Skip to main content

The ice storm immobilized many in Toronto, but not real estate buyers and sellers.Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail

"What a crazy time," says Rochelle DeClute of the December ice storm that immobilized almost everyone in Toronto except for those dauntless real estate buyers and sellers.

DeClute Real Estate Inc. represented the sellers of a house on Bingham Avenue that had no power from Dec. 23 through the 25th but nevertheless received five offers on Dec. 30.

Ms. DeClute cancelled the open house scheduled for the weekend the ice blasted Toronto, but 32 groups of buyers still made appointments for showings, which they held during daylight hours, she says.

Not only were fallen branches surrounding the house, says Ms. DeClute, but many of the streets in the Upper Beaches neighbourhood had fallen trees or power lines blocking access.

"You'd drive down a street and have to turn around and find another way," she says. "It was challenging for people to get there to look at the house."

Buyers were so indomitable because the semi-detached house offered a good location and great bones, she says. The buyers paid more than $40,000 above the asking price of $499,000.

Ms. DeClute says she had initially discouraged the sellers from listing their house such a short time before Christmas because the weather is unpredictable at that time of year. Never did she imagine the havoc that would ensue, she says, laughing now.

Her office also represented two sets of buyers who bid on a waterfront property in the Beaches during the week of the ice storm, she says.

Both parties happened to be away for the holidays, so the fact that the house lost power for a few days and there was a tree blocking the top of the street didn't matter. She slid down the hill to the house and let the buyers see the property through an iPhone tour during daylight hours, she says. The house sold for just under $3-million.

Meanwhile, Ms. DeClute's own house was without power for four days but she did have power at her Queen Street office.

Ran Chen, an agent with Homelife Dreams Realty Inc., sold a house on Dec. 24 for above asking after 35 days on the market.

Ms. Chen says the conditional offer on the nicely renovated house was accepted several days earlier but the last waiver wasn't signed until Christmas Eve.

"It was interesting, I have to say," she says. "It dragged on for quite a long time."

The house did lose power following the storm but it was vacant and all of the showings had already taken place, she says. Lots of branches had fallen around it.

Many agents are becoming more accustomed to working through Christmas Day or New Year's Eve, but those deals are still the exception, says Geoffrey Grace of ReMax Hallmark Realty Ltd.

Mr. Grace says that typically listings decline in December and, in turn, buyers take a break because there are fewer properties to look at.

He adds that technology is beginning to change that pattern because house hunters can search listings on the web.

"With all of the online marketing, people can get a very good idea of what our listings look like without trudging through the snow."

But he adds that timing varies with each segment of the market. He works mainly with families and move-up buyers and that group is most likely to stick with the usual holiday schedule.

"Even though the technology is there, there is still a demographic that wants to lay low over the holidays."

Still, the boundaries around the traditional spring and fall markets are likely to continue to fall away in the opinion of Shawn Lackie, an agent at Coldwell Banker RMR Real Estate in Port Perry.

In Whitby, Bowanville, Courtice and other pockets of Durham Region, he says, the real estate market seems just as fickle as it is in downtown Toronto.

Mr. Lackie figures that good karma, luck and being in the right place at the right time have as much to do with closing deals as anything.

"There's no rhyme or reason to timing any more," he says.

For example, Mr. Lackie represents the sellers in one deal that has set off an entire chain reaction.

"We've got a kind of conga line going on," he says.

In the lead, his sellers accepted an offer conditional on the buyers being able to sell their own house in West Hill. The West Hill crowd accepted an offer from buyers who also made their deal conditional on selling their unit in a co-operative.

Fortunately for them all, purchasers for the co-operative have recently stepped up and since they are first-time buyers, the deal looks as if it can go ahead.

Mr. Lackie says he hasn't seen an offer conditional on selling another property in five or six years. He's not sure he's ever seen one as strung-out as this one.

With so many interdependent parts, Mr. Lackie figures a certain amount of good fortune was involved in all the transactions coming together in the end.

In another deal Mr. Lackie regards as a bit of a fluke, he was working with some buyers who couldn't find a house they liked after quite a bit of searching. Then he happened to have a showing booked at a property in Courtice on the same day the seller cut the asking price to $249,000 from $259,000.

The clients loved the house. Mr. Lackie suggested they put in an offer immediately for $250,000. They made the window for acceptance very short so that the sellers' agent couldn't use their offer to drum up competing bids.

The buyers also agreed to a quick closing of about 30 days.

"The fact we acted as quickly as we did is the reason they got the house," says Mr. Lackie.

Mr. Lackie, who once took his clients back to the office to draw up an offer on New Year's Eve, didn't have any offers on the statutory holidays this year but he says lots of action was happening in and around the season. He held open houses right before Christmas and had plenty of buyers through. Prospective buyers seem to be more willing to step up when the timing suits them, he says – and sometimes they use that added bit of pressure to secure a deal.