VANCOUVER -- Construction on new housing developments and condos is still moving ahead in B.C.'s Lower Mainland, but many pre-sale presentation centres are locked and closed to the public.

When Ben Smith started marketing a new 550-unit condo development in Surrey a couple years ago, things were hopping.

“This place was packed and we probably won’t see that again for some time,” said Smith, vice-president of sales for Aoyuan International.

The One Central presentation centre has been closed to the public but that doesn’t mean sales are closed. The developer still has about 150 units left to sell.

“Today with COVID we want to get them to business as usual as quickly as we can,” said Tyler Proud, CEO of Avesdo.

Avesdo has developed a digital platform for developers to upload all their project information, floor plans, photos, etc., and has included an option for real estate agents and their buyers to reserve and to put down deposits on pre-sale properties. It’s called OffPlan - a virtual sales presentation centre.

“We’re one of the first in B.C. to do it. It’s really early days but it’s really exciting times,” said Smith.

Avesdo told CTV News it’s got about a dozen or so developers that will soon be added to the platform with more to follow.

Proud says OffPlan has gone through the legal and regulatory hoops to allow for pre-sale transactions to be completed online. A real estate agent can send a link of the selected OffPlan project to their buyers and once a decision is made on a particular property, the buyer can put down a deposit on their credit card. The seven-day cooling off period for rescission in B.C. still applies.

“When they’re ready to actually make the decision, we give them the tools to do so and we give the tools to the developer to also make their job easier,” Proud added.

Smith doesn’t think the presentation centre will disappear entirely but he does expect that in the future it will be open by appointment only in order to restrict contact and maintain distancing standards to deal with COVID-19.

“I don’t think it’s going to erase the old experience entirely, I just think it makes the transaction part of it easier,” he said.

The new concept appears to off to a good start. OffPlan said the first online sale at One Central was was transacted at 8pm on June 10 while the office was closed.  The company also stated it was the also the first transaction in Canada.