Pandemic causes sharp drop in Canadians searching for homes

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Canadians' interest in searching for houses online is waning amid the COVID-19 pandemic, according to real estate portal Point2 Homes.

Canadian home searches on the website were 38% lower on March 23 compared to March 5, according to data from the real estate marketplace, which is based in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. Point2 Homes has seen the pace of search declines accelerate since the World Health Organization declared a pandemic on March 12.

There's also decreasing interest in real estate terms such as "houses for sale," "homes for sale" and "condos for sale," the firm said after looking at data from Google.

It's an early sign of turnaround from what had been a hot housing market entering the spring selling season, with sales last month up 25% from February 2019. Toronto and Vancouver home resales surged about 44% from the same month a year ago, while Montreal’s were up about 23%.

The pandemic has caused a sharp spike in business closures and unemployment claims. Government-ordered shutdowns are also hampering the work of agents. A notice from Toronto's real estate board today advised them to "avoid in-person business, such as open houses and showings with clients" because of a state of emergency in Ontario.

The declining search trend is also happening in the U.S., with drops beginning March 11, said Point2 Homes, a division of Yardi Systems Inc.

Bloomberg News