Real estate was deemed an essential service amid Ontario’s state of emergency, which meant business could operate but not as usual. Now, with Toronto in Stage 3, there’s a return to some of the normalcy pre-COVID, or what people like to call ‘a new normal.’ Here’s what buyers and sellers can expect today as they enter the housing market.
1. People can attend open houses again but expect to wait in line to gain access to the property. This is to limit the number of people indoors to maintain physical distancing protocols. Realtors are implementing additional health and safety measures to protect the public, the seller and themselves from COVID-19. However, only time will tell whether this method of showcasing a home has really ‘come back.’ The Toronto Regional Real Estate Board is encouraging agents to only conduct in-person open houses as a last resort; alternative marketing strategies for sellers such as virtual open house tours that can easily be accessed by buyers are preferred.
2. Face masks are now mandatory in all enclosed common areas of condominium and apartment buildings, such as lobbies, elevators and shared laundry rooms. Like the city’s existing mandatory mask bylaw whereby face coverings must be worn in indoor public spaces, children under two years old and people with medical, mental health or cognitive conditions, or a disability are exempt. That applies to people with hearing impairments or those communicating with them.
3. Home inspectors have modified the inspection process to keep everyone as safe as possible. Many request the property be vacant to limit contact. All lights should be left on and all cupboards below plumbing fixtures left ajar and the area clear. Blinds and drapes should also be left open to provide access to windows. The seller should provide easy access to the furnace, water heater, electrical panel and water meter, and the attic hatch should be accessible and clear of all personal belongings. Depending on the company, Realtors and their homebuyer clients may be asked to remain outside the premises during the inspection.
4. Sellers are required to review and sign a COVID-19 acknowledgement and declaration form, which addresses the risks of in-person showings during the pandemic and communication expectations if there are any changes to their health (or anyone else’s living in the home). Depending on the brokerage, the seller may be required to disinfect and clean all high touch surfaces upon completion of any showings of their property. Conversely, buyers and/or their agent may be required to fill out a similar form disclosing recent past travel outside Canada, whether they’re experiencing any COVID-19 symptoms and if they’ve knowingly been in contact with anyone with COVID-19 symptoms, or with a presumptive or confirmed COVID-19 diagnosis, in the last 14 weeks.
5. After shuttering their physical doors in favour of a remote work environment, real estate brokerage offices have reopened to agents and their clients for meetings, offer presentations and other business-related activities, as well as the general public; however, hours may vary depending on the brokerage. At Royal LePage, our ‘new’ business hours are Monday-Saturday from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Entry during the evenings and Sunday is by appointment only for the time being. Office access is primarily reserved for people who need to be in attendance, such as those currently listed, or to be listed, on title and their spouse. (Additional family members and pets are to remain outside.) In support of contact tracing efforts by public health authorities, everyone must sign in on arrival and out on departure, regardless of time attending. Masks must be worn at all times.