CALGARY -- Showing homes involves new challenges when practicing social distancing and the coronavirus is hitting Calgary’s real estate market at an already tough time.

Weak activity last year paired with lower inventory this year saw sales grow nearly 20 per cent in February 2020 compared to February 2019, but prices are also slightly lower, according to the Alberta Real Estate Association.

Then in early March, COVID-19 hit, prompting lay-offs and plummeting oil prices, all of it bad news for Calgary's real estate market.

“Over the short term we could see slower sales and new listings,” said Ann-Marie Lurie, chief economist, at Calgary Real Estate Board.

It’s already starting to happen.

“Some people are making the serious decision of terminating their listings,” said Ryan Deluca, managing director of 25th Hour Regulatory Consulting.

He said many in the industry are offering flexibility, including deferring listings, but it’s important to negotiate with the brokerage and realtor before breaching the contract.

“There could be financial consequences under the contracts,” he said.

Realtors are using techniques to show properties while also limiting exposure.

“We’re not doing open houses really at all,” said Emma May, founder of Charles Real Estate adding that video tours are becoming more popular.

“We’re trying to adapt in a way that keeps everybody safe.”

She added that the economic hit is also impacting buyers.

“Interest rates are low, so those with some degree of financial security are still interested in shopping,” said May.

She said while sellers are wait for their properties to be picked,  realtors are trying to keep them up to date on how to access potential mortgage deferrals and government assistance.

The Real Estate Council of Alberta released a list of FAQ’s for buyers and sellers concerned about the spread of the coronavirus.