Canadians have grown remarkably comfortable with the electric homebuying process, and the convenience point to consider even appears to be driving sales more substantial.
Proscriptions on open houses and real time meetings have actually made placing your order homes more convenient, if not leisurely—a virtual property tour can be taken from the comfort of one’s own living room couch—and, abetted by platforms like DocuSign, deals are closing faster.
Last summer, Plaza Corp. launched King East Estates, a 255-lot single-family subdivision, in Richmond Hill, but instead of opening a sales centre, the Plaza team digitized the entire process with virtual tours and virtual walk-throughs, client meetings on Zoom, and a ton of electronic marketing. By mid-September, Plaza opened a sales centre and began accepting interested buyers by appointment only, and not long after, this hybrid strategy started bearing fruit.
“We’d do everyone’s sales through DocuSign,” recalled Scott McLellan, senior vice president of Plaza Corp. “We introduced technology into the process because we were forced to, and our project did about 100 sales from November until now in a very hybrid situation where, yes, you still needed a tangible, touch-and-feel sales centre, but we were able to integrate technology in order to make the consumer feel safe and comfortable, and having a little bit of both drove a ton of sales for us.”
McLellan is quick to note that sales upsurged specifically when technology, and its myriad conveniences, was married to the physical experience of buying a home—and not merely one or the other.
“We probably had a handful of sales before then, but we realized that once we had the sales centre things would take off, and they did,” he said. “It’s interesting how it didn’t go 100% back to the old way of selling; it was a mixture of technology—purchasing from a laptop with DocuSign and taking virtual tours—and people still needing and wanting to come into a sales centre and touch the materials, take a look at the site map, get a feel for where the sun shines in the afternoon. Those are things we still need in our business. There has to be human-to-human interaction and the other physical requirements one may need in a sales centre. It was a pre- and post-COVID way of doing business.”
Crowded sales centres generally aren’t conducive to making good buying decisions, perhaps underscoring the importance of 10-day cooling off periods, because—especially in the low-rise market where lineups have been known to form on the eve of project launches—under the duress of high pressure sales tactics and the threat of another buyer waiting in the wings, people can feel rushed into purchasing. That could partly explain buyers’ enthusiastic adoption of technology.
“The most important thing is the buyer has an opportunity now to actually take some time, from the comfort of their own home and on their own schedule, to make their buying decision,” said Mark Cohen, managing partner of The Condo Store in Toronto. “When people go into sales offices, they have to deal with their own time constraints, like coming in after work or on the weekend, and all this stuff we do as marketers to bring them in with big crowds and lineups. But it’s a pivotal time in the industry right now because people have the opportunity to shop on their own schedule and without having to leave their homes. This is an amazing opportunity I haven’t seen in 35 years in this business. Sales are better than they’ve ever been.”
The low interest rate environment is doubtless the primary reason for record-breaking the real estate market sales in Canada, yet again Cohen advises not to underestimate the manner in which crucial feeling secure and empowered is for buyers.
“Purchasers appreciate it and these are buying faster and more comfortably since there is it, ” he said. “They have the opportunity to review a document on the inside 24 hours instead of having to sign the following on the spot. There’s no longer someone shoving it down their throat and as well saying, ‘Buy it otherwise an individual will, and you have 10 days to eliminate. ’”
McLellan noted that another sizeable advantage to digitizing sales might be people from outside of Canada should purchase homes here before they maybe even arrive. It’s difficult to imagine that tangibility will ever be removed from the process of you buy a home, but the pandemic appears to need permanently changed how people look for them.
“We’re still seeing it. We back under lockdown, but it seems like the buying population is getting handy with DocuSign and more comfortable with electronic-based presentations, ” said McLellan. “Traditionally, people still want to come in since touch and feel things, and our last 30 or 52 sales have been done on DocuSign. ”