The restrictions we are living with to stop the spread of the coronavirus pandemic have only become stricter. The measures are working, but they need to be maintained in order for our society and our businesses to flatten the curve and enter a new normal state.
Municipal bylaw officers are now empowered to enforce the provincial health office’s orders related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Under BC’s Public Health Act, anyone caught flouting strict public health orders meant to fight the novel coronavirus pandemic, could face massive fines of $25,000 and even up to six months in jail.
All of the above said, people are in fact still buying and selling real estate. Albeit under very tight restrictions.
Here is what those restrictions look like …
On the recommendation of our Board and other real estate boards, open houses have been cancelled. However, private showings are being held.
Who is doing private showings at this time?
Due to life events that require people to either buy, sell, or both, Realtors and their clients, as well as affiliated professionals such as lawyers, accountants, and notaries, are continuing to provide real estate services (under very strict protocols) in order to protect the health of all concerned in the process.
Preconditions to private showings
Sellers who agree to private showings are mostly those whose agent has identified a buyer who:
- Has viewed a virtual reality or high-quality video
- Looked at photographs of the property
- Read over available strata documents (if applicable)
- Has driven by the property, and viewed the neighbourhood
- Is ready and able to make an offer on the property
- Has completed a COVID–19 self-assessment questionnaire
Screening for private showings
The province has provided a COVID-19 Self assessment tool that anyone can use to help him or her determine if they have the symptoms consistent with COVID-19. Visitors to the property area being asked to fill in and submit a written version, prior to the showing.
If the individual answered YES to any of the screening questions, or refuses to answer, presumably the seller and the agent would answer to the effect, “I’m sorry but based on these answers, I’m not able to allow you to enter the premises today based on my seller’s instructions.”
Buyers are also being asked to sign a waiver prior to viewing a home that releases the Seller, the Sellers realtor, the Buyers realtor and their respective real estate brokerages from any liability, claims, actions, suits, demands, costs or any form of negligence related to the said showing.
A similar waiver is being used with Sellers, at the time of listing their home.
Protocols for on-site private showings
Based on what we have been hearing from our colleagues, private showings are only being carried out with these strict safety measures:
- Masks and gloves must be worn by the visitors including the buyers, sellers and agents attending
- No visitor is permitted to touch any object or surface of the home
- Any opening of doors, windows or cupboards must be done by the seller or the seller’s agent, wearing gloves.
- Sellers are advised to carry out a thorough cleaning and sanitizing of the home prior to and after the showing.
For those that wish to submit an offer on a property … contracts are being written to include the following subject/condition:
COVID-19 Subject to the Buyer(s) and Seller(s) seeking independent legal advice for any concerns they may have with regards to the effects of COVID-19 relating to the contract of purchase and sale on or before ________________.
Or are being written to include the following term:
The Buyer(s) and the Seller(s) have been advised to seek independent legal advice for any concerns they have regarding the effects of COVID-19 relating to this contract of purchase and sale.
We are in a remarkable moment in time. One of those rare times where everything changes. We don’t yet know how long this situation will last, and we won’t know until we get there but we hope to have a better gauge on the potential for a spring / summer real estate market by Friday April 17th or shortly thereafter when Bonnie Henry and Adrian Dix plan to release their modeling information.
We will reach out again at that time.
We hope you and your family have a chance to enjoy the warm sunshine this long weekend.
Jenn and Colin