The current situation with Covid 19 has many scrambling to adapt, especially if in a field that is deemed essential and involves interacting with the public.
One of those fields is real estate.
Veteran realtor Ed Valenti says there have been several changes in his line of work.
"The province has deemed real estate as an essential service, so we're still open. At this point I'm working mostly from home," he explains.
The biggest difference may be that realtors are no longer doing "open houses" where homes are considered open for viewing, typically for 90 minutes, and virtually anyone and everyone can stop by.
"Now I'm doing showings by appointment only. We set up a specific time if someone is really interested in a certain listing and we have protocols we advise them of," says Valenti.
"We advise the homeowner to clean all surfaces and common areas before the showing and to do the same after the showing. As well, we ask the prospective buyers not to touch anything but to look only, so it is a different home buying experience for sure," he adds.
Despite the current situation, Valenti says there are still some people who have to enter the market due to their specific circumstances.
"We are still getting new listings, although not at the rate that might be expected for spring. Some people have a job transfer or a family situation that makes them look into real estate no matter what the current climate is."
Valenti points out that current technology does help, explaining, "Instead of signing things in person, we can rely on electronic signing options. It is moving some 'old school' realtors to adapt to more modern technology," he adds.
While he faces the same fears of the unknown as everyone else, Valenti says he remains optimistic.
"When we do show a home we're using all possible precautions. And while it's a time of unknowns now, this will pass and the community will get through this together," he says.
"I believe we'll be stronger on the other side of this."
Meanwhile, the Ontario Real Estate Association (OREA) is urging Ontario’s realtors to stop all face-to-face business, including open houses, agent and public office hours, and in-person showings, particularly of tenant-occupied homes, during the Province’s COVID-19 State of Emergency.
"In these unique situations, where a property listed for sale is occupied by tenants, the health and safety of those tenants, the Realtors and their clients is of utmost priority," according to a news release.
“I want to make it clear that this does not mean business as usual for Ontario’s Realtors. It’s time to stop all face-to-face business including open houses, maintaining agent and public office hours and in-person showings, especially in cases where a property is tenant-occupied,” said Sean Morrison, OREA President. “As Realtors and community leaders, we must do our part to help limit the spread of COVID-19. Why put your health on the line – or the health of your client or community – for showings that can simply be postponed for a few weeks? It’s not worth the risk.
"If a client – especially one with a tenanted property – has an urgent need to sell or buy a home during the COVID-19 crisis, Realtors have the modern tools and knowledge at their disposal to do virtual showings. OREA is calling on its Realtors to work with the landlord and tenant to ensure the health and well-being of our province’s home buyers, sellers, and families remains a focus by encouraging the use of modern technology that facilitates remote interactions, such as virtual tours, video conference calls, and digital signing.
“As a society, we are experiencing extraordinary times and moving into uncharted territory of how we work and live,” said Morrison. “While clients who may decide to host private showings during this time are making the decision for themselves, tenants often have no choice in the matter, putting the health of all those involved at risk. As Realtors, it is our responsibility to give clients the best advice possible – and that includes ending all face-to-face business until this crisis is resolved.”
OREA has previously called upon its Members to cease open houses during this time, as well as repeatedly encouraged its Members to follow Government and Public Health recommendations to help stop the spread of COVID-19 including following the clear advice of the real estate regulator, the Real Estate Council of Ontario (RECO). Across Ontario, real estate companies, brokerages and local real estate boards have asked their Members to follow government recommendations, practice sensible social distancing and end face-to-face business, including open houses, during the crisis.