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Industry experts say technology has become the new normal for buying a home.

Online tools like those created for remote working and collaboration may help home buyers looking to buy now while keeping everyone safe. Here’s how industry professionals say home buying has changed.

Viewing New Homes from a Distance

Michael Collins, President, Toronto Regional Real Estate Board says real estate agents no longer drive 40 clients to multiple listings over a few weeks. Instead, buying a home will mean more preliminary investigation online and virtual open houses.

“3D floor plans, videos of the home and neighbourhood, Matterhorn, virtual staging and aerial photography are essential, to buyers and sellers and appraisers, who now rely on the real estate marketing tools to price homes that they may not have physical access to,” says Hamilton.

Fewer Site Visits

Rules for viewing homes in person have changed. You'll likely still want to see a home in-person before buying, but the whole family may not be allowed to enter the property.

Victoria real estate agent Robyn Hamilton says the rules for viewing homes in person have changed. You’ll likely still want to see a home in-person before buying, but the whole family may not be allowed to enter the property.

“Gone are the days when you could run your hands over the marble countertops,” which means finding a suitable property may take longer she says. Sellers are now asked to leave lights on, have closet doors open and disinfect doorknobs before leaving.

One of Hamilton’s clients, Dalene Paine is a fan of the RBC Neighbourhood Finder, which helps you find out more about specific neighbourhoods. “This online tool shows me so many places that I didn’t know existed — it’s like shadowing a realtor.”

Dealing with Paperwork

Esquimalt City Planner Bill Brown says his department has become more efficient by using e-transfers. “Not only does this save time, it is better for the environment because no one has to drive here,” says Brown. “It’s cost-effective regarding time spent, and less disruptive to staff.”

  • Many agencies are encouraging their cities to get on board with digital access, including as building permit applications.
  • Certain documents no longer need signing with your lawyer present.

“For instance, one of our clients recently purchased a house in Qatar, and he virtually signed mortgage instructions with the lawyer,” says Wadad Chaar, Mobile Mortgage Specialist at RBC Royal Bank.

  • Real estate professionals are finding that more time is needed for transactions to go through the buying process.

“We are seeing more clients qualifying for bridge financing, particularly helpful if a tenanted property is involved,” says Hamilton.

Real Estate Agents are Still Key

During these days of social distancing, a real estate professional can still support you in your home buying journey.

“This new virtual world is an adjustment for all of us, and RBC has been ahead of the curve in helping everyone navigate the mortgage approval process,” says Chaar.

While Chaar can no longer meet clients for coffee face-to-face, she is still having coffee with them virtually. “Actually, we are bonding more because we’re all learning how to navigate around COVID-19 and finding positive outcomes,” says Chaar.

Deciding if Now is the Time to Buy

A pre-approval arms the client with knowing how much they can afford. And right now it's a buyer's market.

Wadad Chaar

A big question is if now is a good time to buy. Chaar says that pre-approval is important now, especially with income changes and requirements. “A pre-approval arms the client with knowing how much they can afford. And right now it’s a buyer’s market,” she adds.

One first step in your home buying journey is to find out how much home you can afford. Two ways to find out are the RBC True House Affordability tool , which can give you a personalized estimate based on the information you provide, or you can connect with a Mortgage Specialist who can help you get started while you’re staying safe.