In Ontario, we are starting to get a sense that the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic is slowly being brought under control, as more businesses and parks starts to reopen, gas prices stabilize, and we see more property coming back on the market. Yes the number of cases per day is still significant and people are still dying from this terrible virus, however the key indicator is that the epidemiological curve is starting to flatten. The government has declared we are now entering “Stage 1” for “reopening the Ontario Economy”. There are 3 stages in this process. Progressing from one stage to the next will depend on public health officials seeing a consistent two–to-four week decrease in the number of new daily COVID-19 cases. So what are the key trends you can expect for Toronto real estate during “Stage 1” of restarting the economy?
Realtors and Clients Wearing Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
As long as there are no vaccines available, we all need to adapt to a new normal for real estate. Expect to see your Realtors wearing PPE, including wearing protective masks and gloves during showings and meetings. The nature of real estate includes personal interaction however physical distancing should become the norm. While individual showings might be possible there will be numerous requirements, including legal waivers of liability to be signed by Buyers, Sellers and their Agents. Open houses are still highly risky and not recommended by the Ontario Real Estate Association, so we must be proactive and use 3D video and video tours to compensate for in person showings. If an in-person showing is essential, expect to be asked to wear PPE if you are a Buyer or seller or agent. The traditional “western” handshake is a thing of the past. No more contact is permitted in the “new normal”. Some alternative greetings have been suggested. One of these is a greeting practiced in SE Asia and especially in Thailand. Called the “Wai” it’s a sign of respect used for greetings by keeping your palms together in front of your chest. Whatever way you choose to greet people moving forward, resist the urge to do the old fashioned handshake, since we know viruses can easily spread by contact.
Safety Procedures and protocols for property showings
We are part of Right at Home Realty Brokerage, Inc. and our agents operate under strict guidelines throughout the pandemic. There may be subtle differences between Brokerages. While many professional real estate organizations (TRREB, OREA, CREA) have recommended against in person showings, this is slowly being modified to include special protocols for the new normal. Here are our Brokerage safety procedures and protocols which will be a part of the new normal:
- Agents doing showings must sign a legal waiver that they have not exhibited any of the symptoms associated with the COVID-19 virus including: Cough, Fever, Difficulty Breathing in the last 14 days. All showings must be cancelled in this case.
- Agents and clients must maintain at least a 6 foot (or 2 metre) social distance from all persons that seller’s Listing Salesperson or any Co‐operating Salespeople brings onto seller’s premises. This also means that agents can no longer drive clients around inside their vehicles.
- Before and after any showings, a property must be cleaned. The Agent and Seller must ensure there is Disinfection and cleaning of all surfaces after each showing in the Premises. A wipe down of all door handles, switches, windows, counter tops or any other surfaces people might touch. Buyers and sellers will be requested to wear PPE and use hand sanitizer and refrain from using the washrooms in any properties for sale.
- Our offices are physically closed to the public but open by telephone and email and video conference. We expect to see many new technologies to connect with our clients.
Virtual Real Estate is the New Normal in Toronto
We have done virtual showings in the past and they are not new, however they will become the “new standard” for both local and out-of-town and overseas Buyers. Common tools include high quality photos and videos to e-documents and signatures, everything can now be done online. 3D virtual tours or having an agent walk you through a property using Facetime or WhatsApp or Zoom will be the norm. 3D Video features simple options such as interactive floor plans, and more sophisticated options, such as full-service virtual reality in which you need to have special head gear to “walk though” the property! An interactive floor plan shows photographs of a property with the aid of a floor plan and arrows to indicate where you can walk up stairs or even onto a balcony! Clicking on arrows moves the user through the property and scrolling the mouse allows you to look up at the lights on the ceiling or down at the flooring. Its really a huge time saver and will get a lot more Buyers interested in a property sooner, rather than waiting for the appointment time and driving all over the city to view property. These tend to be more easily done with condos than homes. However, condos have a greater risk for contracting the virus because of the common areas and elevators where PPE would be needed.
Although Ontario REALTORS® have been declared an essential service and can “keep working”, the reality is this is not a time for “business as usual”. As advised by our professional bodies, like the Ontario Real Estate Association, Buyers, Sellers and their Agents should stop all face-to-face business, including open houses, in-person showings (especially of tenant-occupied homes), and public office hours during the Province’s COVID-19 State of Emergency. However the good news is that using technology can be highly effective and indeed save time (and money) over traditional methods of real estate.
Ontario Real Estate Association President’s Message to Realtors
Reopening Ontario after COVID-19 (Government of Ontario Official Site):
Right at Home Realty Inc COVID-19 information
Toronto region real estate board (TRREB) Issues Warning to Avoid in-person Business