The spring real estate market is always an exciting time for buyers and sellers who have spent months thinking about their next move. Normally, the season begins somewhere around February or March, and the flurry of activity continues until the end of the school year in June.
This year has been anything but normal, though. After a rapid start to the spring market, we all found ourselves in the throes of a pandemic that forced us to hide in our own homes and avoid contact with other people. Anyone contemplating a real estate transaction wondered how we would be able to safely enter a stranger’s property with a view to making an offer.
All along, there have been folks who needed to buy or sell for different reasons. The Ontario government has seen fit to allow realtors to remain available to assist in matching up the right buyers and sellers, and to ensure that social distancing recommendations and reasonable precautions were taken.
As the province begins to re-open, we are feeling the activity increase. Bidding wars are back, and buyers are increasingly eager to get out and get shopping.
We, as an industry, have developed some new procedures. Below are some of the current practices that are helping to protect everyone by preventing the spread of germs and make house hunting safer while we cautiously work together toward a fully open market:
The New Etiquette
- Online viewing
Technology has allowed us to virtually market homes for sale with high quality photography, floor plans, video, 3D tours, online open houses, and detailed descriptions. A potential buyer should take advantage of all these visuals before requesting an in-person showing. This reduces physical traffic by helping to eliminate properties that do not appeal or fit buyer needs.
- Preliminary Research
More than ever, it’s a good idea to ask as many questions as you can think of up front. If you want to know about the age of the roof, furnace, renovations, etc – don’t hesitate to ask your agent to find out before you go in person. If there are any deal-breakers that you know will disqualify a property, try to find out ahead of time. Aluminum wiring? Low basement? Popcorn ceilings? Anything you know that will make you turn and walk out is worth asking before booking an appointment.
- Screening Forms
Before being allowed to enter a property, buyers and agents must fill in and submit a health questionnaire that is valid for 24 hours. This allows a measure of contact tracing, and ensures that high-risk individuals are not allowed inside a private residence where others could be infected.
- Masks, Gloves, Sanitizer
The safest way to attend a showing, especially when a home is currently occupied, is to come with a mask. Some properties provide sanitizer at the entrance. If you are able, though, it’s a good idea to carry sanitizer and/or gloves with you. While at a property, buyers and agents are being asked to avoid touching surfaces unnecessarily – even light switches and door handles. Sellers are leaving all lights on and doors open to make viewing easy.
- One (Small) Group at a Time, Please
In the past, overlapping showings have been permitted – even encouraged. These days, it’s important to allow any showings ahead of your to finish up and leave the house before going inside. Many sellers are also requesting that no more than two buyers come with only one agent, and that children under 12 years old not be allowed to attend showings.
It will be interesting to see how many of these changes become our new, permanent best practices. We certainly hope that the health risks eventually (and sooner than later!) decrease to a point where we can safely lower our guard and enjoy being out and about.
For now, though – we want you to know how much we appreciate all of our clients and friends who cooperate with the precautions being taken. Getting through this challenge is a team effort, and we are proud of the way we have all worked together to weather the storm!