WEST VANCOUVER -- Veteran West Vancouver realtor Malcolm Hasman is used to encouraging potential clients to sell their homes, but COVID-19 has changed that.

“If they don’t have to sell, be on the side of caution. I would wait,” said Hasman. “We’re not listing homes – I’m not, particularly – where families are living in that house. The exposure is … just, for me? I’m not comfortable.”

There is one exception: vacant homes, like a brand new build he has listed in the British Properties neighbourhood.

“It’s unoccupied, so there’s no contamination or anything, no family coming back to this house after it’s been shown,” said Hasman.

He still takes precautions. He opens all the doors and turns on the lights, so potential buyers and their agents don’t have to. And, he asks them to sign a waiver saying they don’t have symptoms, they’ll stay a safe distance apart from each other and won’t touch anything in the house.

“We sanitize the hands, I require they wear gloves, they wear a mask. And again there is nothing, nothing to touch in that house for a buyer and an agent,” said Hasman. “They just walk in and look.”

While open houses are now banned and the market has slowed dramatically since physical distancing rules were put in place, Hasman says there are serious buyers out there.

“You’ve got hundreds, maybe thousands of people who sold in January, February and early March,” he said. “Those people need to move. They need a home end of April; they need a home end of May or June.”

New listings are scarce, but if those buyers can find a home they like, they may get a deal.

“People that need to sell for whatever reason, my assumption is there is probably going to be some price discounting,” said Vancouver realtor and housing analyst Steve Saretsky.

The benchmark price of a home in Metro Vancouver rose by 2.1 percent in March compared to the same month last year. But the vast majority of sales happened in the first two weeks of March, when the spring market was still booming. By the final 10 days of the month, sales had dropped off dramatically. Both buyers and sellers have moved to the sidelines.

David Hutchinson, of Sutton Group West Coast Realty, says the current market is “completely uncharted territory.”

Home sales are closely tied to the employment rate, Hutchinson said.

“Until that job market does recover, everything seems to be at a standstill,” he said. “Definitely ’til the end of April, and I’m thinking through to the end of summer.”