Toronto and Peel Region entering Stage 3 on Friday means open houses are set to resume, but the Ontario Real Estate Association (OREA) is urging caution to both home buyers and sellers.

While open houses are permitted in regions that have moved on from the province's second stage of economic recovery from COVID-19, OREA is recommending that realtors encourage clients to continue using electronic tools first, to the greatest extent possible, including virtual tours.

Safe, scheduled, in-person showings, wherein realtors use Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and have safety protocols implemented as outlined in OREA’s Stage Two Guidance, are also encouraged to continue.

“Realtors are trusted professionals who have consistently put the health and safety of Ontarians before business, using virtual tools and safe showings,” says Sean Morrison, President of OREA. “While open houses are once again permitted by the Province, we are encouraging Members to work with their clients to use virtual tools and scheduled safe showings first. These tools have been successful in limiting in person contact and saving buyers and sellers time. If an open house is insisted upon by the client, OREA has prepared guidance on how realtors can do them safely.”

READ: City of Toronto to Officially Enter Stage 3 on Friday

If a seller insists on open houses, OREA recommends the following measures be considered, in conjunction with all that is advised by public health officials:

  • A clear protocol should be posted outside the residence for open house guests to follow.
  • Self-screening for COVID-19 should be requested. This includes signage posted on the property's entryway that states if people have been ill, have symptoms of coronavirus, or have come in contact with someone who may or does have the virus, they should not enter the home.
  • Time limits should be set, limiting how long each group spends inside the residence, to ensure equal opportunity among guests.
  • Set a guest limit, capping the number of people in a house to groups of two, plus their realtor, to allow for physical distancing.
  • Require PPE use. Ensure masks or face coverings are worn inside at all times; consider providing this PPE outside the entrance of the residence. In alignment with this suggestion, review municipality bylaws on masks and face coverings.
  • Manage traffic-flow. If a line forms outside, people should remain six feet apart; signage or markers can help show this distance. As assistant may be able to manage physical distancing outside, and while a showing is in progress, a sign can let guests know they should form a line or wait in their vehicle.
  • Sanitize & disinfect surfaces, door handles, and frequent- or close-contact areas before and after showings. Provide hand sanitizer at the door and require guests to disinfect before entry.
  • Enforce ‘no touching’ rules. Realtors should open all of interior doors and closet doors, turn on lights, open cabinets, storages spaces, blinds, and etc.
  • OREA’s Stage Three Guidance for real estate transactions can be found in full here; the recommended measures are useful for maintaining hosts' and attendees' well-being as the province, at large, takes strides towards some semblance of normalcy.

    "I believe resuming open houses can be beneficial for many buyers and sellers but they need to be run safely by the realtors hosting them," says Dorian Rodrigues of PSR Brokerage. "The procedures they have in place are great because this will ensure all parties in the home are held accountable while touring the home. It’s great to see things start to loosen up on the real estate end."

    Further, in the case of multi-tenanted properties like condominiums, building management's COVID-19 safety protocols should be discussed with the seller, so they can be incorporated into open house plans. OREA suggests enlisting the help of an assistant to manage entry to the building and other common areas, and to ensure physical distancing can be maintained between consumers in common areas.

    These recommendations come just one day after Toronto City Council voted in favour of making face masks and coverings mandatory in apartment and condominium common areas.

    Toronto Condos & Homes