Real Estate is deemed an essential service but it is not “business as usual”
As you know, the Ontario Government will order workplaces to close-down if necessary; this measure is to prevent the spread of COVID-19. The Government has created a list of 75 “essential” services, which are businesses that are allowed to stay open, including “Land registration services, and real estate agent services and moving services.”
Why was “real estate” deemed essential?
REALTORS® asked for the essential service designation and for the Land Registry Office to stay open because there are thousands of transactions in Ontario right now that have yet to close officially. Every one of them is different.
While some may not require the help of a REALTOR® to close, others will. OREA (Ontario Real Estate Association) was also concerned that if REALTORS® were not permitted to support these transactions, those families and businesses could have been left high and dry.
Many other professional services appear in the essential list, including banking, lawyers, and accountants. Shutting down these sectors completely, like real estate, could have had huge unintended consequences for consumers and a damaging domino impact on other deals.
What does this all mean?
It does NOT mean business as usual.
Clients and other consumers are subject to the “shutdown” orders and should not be visiting properties for open houses if it can be avoided. ALL REALTORS® may be advised to stop face-to-face business, including open houses, in-person showings, and maintaining agents and public office hours.
The Government gave the “essential” label to real estate to permit transactions to close – NOT to allow REALTORS® to carry on with normal business practices during a crisis.
As of September 25, the Ontario government has provided new entry screening requirements for workplaces, applicable to all workers and essential visitors (including staff, students, volunteers, suppliers, delivery and maintenance and other service providers) entering the brokerage or Board office.
At all points of entry, workers and essential visitors must answer COVID-19 screening questions before entering the premises.
What if I have to buy or sell?
The health and welfare of our clients and communities is our top priority. If you absolutely have to buy, sell or lease a property at this time… I can help. Many aspects of the real estate trade can continue to occur with-out in-person contact, including documentation and signing, and in many circumstances, closings.
Here are some of the services I am offering:
- everyone is screened (inspectors, appraisers, cooperating brokers included) for recent travel, known symptoms of COVID-19 and proximity to others who have tested positive
- comprehensive “visit acknowledgement” form which documents everyone entering the premises
- defined procedures for everyone visiting the property
- increased number of photos for each listing
- exclusive property dedicated websites and landing pages
- enhanced virtual tours
- digital feature sheets
- on-line sales brochure
- floor plans
- on-line sound bites
- on-line location mapping
- on-line recorded video tours
- on-line live video tours
- video conferencing
- electronic document signing
- transferable inspections
- transferable warranty protection plans
- commercial and residential title insurance
- premium credit report and tenancy history report
- special COVID-19 clauses for offers and agreements
- lockbox for sellers to leave keys for buyers
- direct deposit and wire transfers
- expert assistance through-out the process and life of your investment
What about showings?
Some sellers are allowing showings only with an accepted offer and some buyers (hesitant about viewing the property before an accepted offer) are submitting offers that include a viewing condition.
Each request for a property visit for any of Royal LePage Terrequity’s listings will have to sign a Property Showing / Visit Acknowledgement Form before their request will be granted. The purpose of this form is to help protect our clients to ensure that we minimize the chance of infecting the seller or any of the guests. This form will be completed by each party who is visiting the property i.e. buyer, visitor, photographer, inspector, agent, co-operating agent, etc.
To be clear one buyer cannot make a representation for the other buyer, assuming there is more than one. We may ask to get the form re-signed every week, in case someone’s health or situation has changed.
Keep in-mind that visits to the property can be minimized by scheduling the inspection and buyers viewing during the same day. Also allowing for at least two weeks between the owners moving out and the new buyer moving in, would help in reducing chances of transmission.
Although this is a new practice, as RECO pointed out in a recent Bulletin, “each registrant is required to practice with integrity but to promote the best interests of their clients and act honourably and professionally.” Failing to inquire about the health of the potential purchaser or communicating the ground rules for the showing, during this COVID 19 pandemic, in our opinion would be a violation of this principle.
What about showings involving tenants?
I’ve had many questions from tenants and landlords on this issue.
Legally, the Residential Tenancies Act may permit showings, but for obvious health and safety reasons, these showings need to stop. Instead, I am working with clients who are landlords to show these properties virtually. Landlords and tenants should work together to find a solution that protects the health and financial well-being of everyone. Business that can wait until after the State of Emergency, should clearly wait until it ends.
Let’s work together.
These are challenging and unprecedented times. We all have an obligation to do what’s right to keep our families, colleagues, and communities safe. I hope you are healthy, safe and finding a silver-lining in the abrupt pause that life has presented us with.
If you’re interested in more information on how COVID-19 is impacting the real estate market read my blogs and TRREB has developed a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) page to address some of the most popular issues. Please contact me directly if you have any questions.