As of Wednesday, March 25th , 2020, all non-essential businesses in Ontario were ordered to close due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The government published exceptions to this order in their list of essential workplaces. Notably, the government has deemed real estate an essential service but that doesn’t mean a return to “business as usual.”
Ontario remains under a state of emergency, and REALTORS® have a duty to follow the direction of health officials to minimize direct physical interaction. We have prepared a list of best practices and tips to guide you through these unprecedented times:
1. Embrace Technology
Embracing digital technology is essential in order to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission. We recommend that Members look at digital solutions that can significantly reduce or eliminate the need for in-person interactions, and discuss alternatives with their clients.
Possible alternatives include:
- Using virtual tours and digital floor plans instead of in-person viewings
- Using electronic documents and signatures, instead of paper documents
- Using electronic funds transfers instead of certified cheques
- Communicating with clients via written communications, smartphone technology applications, and video conferencing, instead of face-to-face meetings
*Additional Resource: How to Set Up Video Showings with ShowingTime
2. Take Preventative Measures
If there is an urgent matter that requires a face-to-face meeting with a client or colleague, there are various preventative measures that may be taken to reduce the risk of contracting and spreading COVID-19.
- Staying home if you have a fever, cough, shortness of breath or any other cold or flu-like symptom.
- Washing your hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water aren’t available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
- Avoiding touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
- Avoiding close contact with anyone who is sick.
- Cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched objects and surfaces.
- Covering your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze, or cough or sneeze into your sleeve.
3. Identify Clients Using Alternative Methods
During a time where we need to be practicing social distancing, it can be a challenge for REALTORS® to properly identify their clients to comply with their legal obligations.
Fortunately, methods exist to identify clients in non-face-to-face situations. REALTORS® can use the “dual process method” to ID their clients solely based on reliable, scanned documentation, such as a utility bill and a bank statement. No in-person meeting is required.
For more information, click here.
4. Discuss with Your Seller the Importance of Considering the Health and Safety of Tenants
Though tenants and landlords have their own respective rights, particular attention must be paid to the tenant’s health and safety. Tenants with an underlying medical issue or who are otherwise at risk should not be forced to allow strangers into their home during Ontario’s State of Emergency.
OREA has called on landlords to stop in-person showings of tenant-occupied properties or seeking another tenant during the State of Emergency. Though buyers may want to see the home in-person before committing, as a REALTOR® you can reduce the number of in-person showings required by asking buyers to assess their interest through virtual options first.
If they remain interested, you can work out a plan to safely view the property, however viewings should occur with the tenant’s consent.
5. New Listing Agreements
You may enter into new listing agreements with sellers however, you are under no obligation to do so. Before asking your client to sign a listing agreement, make sure they understand the services you are prepared to offer, and how those services will differ compared to what they might have expected from a typical trade prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.