Real-Estate Services Remain Open During COVID-19, But It’s Definitely Not Business As Usual

Buying and Selling During the Pandemic

Storey Collective - Real-Estate Services Remain Open During COVID-19

Following the Ontario Government’s instruction to close most workplaces to reduce the spread of COVID-19, the Government has released a list of 75 “essential” services that may continue to serve the public. Amongst these services, the Government has deemed land registration, real-estate, and moving services essential. 

As real-estate services remain open, here’s all the information you need to close your property sale or purchase and move during this difficult time.

Why can real-estate services remain open?

The Ontario Real Estate Association (OREA) requested the essential service designation for REALTORS® and that the Land Registry Office stay open. Keeping these services running means that homeowners with pending closings (those who have already bought and need to sell or those who have sold and need to buy) are able to do so. 

While some buyers and sellers may not require the help of a REALTOR® to close, others will. OREA highlighted that if REALTORS® couldn’t support these transactions, families and businesses would be left high and dry.

Aside from real-estate services, home inspectors, property appraisers, bankers, lawyers, and accountants are also deemed essential during the COVID-19 outbreak. Completely shutting these sectors could have had huge consequences for consumers and a damaging domino impact on other deals.

The Canadian Association of Movers (CAM) recommended that moving services also remain operational. However, self-storage moving services are not deemed an essential service at this time.

Guidelines around real-estate services remaining open

Though real estate services remain open, this does NOT mean business will continue as usual. The Government gave the “essential” label to real estate to permit transactions to close, NOT to allow REALTORS® to continue normal business practices during a crisis.

ALL REALTORS® should stop face-to-face business, including open houses and in-person showings. REALTORS® should find alternative ways to engage in showings, such as virtual tours and video conferencing. If absolutely necessary, such as for an inspection, an agent and inspector may meet in person. However, clients are to attend such meetings “virtually”.

REALTORS® must adapt their practices to ensure that their professional activities are safe. Practices should comply with all guidelines provided by Health Canada, the Province of Ontario, and medical professionals. 

Guidelines include:

  • Social distancing (at least six feet from any other person).
  • Cleaning and disinfecting high-touch surfaces.
  • Hand washing.
  • Trying not to touch your eyes, nose, or mouth.

What about showings involving tenants?

Allowing viewings of a tenanted property are at the tenant’s sole and absolute discretion.

Closing on a property purchase or sale during the pandemic

If you have sold and are yet to buy, you’ll likely have to complete a Health Disclosure Declaration Form before being allowed to view a property in person. This form might require you to confirm the following statements.

  1. I have not travelled anywhere outside of Canada, or been in contact with anyone who has travelled outside of Canada, in the last 14 days.
  2. I have not experienced any of the following symptoms in the last 14 days: fever, dry cough, shortness of breath, or difficulty breathing.
  3. I have not knowingly come into contact with anyone experiencing any of the following symptoms in the last 14 days: fever, dry cough, shortness of breath, or difficulty breathing.
  4. I have not knowingly come into contact with anyone with a presumptive or confirmed COVID-19 diagnosis in the last 14 days.

Meanwhile, if you have purchased and are yet to sell, you’ll likely have to sign a Consent Form before potential buyers will be allowed to view your property in person. This form may require you to:

  • Take “full responsibility for any negative consequences resulting from selling your home during the COVID-19 pandemic”.
  • Agree to “indemnify and release your listing REALTOR(s)®, their brokerage, and co‐operating REALTORS®, and their brokerages who facilitate showings of your property, as well as any third parties related to marketing preparation of your property”. These parties will need to be released from all liability, claims, actions, suits, demands, costs, or expenses related to any health risks or adverse health-related consequences, arising as a result of allowing access to individuals entering your premises.

Making offers during the pandemic

In addition to the “usual” conditions, which often include inspection and financing, a buyer can make an offer conditional on a satisfactory in-person viewing of a property. However, this isn’t ideal for the following reasons:

  • Without a true “end date” for self-isolation and the current state of emergency, said viewing is indefinitely put off.
  • Any conditions effectively take a property “off the market”, prohibiting a firm sale with an alternative buyer.

Managing your move during the pandemic

As much as everyone else, REALTORS® have a responsibility to protect our own safety during the COVID-19 pandemic. We must also protect the safety of our colleagues, clients, and all those around us.

Here’s how we have adapted our processes to keep all professional activity safe, complying with guidance from the Province of Ontario and Health Canada.

  • Since professional stagers and photographers are not essential services, we are listing our properties with “raw” photos provided by our seller clients.
  • Using Virtual Staging with professional photos from a previous listing of the same property (with permission of course).
  • Using virtual tours, 360-degree walk-throughs, mobile measurement applications, and digital floorplans 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.
  • Continuing to offer our online concierge to help organize and manage your move.

As always, we are leveraging the right tools and most effective approach to move you forward during this difficult time.

Book a call with Storey Collective to learn more about how your move could be affected by Covid-19.