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Real estate, or rather many of the various service providers of real estate, has been deemed an essential service by our provincial government.
This in no way means that it is business as usual, as all real estate professionals and parties must follow the public health guidelines and rules from Alberta Health Services, which include social distancing. The professionals involved must also observe and follow all the new rules and regulations of the related real estate industry associations.
And there are several professionals and organizations involved in order to buy a property. These include, but are not limited to: realtors, mortgage professionals, banks, other lending institutions, financial institutions, inspectors, lawyers, paralegals, movers, land titles offices, accountants, engineers, translators, photographers, videographers and measuring service companies.
Realtors must explain all the risks associated in the purchase or sale of a property as a result of the pandemic. And that list is quite extensive.
We are required to make protection of the public, our associates and partners our No. 1 priority. We are required to explain all the impacts, risks, advantages and disadvantages of proceeding in our current times. That is a tall order considering we, too, have to deal with our own anxieties and worries. We are to point our clients to the Real Estate Council of Alberta’s COVID-19 for Real Estate Consumers’ website.
I have worked on three deals in just the last week and let me tell you, it can be awkward. For us, relationship is key. Not shaking everyone’s hand and then ensuring clients keep two metres away is quite different.
Open houses are no longer allowed, for which I am thankful, as I just don’t think it’s at all practical or even possible to have them while social distancing. At an open house, it’s extremely difficult to qualify or always identify everyone who is coming into your clients’ homes and do social distancing. Most of us stopped doing them long before the rule came into place.
On top of that, our individual brokerages may have additional rules and recommendations. My brokerage has recommended several additional practices. We are recommending that all our buyers purchase title insurance in case there are issues associated with land titles before possession.
We had clauses inserted in the event there may be delays such as financing or conveyancing. We made questionnaires that ask travel, health and contact history of our clients, other realtors and their clients, as well as inspectors and whomever else might need to be in our clients’ homes.
Our local association has limited its private Facebook page to only the association’s news releases, new rules and guidelines. I suspect the reasoning behind this move is to ensure that the important information is easy to find, read, learn and research.
We’ve had to be quick learners and ever so diligent. Realtors have also been encouraging their clients to carefully consider how and if they want to proceed because of the personal risks. There are many that are in the process of buying because of the time of year. Some buyers have to move and do not want to move twice.
For some sellers, I personally feel that if they really have to sell, and if they are aware of the risks and comfortable with them, then proceeding might be their best option.
There are many practices a seller and his or her agent can implement to help minimize risks associated with the pandemic.
Providing lots of pictures and even video can help buyers better evaluate a home and avoid showings that are really not necessary as the property may not be a good fit. Depending how your realtor works, they could evaluate, photograph, video and measure all by themselves reducing the number of people in the home. Electronic signatures are quite common now, so contracts don’t have to completed in person.
A seller could leave all lights on and ask that they stay on. They could leave closet doors and pantry doors open to reduce potential transmission. They could have or require booties, gloves, sanitizer and identify everyone coming through. The seller could require whoever is coming into their home to fill out and sign a health and travel questionnaire.
Typically, we have a rule that you must allow showings if you are listed. In light of our current situation, our association may be more relaxed with that. I’m in favour of leaving listings up so buyers can look and at least plan for what properties they want to view if they prefer to go when social distancing is no longer required.
There are fewer showings happening now and buyers are being strongly encouraged to do more of their research online and see only the homes that they know are a good fit. This is not the time to go exploring several homes.
As things are changing on a daily, hourly basis, I am quite certain that at least some of the information in this article may no longer be relevant by the time you read this.
As I submit this article, I hear about the Keystone pipeline moving forward. You don’t know how happy I am to hear this announcement. This will support and protect our home values in the province.
I do recommend you contact your realtor to get up to date, relevant information if you are considering making a move and as always feel free to email me with any questions at email@example.com .
Stay safe and look out for each other.
Dennis Faulkner is a realtor with RE/MAX Select in Edmonton and holds a degree in economics. He can be contacted with all your real estate questions at firstname.lastname@example.org .
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