Sept. 18, 2020 | Mario Toneguzzi
Local homebuilders double down on digital as COVID-19 challenges continueCalgary's new-home construction market has been challenged this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Year-to-date, up until the end of August, there were 5,400 total housing starts in the Calgary census metropolitan region compared with 6,400 for the same period in 2019.
Homebuilders across the city have adopted new health and safety protocols for potential homebuyers when they are searching for a home. They've also upped their game when it comes to their digital presence.
"Over the last couple of years, we've seen a real shift from traditional marketing channels to digital. So that was already underway before COVID-19. What COVID-19 really did, I think, was accelerate and highlight that importance of digital readiness," said Chris Richer, vice-president of Calgary homes with Brookfield Residential.
"In an environment where it becomes more difficult to meet with people face to face, to hold events, to hold grand openings in the traditional sense, we've relied heavily on our ability to build into our digital channels a personal touch."
Recently, Brookfield Residential, Calbridge Homes and Baywest Homes launched five new showhomes in the southeast community of Cranston's Riverstone.
"Our priority is the health and safety of our employees and customers," said Jessie Seymour, senior manager of marketing and community experience with Brookfield.
"To ensure everyone is safe and comfortable, we are offering attendees the option to book small, in-person experiences in advance at riverstoneshowhomes.com or the option to check out the showhomes online at their convenience."
"In an environment where it becomes more difficult to meet with people face to face, to hold events, to hold grand openings in the traditional sense, we've relied heavily on our ability to build into our digital channels a personal touch." - Chris Richer, Brookfield Residential
While the overall market for new homes has been impacted throughout the pandemic, Richer says current demand is "very robust," and sales have been strong since things began to reopen.
Michael Mak, senior economic analyst with Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, said the recent uptick in starts compared to earlier in the pandemic is consistent with the typical activity that would have been seen in the spring and summer months.
"A lot of work was shut down in the earlier months of the year. Now, a lot of projects that were on hold started resuming, basically," he said. "That might be a contributing factor to the whole starts that we're seeing for basically the past few months."
In the single-detached market, year-to-date starts at the end of August totalled 2,106 compared to 2,140 last year. In the apartment-condominium sector, the difference is starker – 1,822 this year compared to 2,410 last year.
Mak says the absorption rate for new homes has also been trending down since oil prices plummeted starting in late 2014.
"Back then it was probably in the 90 (per cent) area and now it's down for all types to the 60-70 (per cent) area," he said.
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