COVID-19 is the fastest moving, most dramatic issue I have seen in my lifetime. That means that governments must make quick decisions, and the implications are not immediately clear.
As you know, the Ontario Government ordered most workplaces to close-down effective Tuesday, March 24, at 11:59 p.m. This measure, alongside many others, are in an effort to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
The Government has created a list of 75 “essential” services, which are businesses that are allowed to stay open, including “Land registration services, and real estate agent services and moving services.” (#67 on the list)
We’ve received many questions from clients around this announcement, and we are still gathering information from the Government, but here’s what I can tell you.
Why was “real estate” deemed essential?
The Ontario Real Estate Association asked for the essential service designation and for the Land Registry Office to stay open because there are thousands of transactions in Ontario right now that have yet to close officially. Every one of them is different.
While some may not require the help of a REALTOR® to close, others will. OREA was concerned that if REALTORS® were not permitted to support these transactions, those families and businesses could have been left high and dry.
Furthermore, there are numerous cases where people bought and need to sell their existing home to be able to finance their committed purchase – naturally, not closing comes with great risks and legal ramifications. The opposite also holds true, in that people who have sold need a place to live.
Many other professional services appear in the essential list, including banking, lawyers, and accountants. Shutting down these sectors completely, like real estate, could have had huge unintended consequences for consumers and a damaging domino impact.
What does this all mean?
It does NOT mean business as usual.
We’re striving to stop face-to-face business, including open houses, in-person showings, and our regular Agents and public office hours.
While we’re deemed an “essential” service – it’s also essential to ensure the health and wellbeing of our clients, families, friends & communities alike.
To that end, our team has always been heavily digitally focused, paperless and happy to provide as much remote service and support to our clients as possible. So, we’re simply going to be ramping up those efforts!
A few examples:
- Zoom meetings
- Facetime / What’s App etc.
- Virtual Showings in lieu of physical showings
- Virtual Open Houses
- Seller / Buyer Virtual Consultations
- Digital Signing of any/all required documents
We encourage you to move to remote work as well – full stop.
What about showings involving tenants?
We’ve had many questions from Landlords (and Tenants) on this issue.
No REALTOR® should, during this State of Emergency, participate in a face-to-face showing, especially of a tenanted property. Legally, the Residential Tenancies Act may permit showings, but for obvious health and safety reasons, these showings need to stop. Instead, if you have a pressing need to see a property, the focus should be on vacant or owner occupied properties, where necessary precautions can be taken pending seeing these properties virtually first – and this is the key, let’s focus on doing as much remote/virtual work as possible.
Let’s work together.
These are challenging and unprecedented times. We all have an obligation to do what’s right to keep our families, colleagues, clients, friends and communities safe.
As we receive more information on the impacts of the State of Emergency declaration, we will communicate it to you, alongside any noteworthy implications.
And remember, despite all of this, “keep fit, and have fun!” (Body Break!! Remember? Hal Johnson and Joanne McLeod, 2 very positive people, and positivity is contagious … so stay positive folks!)