by Paul Cowhig, Professional Standards Advisor
We are in a remarkable moment in time – one of those rare times where everything changes… we don’t yet know how long this situation will last, and we won’t know until we get there but, in the meantime, I want to say, be careful!
We are all under a microscope. Everyone is watching what other people are doing, they’re taking notes and they are vocal. Now that we are a couple of weeks into this, let’s take stock of where we are.
If you are in a situation where a seller just has to sell and wants their home to be shown, or you have a buyer who can’t wait, you must carefully manage the process. You must not only do the right thing, you must appear to be doing the right thing.
The restrictions we are living with to stop the spread of the coronavirus pandemic have only become stricter. The measures are working, but they need to be maintained in order for our society and our businesses to flatten the curve and enter a new normal state.
Municipal bylaw officers are now empowered to enforce the provincial health office’s orders related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Under BC’s Public Health Act, anyone caught flouting strict public health orders meant to fight the novel coronavirus pandemic, could face massive fines of $25,000 and even up to six months in jail.
So where does that leave you and your clients today?
From what we know, on the recommendation of our Board and other real estate boards, open houses have been cancelled for the most part. However, we know that the odd open house and some private showings are being held, albeit under very tight restrictions.
Who is doing private showings at this time?
Due to life events that require people to either buy, sell, or both, Realtors and their clients, as well as affiliated professionals such as lawyers, accountants, and notaries, are continuing to provide real estate services under very strict measures in order to protect the health of all concerned in the process.
Preconditions to private showings
Sellers who agree to private showings are mostly those whose agent has identified a buyer who:
- Has viewed a virtual reality or high-quality video
- Looked at photographs of the property
- Read over available strata documents
- Has driven by the property, and viewed the neighbourhood
- Is ready and able to make an offer on the property
The province has provided a COVID 19 Self Assessment Tool that anyone can use to help him or her determine if they have the symptoms consistent with COVID-19.
In any case, health screening of visitors for the coronavirus at a private showing of a property would typically include such questions as:
- Do you have any of the following symptoms: fever/feverish, new or existing cough and difficulty breathing?
- Have you travelled outside Canada within the last 14 days? If so, have you self isolated for at least 14 days since arriving back in British Columbia?
- Have you had close contact with a confirmed or probable COVID-19 case?
- Have you had close contact with a person with acute respiratory illness who has been outside Canada in the last 14 days?
If the individual answered YES to any of the screening questions, or refuses to answer, presumably the seller and the agent would answer to the effect, “I’m sorry but based on these answers, I’m not able to allow you to enter the premises today based on my seller’s instructions.”
Health protocols for on-site private showings
Based on what we have been hearing from members, private showings are only carried out with these strict safety measures that include:
- Masks and gloves must be worn by the visitors including the buyers, sellers and agents attending
- No visitor is permitted to touch any object or surface of the home
- Any opening of doors, windows or cupboards must be done by the seller or the seller’s agent
- Sellers are advised to carry out a thorough cleaning and sanitizing of the home prior to a showing and sanitizing after the showing.
There is a lot of good advice out there among real estate boards here and across the country. The Real Estate Council of BC has also provided some useful information. If I were you, I would tap into all of it.
Additional COVID-19 resources: