Update on COVID-19 in Real Estate – March 27, 2020

March 27, 2020

How has COVID-19 affected the real estate market? What should you do if you MUST buy or sell a home during the global pandemic?

Watch the video here: youtu.be/Miia_Kelly_Video_2020.03.27_COVID19Update

Or, read the script here:

Buying or Selling a Home during the COVID-19 Pandemic… If You Must

Hi, it’s Miia here with an update on the effects of COVID-19 on the real estate market and the behaviour of buyers and sellers when looking for and marketing homes.

 My Public Service Announcement

Straight out, I want to stress, that I don’t believe that anyone should be attempting to buy or sell a home unless they MUST do so, at this time, and even if they do, then it should not be in the usual fashion. I know that there are people who MUST buy or sell right now, such as people who already sold their home and will be homeless if they don’t find their next place to live, and people who have already bought a home and need to sell their current place in order to pay for the next one. But even if you MUST buy or sell a home right now, then it is NOT business as usual. There are new safety procedures to use which I will get into in a moment.

Essential Services

When the Ontario government ordered that non-essential business be shut down this week, they did not shut down Realtors, because Realtors provide services which assist people with finding shelter. But the intention was not so that we could run business as usual. The intention was to allow people with pending closings to be able to transact.

In fact, in Quebec, Realtors are now restricted to using only electronic communication with clients until April 13th. In Ontario we are not so restricted – at least not yet.

Ontario Real Estate Association (OREA)

After the government’s announcement to shut down all non-essential business, OREA sent a message to all Ontario Realtors that “All Members should be moving to remote work – full stop.”

What’s Happening in the Market?

According to BrokerBay Inc., the number of showings dropped in the GTA by 58.6% when comparing the week of March 16-22 to the prior week, March 9-15.

In the same time period, offer registrations also dropped by 49.6%.

This is a good sign that our community began practicing social distancing even when it came to buying and selling real estate, which must have been tough for sellers who were trying to catch the hot market we were having, and tough for buyers who have been struggling to win in bidding wars.

Offices Closed but Working Remotely

At all levels of governance in real estate, people are working remotely as much as possible. Even my own brokerage, has shut the office doors and the staff are working from home to keep the real estate deals going.

Lawyers, the Land Registry office and lenders are all running as well, but may changes some of their procedures (such as signing in person) to accommodate social distancing.

Some home inspectors are refusing to conduct home inspections out of social responsibility, as their job requires touching many surfaces in the home.

How to Reduce Risk If You MUST Sell or Buy During the Pandemic

The idea is to minimize contact with other people and disinfect surfaces regularly.

If you are selling a home:

Right now, I am not permitted to conduct traditional open houses or door-knocking as marketing techniques at this time.

What I CAN do is host an open house in a virtual fashion using digital technology such as Facebook Live, where I would market the online Open House and stream live video from the home, giving those watching, a live tour, and answer their questions live.

For showings, you can restrict viewers to only those buyers who have signed with you an offer contingent on a physical inspection only.

If you do allow showings, then you can open all interior doors (including closets) and leave all lights on, to minimize the need for viewers to touch surfaces in your home.

All occupants should be absent for the showings to avoid any contact with the buyers or the buyer’s Realtor.

Buyers can be required to complete a Declaration swearing to certain facts such as having no symptoms of illness and having not travelled in the last two weeks.

All surfaces that may have been touched should be disinfected before and after any showing.

If you are looking to buy a home:

As a practice, physical showings as a home shopping process, where a potential buyer visits multiple homes, must stop.

Home-search efforts should focus on electronic showings. I realize that it is unreasonable to expect that a family would make the largest financial commitment of their lives without physically visiting the home they intend to buy. But here is a plan for confirming that we have found you a suitable home:

  • A REALTOR® should first work with you to assess properties through virtual options such as virtual tours, floorplans and photos;
  • If you are interested in a property, I would then provide a virtual showing which means that I would use my iphone to show you the home with a live video call;
  • When you have narrowed your search to a single property and want a physical visit, then we will go through the protocol for keeping us safe.

New Safety Protocol for Showing Homes

I will have to confirm with you and all occupants of the home that no one has any symptoms of any illness, and that you have not travelled over the last two weeks. There may be a form that needs to be signed by every person entering the home, declaring the truth of these statements.

Only the people who will be named in the Offer should be allowed to attend to look at the home. No extra relatives or children should attend unnecessarily.

As a Realtor in the past I might have picked up my clients and driven them as a passenger in my car to view a property with me, but in these times, it is recommended that we take separate vehicles to get there.

We should not greet each other with any handshakes or hugs, and we should stay apart 2 metres at all times – if it’s a small home, the Realtor can take one person at a time through the home to ensure this social distancing.

Washrooms should not be used at all when viewing homes.

We should not hand each other our phones or anything else.

We can disinfect our hands with sanitizer before entering the home.

You can keep your hands in our pockets to ensure that you don’t automatically touch something.

Finally, if you should notice any symptoms of illness after a showing, you should notify your Realtor.

 Final Thoughts

As you can tell, buying and selling a home during this pandemic is NOT business as usual. Shelter is essential, so we will still see homes being bought and sold, but to the extent that you can, just appreciate the home that you’ve got, and stay in it!

That’s it for this video. Bye for now.