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Buying or Selling During COVID-19? This Is How We’re Keeping Clients Safe
June 19, 2020
The health and safety, of both clients and REALTORS® alike, holds the highest priority during these trying times.
In March, the Ontario Government declared a state of emergency— OREA (Ontario Real Estate Association) responded by urging the immediate closure of open houses, as well as any unnecessary personal interactions with clients and colleagues. On April 3, the Government of Ontario prohibited open houses. Although OREA’s lobbying efforts with the Ontario Government were successful and real estate services were added to the list of essential services, it is hardly back to normal.
Although the housing market is expected to take a knock with far reaching implications, there is no room for compromise as far as health and safety of clients and REALTORS® are concerned. Following the announcement by Ford government of stage one of the framework for the reopening of the Ontario economy, consumers will start returning to the market looking to buy and sell properties, but will also be looking to realtors for health and safety advice and guidance in respect of best practices and the potential for no-contact options, making the role of a realtor more important than ever with the added task of helping clients to feel safe and comfortable during the search for their dream home.
OREA has used up-to-date public health information, industry best practices and experience from North American jurisdictions to put together an exhaustive list of guidelines for safe conduct during the pandemic, which is available on their website; but remains of the opinion that showings should remain virtual as far as possible for the time being. These guidelines include:
The continued use of virtual tools as far as possible, keeping open houses and showings virtual unless in-person is absolutely necessary.
Electronic processing of all forms, acknowledgements and documents.
Communicating with clients via phone, email, or video calls to the greatest extent possible.
Ensuring that all surfaces are thoroughly disinfected both before and after in-person showings, and keeping windows open and lights on at all times during the showing.
When personal interaction is necessary and unavoidable, ensure a personal distance of at least 2m is maintained, and proper personal protective equipment such as face masks are used in instances where personal distancing is not possible.
Engaging with buyers and sellers is an integral part of real estate, but COVID-19 has thrown a curve ball in the traditional practices. Realtors are now tasked with a lot more than before as the economy gradually opens, with direct contact needing to be kept to absolute minimum— for the sake of their own health and that of their clients. As more and more consumers begin to emerge from their homes and return to the market, several alternatives and considerations exist for the realtor to meet all the needs of their clients while keeping COVID-19 in mind:
Digital and virtual technology should still be the first option for interaction: 3D property scans, virtual tours, and live tours through Skype or Facebook are some of the great alternative marketing opportunities that can be explained and offered to clients.
PERSONAL PROTECTIVE EQUIPMENT
At some point, as impressive as new technology is, virtual options are no longer viable. At this point, realtors should ensure they have PPE such as face masks on hand for themselves and their clients. RAHB Realty Shoppe has started stocking PPE ideal for these unavoidable scenarios.
If a client is at the point where they feel that an in-person showing is necessary, the majority of the work should be done electronically beforehand, in order to keep the actual showing as short and sweet as possible. During the showing, instructions of health officials should be strictly adhered to— such as the wearing of appropriate PPE, personal distancing, and thorough cleaning and disinfecting of all areas before and after an in-person showing.
In addition to this, in order to ensure every effort is in place to reduce risk of virus spread, a realtor should know their clients and their families. Before proceeding with an in-person showing, it is important to know whether anyone involved (be it the listing agent, realtor, homeowner, resident or potential buyer) suffer any underlying medical condition; are immunocompromised or elderly— as these factors may put them at greater risk of contracting the virus. It is Also important to know exactly what cleaning and disinfecting measures are being taken before and after the showing, as well as what PPE is appropriate.
Allow the clinical look and feel— everyone in masks and the scent of sanitizer in the air— to be a subtle reminder to replace the handshake with a greeting that accommodates the 2m personal distance and limitation of contact. This is vital in controlling the spread of the virus.
TIPS FOR THE HOMEOWNER OR LISTING REALTOR:
Clean and Disinfect- in these times presenting a clean house is more than just leaving a good impression on potential buyers, but cleaning and disinfecting is actually a vitally important step in ensuring good health of everyone entering the house. Special attention should be given to high-touch areas such as light switches and door handles, counters and cabinet knobs, and the process of cleaning and disinfecting should then be repeated after the showing ends.
Proper Use of PPE- the listing realtor should have appropriate PPE available for themselves and their clients, and should follow provincial guidance including following personal distancing as far as possible.
Entering the Home- a buyer should under no circumstances enter a house unless accompanied by a registrant. Where showing is concerned, the buyers representative must accompany their client into the property while adhering to all PPE and physical distancing measures. The sellers representative needs to explain the rights of the seller and follow their lead on whether or not they should be present for for showings and visits, especially those by third parties such as buyers and inspectors etc. the seller is expected to make an informed decision on how the house will be protected, keeping in mind the sellers representative is entrusted to proceed with their best interests at heart, and homeowners should not attend the showing themselves.
Limit Time in the House- communications between buying agents and their clients should take place outside of the home so that when it is necessary to enter a home the time spent inside can be kept to a minimum. Where back-to-back showings are lined up, the listing agent must make time in between to disinfect high-touch points.
Keep Lights on and Doors Open- by ensuring that all lights are on and interior doors (including cabinets) are open, the need for excess touching is eliminated.
Ventilation- take steps to improve the airflow in the house such as opening windows.
Digital Documents- digitizing all brochures, listing sheets and other documentation limits the passing from hand to hand, electronic access such as AirDrop, QR code, email or link onsite can be utilised, and sales contracts and forms should be completed on digital platforms.
Space out Showings- Enough time should be allocated between showings for thorough disinfecting of the property and minimizing of personal contact.
Precautions for Transferring Paper Documents- where electronic means will not suffice, such as in instances of transferring executed agreements or cheques, limit hand-to-hand transfers by providing bags or envelopes for the documents to be placed in, or alternatively consider setting up drop boxes at the brokerage office.
TIPS FOR THE CLIENT OR PURCHASING REALTOR:
Meet Clients at the Property- Don’t offer to pick them up, meet at the property and maintain social distancing throughout.
Wear PPE- in accordance with provincial guidance, realtors should have PPE available for themselves and their clients.
Keep it Quick- minimize risk by keeping the viewing as short as possible.
Clean and Sanitize- the agent and clients should wash their hands with warm soapy water and/or sanitizer both before entering the property, and again after they leave.
Don’t Overcrowd the Elevator- by following the building rules of the number of individuals permitted in an elevator. Where physical distancing is not possible in the elevator, limit it to one or two people, or members of the same family.
Keep the showing small- viewing should be restricted to allow parties to the contract only— discourage including extended family and children, and strictly adhere to public health limits on the number of people in a gathering.
No Bathrooms- avoid using the bathroom at a showing.
Hands to Yourself- Encourage clients to leave their belongings in their cars, and avoid touching anything in the house including surfaces, furniture, cupboards, appliances, etc.
By being listed as an essential service, the Government has entrusted realtors with a responsibility to uphold— by taking every precaution to ensure the comfort and safety of the people who make real estate possible.
Are you wondering how we can keep you safe while you buy or sell during the pandemic? Contact us here firstname.lastname@example.org
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