COVID-19 – Updated Guidance on Showings and Open Houses

March 24, 2020

Health authorities have provided important guidance to help contain the spread of the COVID-19 virus, directing that people minimize opportunities for transmission of the virus through direct physical interaction.

Conventional open houses, which involve in-person viewing of the property and direct physical interaction with salespeople and other prospective buyers, are the types of activity health authorities are directing be ceased.

We strongly recommend that brokerages and salespeople follow the direction of health officials by declining to facilitate or participate in open houses, and by limiting showings to where they are absolutely necessary.

We support the many brokerages and salespeople who have adopted strategies that promote social distancing, by focusing on virtual, digital and paperless solutions that reduce direct physical interaction during real estate transactions, significantly reducing the risk of transmission. We greatly appreciate the efforts of real estate associations and boards who have, or will be, temporarily suppressing open houses on their MLS® Systems and on public facing websites.

These are extraordinary times, and everyone should do their part by following the expert direction of health authorities.

Please continue to closely monitor announcements from health authorities and to visit this page for additional information published by RECO.

Do I have to host an open house for my client?

No. As a registrant and business operator, you decide which services you are prepared to offer. You should make those decisions based on the most current guidance and direction of health authorities, which at present is to reduce or eliminate direct physical interaction that could promote transmission of the virus. Information from health authorities is evolving and changing based on current circumstances and facts. Please stay up to date.

Do I have to participate in showings?

No. As a registrant and business operator, you decide which services you are prepared to offer. You should make those decisions based on the most current guidance and direction of health authorities, which at present is to reduce or eliminate direct physical interaction that could promote transmission of the virus.

In-person meetings and showings should be limited to where they are absolutely necessary. Help your clients understand the importance of following current direction from health authorities and the risks that come with hosting or attending showings. If your client decides to allow showings of their property or to attend showings of other properties, you can decline to participate. As always, you should discuss with your clients the services you are prepared to offer and ways to minimize the risk of transmission of the virus.

If you do decide to participate in a showing, actively promote social distancing and follow recommendations of health authorities about handwashing and sanitizing to reduce the risk for yourself, buyers and sellers.

What are the alternatives to open houses and in-person showings?

Digital technologies offer possible buyers and sellers many ways to show and view a property, without setting foot in the home. Explore virtual marketing tools and strategies, such as video and virtual tours, in addition to conventional photos of the property. Though a buyer may want to see the home in-person before committing, they might be able to reduce the number of in-person showings required by assessing properties through virtual options first.

Why isn’t RECO banning open houses and showings?

When it comes to issues of public health, RECO follows the direction of health authorities, namely the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long Term Care, who continue to provide guidance to the public and businesses around minimizing the risk of transmission of the COVID-19 virus and other health related issues.

RECO strongly recommends that brokerages and salespeople decline to host or participate in open houses. Instead, RECO recommends alternative ways of delivering real estate services that minimize direct personal contact to help reduce the transmission of the virus.

A number of brokerages and salespeople have already adopted this approach, and associations and boards are urging their members to do the same. Some local boards have taken further steps to suspend the ability to have open houses appear on their MLS® systems.

Courtesy of RECO (Real Estate Council of Ontario) https://www.reco.on.ca/covid-19/#showings