GTA homebuilders upbeat about post-COVID-19
The beginning of 2020 was looking especially bright in the new and resale home markets in and around the GTA. The economy was sailing along, interest rates were low, homebuyer appetite looked insatiable and everything that was built or put up for sale seemingly was snapped up in an instant.
Then COVID-19 hit, and everything changed.
Here we are now, mid-year and a few months into the pandemic, and while some insecurity remains, there are growing reasons for optimism.
The Conference Board of Canada, for example, reports that while major metropolitan economies may contract in 2020, assuming the virus’ spread is contained and companies can return to normal operations over the summer months, a recovery should begin in the second half of the year. Sharp rebounds should follow, and in the case of Toronto, GDP growth of 3.2 per cent from 2021 to 2024 could lead the country.
Another source, Altus Group, points out that the unique nature of this economic slowdown means the impact on housing markets will likely be mild and short lasting.
Altus Group Vice-President and Chief Economist Peter Norman says a relaxing of containment measures through early summer should bring a sharp resumption in new home sales activity.
Later in the year, home prices will likely return to their upward path, and expectations are for a five- to 10-per-cent year-over-year gain, nationally, by year-end.
The pandemic has been a challenging time for the homebuilding industry, an important economic driver. Construction was halted for a period, and though now allowed to resume, there is still some uncertainty in the market. Builders, however, remain largely upbeat.
Here’s how GTA area homebuilders are feeling:
Director of Operations
We are very excited that construction can now continue on our sites. For our Thirty Six Zorra project in Etobicoke, we were at the point in our construction where we were just about to begin shoring and excavation before the shutdown took place, and we have to make some adjustments to our daily operations for this site. Now that construction is back up and running, we are ready to begin – full steam ahead. We were already ahead of schedule, so the provincial shutdowns didn’t affect our timing at all.
Construction resuming has put a lot of people at ease. This has allowed a number of people to return to work, developers to continue their operations, and purchasers the comfort that their home is going to be delivered on time.
Senior Vice-President of Development
M2M in North York is actively under construction. We’ve learned some great lessons about best practices and how to interact with each other when it comes to social distancing and providing a safe, informative sales experience. Part of that is adopting virtual sales tools, and leaning a little more on digital technology. We’re optimistic, and have plans to release a collection of townhomes and upper tower suites at M2M as part of M2M Spaces. These will be larger, more livable units, with a variety of outdoor spaces depending on the suite. There is a real emphasis on wellness, and pairing more spacious suites with the urban setting at Yonge and Finch.
The 8.6-acre M2M development will be one of Aoyuan’s largest master-planned communities in Canada and really gives us the opportunity to bring our healthy lifestyle vision to life. Everything from our amenity package, which includes a yoga and fitness area, indoor and outdoor kids play area and infinity pool, to our urban location, is geared around promoting healthy, active lifestyles. This corporate-wide focus on health and wellness positions us well in our collective, new reality. We’re thinking about the people who will be living at M2M, offering a range of suites sizes to accommodate a diverse cross-section of residents. We’re even providing homes for multi-generational families. I think space is going to be a cherished amenity for a lot of buyers, and we’re proud to be bringing a range of options to market.
Carriage Gate Homes
Construction continues at Gallery Condos + Lofts in Burlington, with occupancy scheduled for 2022.
We moved the launch date for the first phase of our new large masterplanned community in Hamilton – Roxboro – from spring to the fall. Like many builders, we are continuing to plan for our launch, and may begin to change the way we launch projects in future. More virtual technology, no large crowds, with all appropriate COVID-19 measures in place.
We are very optimistic, as we’re already witnessing renewed confidence from homebuyers. We’re increasing our use of technology, as meeting virtually will become the new norm. For us, it’s business as usual. Our sites are under construction as planned, and more sites are beginning construction as per the government’s direction. We have been active in marketing, even though we couldn’t do physical sales events, and we have been conducting online webinars with good results. For new launches, we’ll likely adopt new technologies such as virtual openings for certain projects, to make sure vulnerable groups such as seniors are safe.
We believe the demand for lowrise homes and small buildings will increase as people embrace social distancing. And since more people will be working from home, many will invest more in their homes. Home offices will be a must.
We are seeing signs of pent-up demand and positive sentiments among buyers, with the number of inquiries and people resuming their housing research growing every week. We expect that as the economy continues to reopen, buyers will regain confidence in their financial stability and capacity to buy.
We have taken the COVID-19 situation very seriously, with offices open only via video or telephone. Now that the provincial government has opened up construction, we will continue to put the safety of our employees and our buyers first with strict protocols and social distancing.
Construction servicing is beginning at The Forest in Bradford, and in Brampton at Three Rivers Claireville. We are also beginning to book design studio appointments for this summer, with an even more personal, one-on-one approach to keep us all safe and healthy.
The demand is clearly still there for real estate. If anything positive can be said to have come from COVID-19, it’s that this virus has refocused our attention on the importance of our families, and the homes we live in.
Many people just need more from their residence; more space, different features, or even a different neighbourhood. That’s why we expect to see a strong market come back later this summer and fall. In fact, we have two new communities we are working towards launching, in Burlington and in Courtice, and we are incorporating unique features and technology that we believe people will want post-pandemic. So, homebuyers should look forward to not just new launches, but new innovations.
From recycling to renewable materials to energy-efficient features and Green products, to innovative new prefabricated wall systems, National is helping our buyers reduce their “Greenprint.
Vice-President, Sales & Marketing
The market definitely took a quick pause to look both ways but people are now back to crossing the street, which is positive for the marketplace. Our construction teams were active and our projects continue to rise.
Pinnacle has a diverse offering of projects that can suit any prospective homebuyer. We have four active constructions sites and pre-construction developments, so there are opportunities to move in as early as this fall to the next five years. These master-planned communities are located in desirable neighbourhoods in Toronto, Etobicoke and Mississauga.
Regal Crest Homes
Contracts Manager/Marketing Manager
Construction has never stopped for us since the province declared residential construction as an essential service. New construction starts only follow up last year’s sales. The real story will be the coming weeks, as we slowly open up sales offices.
We are here to fulfill homebuyers’ dreams, and with interest rates still so low, it’s an excellent time to buy.
Solmar Development Corp.
Director of Marketing and Sales
We are fortunate that our current projects are more than 80 per cent sold, as we launched well before COVID-19. The other projects we have coming up are still in preliminary stages, however they have been pushed back as consultants and city officials have yet to resume full-time scheduling. We are focusing on the planning process for Park Avenue Tower 3, and Bellaria Phase 2 in Vaughan, as they’ve been delayed.
We are continuing with the construction of Edge and Oro towers in Mississauga and Park Avenue towers 1 and 2. Our goal is to catch up and get our purchasers moved in. Many of them are renting, so this investment is giving them something to look forward to. It’s evident that as other markets show so many variables and uncertainties given the current climate, real estate remains a secure investment.
We were fortunate to be able to continue construction and delivering homes to our homeowners. We implemented strict enhancements to our health and safety protocols on our construction sites to help safeguard the well-being of our employees and the communities we’re building, and these will remain in place as things begin to open up. Generally, we remain optimistic and see the industry as a whole preparing to adopt new measures and stabilize within this new environment. We’re proud of our efforts over the last few months, and our resilience as we come back stronger as leaders in both real estate and construction, and we’re looking forward to a strong finish in 2020.
As we move into the second half of 2020, we’re eagerly preparing to bring new communities to the marketplace. In the meantime, our design appointments and pre-delivery inspections with homeowners have continued through the spring and we’re looking forward to welcoming our homeowners back when we can. This new era forced us to be innovative in a different way. We are putting new safety measures in place for all of our customer-facing environments and discovering new ways to connect with our audiences. Our new digital experience, called Tridel Live, brings more information directly to the consumer; from a live chat with our sales team and virtual tours of our model suites, to access to more digital assets for our sales team, and more. This is just the beginning of a new way of meeting our clients’ needs and finding new ways to meet them.