Safer Showings During BC’s Second Wave
Real estate professionals must continue to adapt to protect themselves, consumers and communities from COVID-19.
Realtors must continue to manage risks of showings as infections rise
The acceleration in the number of COVID-19 infections in British Columbia means we must all continue our efforts to slow the spread of the disease in accordance with public directives and the public health order from the Provincial Health Office. Both the British Columbia Real Estate Association and the Real Estate Council of British Columbia now strongly recommend against open houses and are replacing previous guidance on hosting safer open houses with this revised guidance on safer showings. This revised guidance reflects that no more than six people may attend an event in or at a private residence.
By using the 10 best practices below, you can help ensure that you’ve assessed, prepared for, and helped prevent potential health risks to yourself, your family, clients, colleagues, and consumers when conducting showings.
1. Consider Your Clients’ Best Interests First
Given the growth in COVID-19 transmission rates, it’s important that buyers and sellers understand the risks inherent in showings. When discussing showings as part of marketing a client’s property, it’s important to discuss all the different risk factors, from the spread of COVID-19 to concerns from neighbours or tenants, as well as the precautions that can reduce some of these risks. These risks can differ depending on whether a home is vacant, owner-occupied, tenant occupied or a strata unit in a multi-tenanted building.
Only after assessing the risks and understanding the required precautions can sellers make an informed decision to accommodate showings.
Remember, the brokerage determines the services they offer to clients. If it’s not in the Schedule “A”, you are not obligated to provide those services. If it is in the Schedule “A” and you are concerned with the risks, you should discuss this with your client and your managing broker.
Realtors representing buyers must also ensure buyers’ interests are protected. This means helping buyers understand and reduce the risks of contracting COVID-19 while attending private showings, as well as the risks of buying a property sight unseen. You can advise buyers the steps they can take to better protect themselves, such as only attending a showing after reviewing all information and virtual marketing and, when they do attend a showing, wearing a mask and observing physical distancing.
2. Understand and Stay Informed of Safety Protocols
On October 26, Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry announced that gatherings at private residences would be limited to a maximum of six people in addition to occupants. It’s important that Realtors understand the implications of this public health order and other changes to safety guidelines.
This limit on gatherings applies to both inside and outside the home, meaning consumers cannot wait on the property if another showing is already underway. Consumers should also understand that in the case of smaller properties, six people might be too many to still allow for safe physical distancing.
Realtors should also stay up to date with revised guidance from WorkSafeBC. WorkSafeBC now requires that real estate professionals “ensure that viewings are scheduled at appropriate intervals to allow for sufficient time to clean, sanitize, and ventilate the property between viewings.” You can read WorkSafeBC’s full protocols for real estate professionals here.
Your brokerage also has its own policies and procedures. These should be the foundation of the protocols that you put in place to ensure safe showings. You can view the Checklist for Managing Brokers that BCREA created to help guide brokerages here. The Real Estate Council of BC has also created COVID-19 information for consumers and additional resources for real estate professionals.
3. Clearly Communicate and Document Safety Protocols
When working with a seller, discuss what measures need to be in place to ensure a safe showing and who will be responsible for these measures. Be sure to document your recommendations as well as what was agreed to, particularly when it comes to sanitizing and ventilating a property between showings. If the seller declines to require masks to be worn during showings, document that decision too and be sure to discuss this with your managing broker if your brokerage has their own policies on this issue.
Once you have agreed to safety protocols for a showing, consider including a link to them on the MLS® listing. When working with a buyer’s agent, ask them to confirm that the buyer understands and
agrees to all the safety protocols and to following the public health order.
Clearly communicate any safety protocols you will follow to all your clients and consider posting these protocols on your website. Also consider using the CREA Coronavirus Statement & Consent form, available on WEBForms®, BCREA’s COVID-19 Notice and Acknowledgement form or, as appropriate, your brokerage’s waiver form.
4. Reduce In-person Interactions by Leveraging Technology
Reducing in-person interactions is an important way you can help control the spread of COVID-19. This means continuing to take every opportunity to use technology to reduce in-person contact (e.g., virtual open houses, showings and executing documents remotely).
Let your clients know that you can provide real estate services and market their home effectively using the array of technological tools available. Virtual showings and transactions are an impactful way to help market properties while protecting our communities during the COVID-19 pandemic.
When working with buyers, encourage them to review the MLS® listing details/photos in full, including any floor plans, 3D renderings, videos or additional information before requesting a showing. Buyers should also be encouraged to drive by and be familiar with the physical location of the property before requesting a showing.
5. Pre-screen Buyers Before Booking a Showing
In addition to ensuring that no more than six people, including Realtors, attend a showing, try to limit showings to serious buyers by screening for qualifying consumers who:- have already listed or sold their current home,
6. Plan in Advance
To help ensure the safety of those attending the showing, confirm in advance that all attendees will follow the public health order and your client’s and brokerage’s safety protocols. Be prepared to follow the instructions of your client and brokerage regarding access to the property for anyone who is not following directions.
If you are representing the seller, send an email to the buyer’s agent the day before the showing reminding them of the safety protocols, for example:
As other building occupants may be concerned about showings, consider getting permission to share the safety protocols you will be following in common areas of multi-tenanted properties.
9. Safely Conclude the Showing.
At the end of the showing, leave lights on and windows and interior doors as found to minimize touchpoints in the home. Follow up with your client to ensure that proper sanitization procedures have been carried out, which will have been agreed upon prior to the showing. Be sure to disinfect keys and lockboxes on exiting the home.
10. Anticipate and Respond to Community Concerns
You may hear concerns from others in the neighbourhoods and strata properties where you are showing properties. Whether online or in-person, be prepared to respond to concerns with professionalism and empathy. Remember Dr. Bonnie Henry’s words, “Be kind, be calm, be safe.” By communicating clearly about the precautions and safety protocols you are following, you can help members of the public understand that you are acting responsibly to protect their health and safety. Keep in mind that your actions can influence the public’s perception of the entire real estate profession.