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Business as unusual

Lindsay Smith

By Lindsay Smith/Real Estate Columnist

As we head into another lockdown, I felt it would be worthwhile to discuss buying or selling a home during a pandemic. Let’s get one thing off the table, real estate is considered an essential service and homes are being bought and sold in record numbers. However, the Ontario Association of Realtors has released the statement, “While real estate is considered essential, it is not business as usual.” Let’s dig in and explore how it was that 580 homes in Oshawa sold in March 2021.

There are a lot of moving parts to a real estate transaction, and a considerable amount of people who are involved when a home is listed for sale or sold. In addition to realtors, there are mortgage agents, lawyers, appraisers, photographers, stagers, printing company workers, sign installers… the list is a long one.

When the first emergency orders came into effect in March 2020, a series of protocols were established to ensure the safety of all parties involved in a real estate transaction. This is a short list of some of the safety protocols:

  • Limiting the number of people during a home showing to three. (one agent and a maximum of two buyers)
  • Limiting the showing time to half-hour increments.
  • Obtaining a form signed by agent and buyers prior to the showing of a property, and any third party associates (home inspectors, etc), ensuring they show no signs of COVID-19 and have not travelled outside of the country.
  • Sellers agreeing to have all lights turned on and closet doors open for as “touchless” a viewing as possible. Also, to not remain in the home during the showing. (This reminds me of a joke – there are two things you do not want in a home when it is being shown by a realtor, anything on two or four legs.)
  • As much as possible, manage all paperwork by electronic means (agreements of purchase and sale, listing forms, and all of the necessary paperwork needed to be signed.)
  • No physical in-person open houses.
  • Face masks to be worn at all times inside of the property.
  • When possible, sellers to open windows to allow ample ventilation.

Here is a link to the recommended protocols set forth by the Ontario Real Estate Association:

Guidance for Safe In-Person Showings

Along with these protocols, our team has established these extra safety steps:

  • During photography sessions, be available to allow the photographer entrance to the home allowing them to work without any others in the home.
  • Encourage sellers to “camp-out” in a hotel when we feel that there will be a large volume of buyers touring the home. (one property we sold had over 60 buyers through in five days)
  • When electronic signatures were not possible, meeting sellers outdoors signing paperwork on a picnic table in a park to allow for outdoor physical distancing.
  • Pre-qualify all buyers prior to our team showing a property.

With the current emergency orders in place, our offices are closed to the public with only direct employees allowed inside. This does make for a few hurdles in negotiating property sales. In the past when an Offer to Purchase was submitted on one of our properties for sale, we would meet with the sellers, either in their home or at our office. However, today we are more likely to do most of the negotiation over the phone and signatures are collected electronically, or meet quickly once an agreement had been reached.

Over the past year I have sold properties for clients moving out of province, for financial reasons, retiring and downsizing, dealing with a family member passing away, and people taking advantage of a brisk market. One truth this pandemic has identified is that real estate is a business that does not take “breaks.” We are fortunate to be able to work helping people who have needs independent of the challenges we are all living with.

If you have any questions on the above information, or if you see a real estate emergency on the horizon, I can be reached at