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COVID-19 Prompts Canada's Home Builders To Embrace New Tech

Modern technology means real estate deals can still close during the outbreak.
New construction of high-rise building in Burnaby city
Alex_533 via Getty Images
New construction of high-rise building in Burnaby city

We are currently living through history. Beyond the closure of schools, restaurants and other everyday services, workplaces around the world are scrambling to implement work-from-home policies or shut down altogether in the face of the coronavirus pandemic.

For Canada’s housing market, the immediate future is uncertain. Real estate and residential development leaders across the country are trying to find solutions for their sales and marketing teams in this era of social distancing and mandatory quarantines.

“These are interesting times for real estate and especially new home sales,” said Dan Flomen, Senior Vice President of Sales at Empire Communities. “With concerns from both clients, potential buyers and staff, Empire Communities and TFN Realty have taken some measures in the hopes to ease nerves.”

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At the TFN Realty offices, Flomen explained that remote access has been enabled and that staff have been instructed to work from home if possible.

Similarly, Simon Cane, Senior Account Manager at Gladstone Media, and Barbara Lawlor, CEO and President of Baker Real Estate, said that employees are also working away from the office and conference calls have replaced in-person meetings. For Cane, this also means ensuring that servers are remotely accessible, and that employee personal computers are upgraded with adequate software.

While some launches and events may be postponed, technology is providing workplaces the opportunity to still close deals online.

“We are in a buoyant market and we are well positioned to sell online through our broker portal, and DocuSign has already gained traction during our early launches this year,” said Lawlor.

Wire transfers into the company trust account have been allowed for those who have recently written deals or plan to settle on ones in the immediate future at the TFN Realty offices. Electronic signatures have replaced the need for in-person ones. If it’s not possible to sign electronically, Flomen explained that couriers are arranged to drop off contracts and deposits.

Should any visitors come into the office, Flomen said that they are asked to keep a minimum two-metre distance from the reception desk. As leaving home is not expected for most buyers, new home sites have reduced the need for buyers to meet in person by way of video meetings.

“We are using video conferencing with them where we can,” said Flomen. “Systems like FaceTime, Snap Video, Zoom and Skype will all be made available to our staff and customers and potential buyers to use to communicate with us.”

Along with a number of other companies, a reduction in hours is also being explored at Baker Real Estate.

“So far, our sales offices remain open but will be staffed by one agent, and one or two admins as needed,” said Lawlor. “Fewer days open are being considered.”

Amidst all of the chaos, one of the most important changes is the dialogue about coronavirus concerns among staff and visitors. Cane notes that there is an open dialogue kept with employees to voice concerns and fears, while Flomen said staff will ask, “critical questions of any potential people coming into the office including if they are showing any of the usual COVID symptoms.”

“The key is that we are not panicking but doing everything in our power to continue with sales,” said Flomen.

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