vaccine has time to take effect.”
The new measures are in effect for all of Ontario and are expected to remain in place until at least Thursday, February 11, 2021.
What’s the impact on real estate activity?
There were no significant changes from a home-buying or selling perspective. However, the State of Emergency does mean the following two changes related to real estate:
- Short-term rentals for recreational purposes are off the table as of January 12, 2021. Bookings made before January 12 are allowed to proceed.
- Renovations started before January 12 can proceed. But if the shovels are not in the ground yet, your reno project will have to wait.
Ontario real estate and COVID-19:
It’s no secret that the global pandemic has dramatically impacted the Ontario real estate industry, from how agents perform their day-to-day duties. The pandemic has been a fixture since early spring, so many of the rules and “best practices” that were established at that time remain in effect as we move through this second wave:
Masks are now required in indoor and outdoor public spaces when social distancing is not possible. This is a new recommendation as part of this latest round of restrictions.
Real estate remains an essential service, which means transactions can continue under strict guidelines. While agents are advising their clients to “hold off” on selling their homes right now if they can avoid it, it’s important to recognize that under certain circumstances.
Open houses are banned. There are no exceptions to this rule, and it will remain in place until the Province lifts lockdown restrictions.
In-person showings are permitted by appointment only when required. As per the Ontario Real Estate Association, a maximum of two visitors are allowed at a time, plus the agent; masks must be worn at all times, and surfaces/hands must be sanitized before and after showings.
Virtual real estate transactions and digital tools replace in-person contact whenever possible.
The good news for Ontario real estate
Canadian real estate has been surprisingly resilient amidst this public health crisis and the economic fallout. The government and other organizations quickly stepped in to offer financial relief to Canadians impacted by the pandemic. The Bank of Canada reduced its key interest rate to an unprecedented 0.25% in an effort to stimulate the economy.
Despite a deep but short-lived decline in housing market activity last spring & prices quickly rebounded from coast to coast, with Ontario real estate posting record growth.