Now that most of the province has entered Stage three of Ontario's gradual reopening plan, open houses are permitted to resume after being temporarily suspended since April due to COVID-19.

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As part of Stage 3, in-person open houses are allowed to resume and groups of up to 100 people are permitted to gather outdoors, and up to 50 people indoors. And as real estate agents prepare to resume holding open houses, the Ontario Real Estate Association (OREA) has released recommended guidelines that are in accordance with the Ontario government’s framework to reopening and ensure the safety of agents, their clients, and the general public.

READ: Open Houses Are Allowed to Resume in Stage 3, But Should They?

As part of the guidelines, realty professionals are encouraged to continue conducting services remotely, use electronic tools, and to continue scheduling safe in-person showings.

"Digital tools and virtual home tours have proven extremely effective over the past few months, and many REALTORS will continue to rely on these tools as well as safe, scheduled in-person showings to help their clients buy and sell homes," reads a statement from OREA.

OREA says that open houses should be used as a last resort to market a home and should only be employed at a seller’s request and with the seller’s approval and in accordance with all applicable health directives.

For those agents who are comfortable moving forward with holding open houses, OREA recommends posting a clear protocol outside of the property, as well as signage stating that those with COVID-19 symptoms, or those who may have come into contact with someone with COVID-19, should not enter.

Time limits and restrictions on the number of individuals in the home are also advised, in addition to the continuation of physical distancing by managing the flow of visitors. One group of two people at a time in an open house is the recommended limit proposed by OREA.

Other guidelines include wearing PPE inside the open house at all times; frequent surface cleaning; implementing a 'no-touching' rule; allowing all interior doors to be left open, and leaving all light switches turned on to prevent contact with high-touch areas.

OREA also noted that having an open dialogue between realtors and their clients about open houses should also be considered a priority.

“We strongly encourage you to continue speaking with your clients openly about their comfort levels with allowing or conducting in-person showings and now with open houses,” reads the OREA guidelines.

“You should only proceed with an open house if your client has approved it as part of your overall marketing plan to sell the home.”

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