by Paul Cowhig, Professional Standards Advisor

Whether you believe it is necessary at this time or not, all Realtors need to be vigilant in demonstrating care and concern for the health of others.

Without a doubt, COVID-19 is impacting “every step a Realtor takes.” Please, for the sake of the profession, it’s too early to relax!

This is not going away any time soon. This is not temporary. This is likely the way it will be until there is a vaccine developed and even then, we are never going back to the way it was.

As I have said in my past articles, everyone is watching, everyone has a camera, and they are not shy to share their concerns with the Board or others – on social media, with media and the list goes on.

The current headliner on the list of COVID-19 concerns is “Showing Homes” and the Board is getting calls everyday from the public, and from Realtors alike, asking us to clarify the rules because they are “seeing” others conduct business in a manner that they do not agree with.

So, let’s talk about that.

“Showing homes” to clients, and holding an “Open house” puts you, as a Realtor, squarely in the spotlight. The neighbours are watching and taking notes — and whether you like it or not – your colleagues are evaluating and judging your actions during these “meet and greets.”

And while many Realtors are following the strict protocols, there are still some who are not taking the health concerns, and regulations, seriously enough. The protocols from government and health authorities are issued for a reason – these are not guidelines; they are mandatory directives for us to adhere to and follow.

We have an enormous responsibility to step up our game and to do it fast. We need to do this for the sake of our clients, the sake of our profession, and for ourselves as well.

“By their actions you shall know them.” I don’t often quote scripture but this one fits.

How the real estate profession visibly demonstrates its concerns for public safety and a commitment to being good citizens during this time of upheaval shows our character. Good, bad or indifferent, it will be remembered for a long time.

We need to be leaders and we need to be seen as leaders.

Your first concern should be your clients. Here are some of the things to consider.

Occupied resale property

As a listing agent you need to have a meaningful conversation with your seller as to what to expect when listing a home today. All the pros and cons, all the potential risks and how you, as their advisor, will help to mitigate those risks and I would document that whole conversation.

Whether you’re representing the seller or the buyer, everyone shares the responsibility to protect even though there will be duplication of some things as one side prepares for allowing viewing and the other prepares to bring the buyer through.

Confirm with the Buyer’s Agent that their client (the person going to view a home):

  1. has not been out of the country in the last two to three weeks;
  2. exhibits no signs of sore throat, cough, runny nose, shortness of breath etc.;
  3. has viewed all the online photos, the virtual tour, etc.;
  4. has driven through the neighbourhood and genuinely would like to live in that community;
  5. is pre-approved for a mortgage; and
  6. is not limited by having to sell their home or property in order to make a purchase.

What I’m saying is, the buyer has a pen in hand and just needs to see the house to pull the trigger.

I know it’s easy for me to say this. I don’t have a listing my client wants sold or a buyer who needs to buy, but you get the idea. Facilitating real estate viewing for looky-loos should now finally be a thing of the past. Use virtual technology tools to weed out the seriously interested from the window shoppers.

In most cases the Buyer’s Agent should have covered all this with their client… but you need to confirm they did before you allow anyone into your client’s home, and again, I’d inform the seller you’re going to perform this kind of rigorous screening for their protection.

Remember, as a Listing Agent you need to manage this process. An “in-person” showing should be one of the final steps leading towards a sale, not one of the first.

You may also want to implement the following requirements for showings and require that all Buyer Agents and their clients agree to adhere to them:

  1. only decision makers come through the door, ideally no more than two at a time;
  2. social distancing measures are followed at all times;
  3. all parties wear gloves and masks;
  4. everyone, other than the Buyer’s Agent, is instructed to not touch anything;
  5. the Buyer’s Agent is the only one to open and close any doors, cupboards, switch on and off lights etc.;
  6. bathrooms are not to be used;
  7. a COVID-19 list of protocols/expectations will be printed out and displayed on site (at entry);
  8. extra supplies of gloves and masks will be provided in case anyone arrives unprepared or has run out of supplies; and
  9. sanitizer will be available and in view, including bottles and wipes.

Please try and help each other out.

I also recommend that Listing Agents wipe down surfaces, doorknobs, light switches etc. before and after every showing, and, I would make sure the Buyer’s Agent knows this is being done so they can assure their client that it’s as safe as possible to view the property.

Then, you need to ensure you keep a record of the individuals who entered the home in the event that you need to contact everyone because someone has come down with the virus after the showing.

The Real Estate Council of BC (RECBC) is recommending that all real estate professionals follow health and safety protocols released by WorkSafeBC.

“Ensuring public protection as BC begins to chart a gradual path back from COVID-19 remains RECBC’s highest priority,” said RECBC CEO Erin Seeley. “We urge real estate professionals to put health and safety first by following the protocols from WorkSafeBC. That includes continuing to use alternatives to in-person viewings whenever possible and limiting face-to-face interactions with clients. RECBC maintains its strong recommendation that no in-person open houses should be held.”

WorkSafeBC has some great materials available on their website specifically for real estate professionals, including pamphlets you can download and share with clients to explain the health and safety measures you are taking to protect them and others. I encourage you to go and see for yourself. I’d go so far as to say you have an obligation to educate yourself as fast as possible, and that you have a fiduciary duty to your clients to be in the know and to have these provisions and requirements in place. Not doing so would be reckless and irresponsible.

And please share this material, even this article, with your clients. We are all in this together.

The last thing I want to mention is this. Just as you are trying to adapt to the new way of working, please recognize as well that Board staff are doing the same. That means when you come into the building to see us, please know that we also have health protocols in place to protect staff and protect you.

Thank you for all your hard work and dedication to delivering the best service you can as professionals. It’s not easy, it takes thought and effort especially now, but it is worth it.