The sale of $36 million worth of pre-construction condos in Quebec over a two-day period at the height of the COVID pandemic sounds impressive. But perhaps equally notable is the fact that all the transactions took place virtually.
“I hear I’m the first to do a (real estate project) launch with Google Hangouts,” says André Parisien, sales rep with Engel & Völkers Tremblant, adding he’s since received queries from other real estate agencies. “Many people from the States called to ask how I did it and they’re copying my ideas.”
The projects in question are two luxury condominiums – Verbier Tremblant and Lago Tremblant – both in Mont-Tremblant, Que., a resort area in the Laurentians 130 km northwest of Montreal.
After the Verbier project was announced in January, a list of potential buyers was compiled. The plan was to have an official red carpet launch with a buffet and champagne, welcoming potential buyers who would travel to Tremblant to learn details of the development in person.
Then the COVID-19 lockdown happened and everyone was told to stay home. “I’m freaking out,” says Parisien. “I have people who want to buy and I can’t meet them.”
He scrambled to find a solution and decided on a virtual launch, even though he admits he was a bit nervous trying something he hadn’t done before. He sent an email with appointment times of 10 minutes each, and a project development kit to a list of potential buyers.
On the appointed day, May 9, he conducted the launch – a real-time video presentation via Google Meet (formerly Google Hangouts). Floor plans and finishes were shown, questions answered, units selected and documents signed electronically.
Parisien says demand for property in Tremblant generally has been strong. “We have about 68 per cent more buyers than last year.”
Initially he estimated it would take two to three years to sell a group of units in Verbier Tremblant. Instead, in just one day, 21 couples bought condo units, resulting in $12.7 million in sales. “The way it’s going, I’ll be all sold out this year,” he says. “The momentum is really strong.”
When REM caught up with Parisien in late August, phase one (30 units) was sold out and phase two (with 40 units) was almost sold out. The project has four phases and 139 units in total.
Two weeks after the Verbier launch there was a similar event for Lago Tremblant, in which Parisien teamed up with Les Immeubles Mont-Tremblant broker Jennifer McKeown. In that launch, 28 units worth $23.9 million were sold.
Prices at the 72-unit Lago Tremblant, which is located on a lake, range from $587,000 for a two-bedroom to $1.768 million for a five-bedroom.
Prices at 139-unit Verbier Tremblant, which is located on the edge of a golf course, range from $490,000 for a two-bedroom to $930,000 for a five-bedroom.
Most of the buyers are Canadian. Many are from Montreal, Toronto and Ottawa and, Parisien says, they want to leave the city. “It’s about lifestyle.”
COVID-19, he says, has prompted many people to buy property earlier than planned. A common refrain he hears goes this way: I was planning to buy within the next five years, but now that COVID-19 has forced me to work from home, I may as well buy now and be near a resort.
Parisien says all the time people use to spend commuting, they can now spend enjoying the recreational opportunities outside their door – hiking and cycling the trails, golfing, swimming, or skiing and snowshoeing in the winter.
The luxury and recreational property market is “really, really strong” because of COVID-19,” he says. “People want to come and live here. We’ll be short of inventory.”
Verbier isn’t even built yet and the prices have already increased. “I sold a four-bedroom in phase one for $640,000. Today…in phase three, people will pay $820,000 for the same thing.”
He says the price increase is due to strong demand and dwindling supplies.
“Everyone is short of lumber and construction materials,” says Parisien. He says prices have increased because during COVID-19 people were told not to go to work and ended up doing projects around the house such as building new decks, so construction materials are becoming harder to source.
He says buyers understand there is a sense of stability in buying real estate versus other types of investments.
“I say your money is more safe in real estate. The lake will never be empty, the mountain will never move, but the stock market is a yoyo.”
Meanwhile, Parisien’s first virtual real estate project launch has turned him into a convert.
“I will for sure try to do new projects this way,” he says. “It’s more direct. You don’t lose time. You don’t travel, you don’t make people drive from Toronto or other places to make a purchase. It’s really simple and there’s less expense,” he says, adding it also offers more privacy. “It’s just you, the client and maybe a sales rep.”
If other agents start adopting similar methods, you can be sure of one thing. There’ll be a lot less demand for red carpets.