It’s not easy opening a business in the middle of a pandemic, but Kim Knutson somehow made it work.
The Yellowknife realtor has had a roller-coaster of a year. In February, she quit her job at Century 21 – where she had worked since first getting into the real estate, in 2015.
By March 1, Knutson had opened her new business: Re/Max North of 60 Realty.
Two weeks later, Covid-19 shut everything down.
At first, Knutson said, it scared her to have opened her agency in such an uncertain time. She feared it would be a disaster, and that she would lose what she had worked so hard to build.
But after some reflection, Knutson decided to look at the positives of the situation. With everything slowed down, she and her co-workers had a chance to sort out the nitty-gritty of their new venture.
“We trained on systems and getting our procedures in place,” she says.
“It was a gift, because I would have wished time could stand still – and it actually did.”
Despite the entire team working from home for the first few weeks, the business has since taken off.
The real estate market in Yellowknife is moving fast at this moment in time, Knutson says, shattering her anticipation of a slow season.
In fact, inventory for houses is low because they are selling so quickly.
“I think people have more disposable income in Yellowknife,” she said, referring to the lack of travel this summer under Covid-19 restrictions.
“At first, we joked [about buying] a home that you want to isolate in – but that might be a thing, [where] people are actually looking for something where they are comfortable spending time in.”
Covid-19 has even shifted the concept of home itself, Knutson says. As people self-isolate, socially distance, and spend more time in their houses than they once did, home has become more important.
“People realize that they are stuck home for a long time. And that’s when you go, ‘OK, I need more space,’ or ‘I need a different space.’”
While people might be buying more, however, Knutson and her team are showing fewer houses in person. When they do show a house, it involves a lot more hand sanitizer. Open houses cannot happen.
Virtual tours have since taken the place of physical walkthroughs. Knutson says those are nice to have as an option, but they can’t replace being able to chat with people face-to-face.
Not only has Knutson opened a business amid a pandemic, but she’s had to contend with personal hardship, too. In May, less than two months after starting her agency, Knutson’s husband – Craig Hockridge – suffered a stroke and subsequently passed away.
“I’ve been through the wringer,” she admits.
Now, Knutson is looking to the future.
She and her staff just moved to a new location on Old Airport Road – a large, illuminated sign will soon appear. She’s hoping to bring more realtors on board, too.
“We’re going to grow slowly,” she says.
“We’re not there to just fill up offices. We want to have the right people and offer the right product and the right service, because that’s important to us.”
This coverage of the NWT’s business sector during the Covid-19 pandemic is sponsored by the NWT’s Department of Industry, Tourism, and Investment. Visit Buy North for more information on businesses near you.