Brokerage Decision, But Carefully Consider the Risks
It is understandable that real estate open houses and showings are of concern to many, due to the uncertainty we're faced in dealing with COVID-19. The real estate regulator in Ontario, the Real Estate Council of Ontario (RECO), has issued a guidance on open houses and showings that you can read here: https://www.reco.on.ca/covid-19/
It is important that we all remain informed about the coronavirus (COVID-19), and to that end, the Toronto Regional Real Estate Board (TRREB) continues to monitor COVID-19 developments closely. The well-being of TRREB Members, their clients and TRREB staff is our utmost priority.
As RECO has pointed out, real estate trades typically involve a significant amount of personal contact, particularly during showings, open houses, and in-person client communications. This includes REALTORS® and their clients, home buyers and sellers, and businesses. However, in the current environment, public health authorities are strongly encouraging social distancing. This is advice that should be taken seriously by every professional that works with the public.
Consider the Health of Others
RECO's advice echoes earlier advice issued by TRREB. Both organizations have emphasized that, as registered professionals, it is the duty of Realtors to support their clients in making an informed choice about hosting or attending open houses and showings. This is a real estate brokerage decision that will have to be considered, taking into account the health of clients, Realtor staff and the community.
Realtors need to speak openly and honestly with clients so that they can weigh the risks in their community. It is important to heed the advice of health authorities (local, provincial and federal). This is particularly important for clients who are in high-risk groups, such as the elderly and those with compromised immune systems. See Health Canada guidelines on prevention tips.
Realtors are reminded that there are alternative online and virtual marketing opportunities for sellers that can easily be accessed by buyers.
As RECO has advised, "though it is your client’s decision whether to hold an open house, you can decline to proceed if you are not comfortable with the risk to your health. As always, you should discuss the services you are prepared to offer with your clients."
Keep a two-metre radius
If Realtors and clients do interact, it's a good idea to follow Health Canada's guideline to keep a two-metre radius from others when out in public, and to practise "social distancing." Realtors and their clients should stay in isolation if you're showing any symptoms of being sick.
Realtors should consider contacting clients by email, phone or using other forms of technology, such as video calls.
If Realtors and their clients feel the need to host an open house, showing or have an in-person meeting with clients, consider the following tips from TRREB, RECO, CREA & Other Real Estate Organizations
The regulator (RECO) has advised that before a showing or open house, you should seek to confirm whether any occupants of the property (owners or tenants) are ill, under self-isolation, have recently travelled out of the country or may have been exposed to COVID-19.
- Check with your brokerage regarding any special requirements it may have put in place.
- Encourage people viewing the property to follow handwashing and sanitizing guidelines established by health officials.
- Use disinfecting wipes to clean commonly-shared surfaces like door handles.
- Take steps to discourage those viewing the property from touching any surfaces or items in the home.
- Consider limiting the number of people in the home at any one time and practise social distancing, as advised by local health officials.
- Refrain from greeting others with handshakes or hugs.
- Encourage clients to thoroughly clean and disinfect the house after open houses or viewings.
- Request clients or attendees to notify their Realtor if they become ill within two weeks of an open house or showing. If an attendee does become sick or is diagnosed with COVID-19, communicate this with the homeowner and other attendees if possible.
- Keep a list of everyone that attended the property, including the date and time and their contact information. In the event of an infection, you may be asked to provide the information to local public health authorities so they may investigate further. Note that, under the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA), this information can only be used for the purposes for which it was collected.
TRREB continues to encourage all Members to follow the advice of public health authorities and exercise reasonable precautions as needed to ensure the safety of all Members and their clients. CREA and NAR have published resources that TRREB Members can also refer to in determining appropriate measures for their respective operations. Those resources can be found here (CREA) and here (NAR).
Looking for more information surrounding COVID-19?
For a full list of prevention tips, please visit the Health Canada website.
You should also be mindful of the following advisory on Enhanced Public Health Measures for COVID-19 from the Office of the Ontario Chief Medical Officer of Health regarding travel, large events and other related matters.
Ontario Ministry of Health
Public Health Agency of Canada
World Health Organization
Centres for Disease Control (CDC) - United States
We are monitoring developments closely, and will communicate any additional measures as they become necessary.
Thank you for your understanding as we all deal with these challenging times.