Guidance on how to safely conduct open houses
Photo: James Bombales
With communities across the province moving into Stage Three of reopening this week, the Ontario Real Estate Association (OREA) has outlined safety protocols for realtors holding open houses.
Since April, open houses have been prohibited across Ontario in an effort to reduce the spread of COVID-19. But as of today, 24 out of 34 public health regions will be moving into the third stage of the province’s reopening plan, allowing in-person open houses to resume once again alongside other lifted restrictions. Now, groups of up to 100 people can gather outdoors, and up to 50 people indoors.
“My friends, this is great news. We’re moving forward as a province, but we can’t stop,” said Premier Doug Ford at Monday’s Queen’s Park press conference upon announcing the initiation of Stage Three. “We won’t stop until we get every person in Ontario, until we get every worker in Ontario, back to work and back on their feet.”
In response to the resumption of open houses, OREA has put forward recommended safety measures for realtors to keep themselves, their clients and the general public safe. In these guidelines, realty professionals are encouraged to keep using electronic options first to the greatest extent, including virtual tours, and to continue scheduled safe showings in-person.
“These tools have been successful in limiting in person contact and saving buyers and sellers time,” said Sean Morrison, president of OREA, in a press release. “If an open house is insisted upon by the client, OREA has prepared guidance on how REALTORS® can do them safely.”
When hosting an open house, real estate agents are encouraged to post clear protocol outside 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.
“However, REALTORS® should not interpret the government limit of 50 people as appropriate for open houses,” explains the OREA guidelines on Stage Three reopening. “It simply is not practical to expect that 50 people in a home at one time will allow for safe physical distancing protocols to be observed.”
While several municipalities have already implemented mandatory mask by-laws, OREA notes that PPE should be worn inside at all times. While surfaces should be frequently cleaned, a ‘no-touching’ rule could be implemented, allowing all interior doors to be left open and all light switches turned on to prevent contact with high-touch areas.
Open dialogue between realtors and their clients about open houses is also stressed as 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.”