How COVID-19 Is Affecting Other Real Estate Operations

By: Joshua Campbell

How COVID-19 Is Affecting Other Real Estate Operations 

Tags: Covid-19, real estate operations, mortgage brokers, real estate lawyers, home inspectors, moving, essential services

COVID-19 has changed our world as we know it. This virus has caused the number of cases across Canada to increase dramatically. The unpredictability of the virus sent the world’s stock markets into freefall, businesses deemed non-essential were forced to shut their doors, over a million Canadians are applying for unemployment packages, and there is the ongoing risk of a nationwide lockdown. With so much uncertainty ahead, it’s no doubt that operations within the real estate industry were forced to change to accommodate the new measures put in place by the Canadian government.
The virus is changing the nature of our everyday life and will continue to change how industries operate over the next few months. Here is a breakdown of the most up-to-date changes associated with the real estate industry. 
Home Inspections
Routine practices for home inspector companies may vary slightly, but all are taking the necessary precautions and are committed to practicing good hygiene etiquette. They are professionals and are following recommended preventative safety measures. They are being diligent, are using hand sanitizer, and are cleaning frequently touched services with disinfectant wipes. On top of that, they are practicing social distancing, keeping at a safe distance of six feet from people. 
Home inspectors are focused on keeping customers safe. Some agents are arranging for homeowners to be out of the home while the inspector performs the inspection on their own, emailing the report afterwards. Some agents choose to go, wait in their car, and quickly follow up post-inspection. Either way, before entering your home, they make sure that they are healthy and that others in the home are as well. Handshaking and elbow practices have been eliminated and they’ve utilized latex gloves to minimize contact with your property. All inspections are conducted according to the most recent company update and procedures. 
The process of professional photography has changed significantly because it is not considered to be an essential service. Premier Doug Ford has ordered the closure of all non-essential workplaces in Ontario. Real estate - in terms of buying, selling, and leasing is considered to be essential, but services like photography and videography are luxury services. By not complying with these orders, a business can face fines or potentially even jail time. 
Virtual tours, video conference calls, digital staging and other measures of showing properties are strongly recommended during this time. Some photography services are now offering to instruct homeowners how and where to take pictures of their own homes for a fee. Using cellphones or cameras owners can take listing pictures and send them to photographers to edit and touch up.  
Staging operations have unfortunately been put on pause for the time being for many of the reasons expressed in the photography section.
In the case of a consultation or stage/de-stage staggers are equipped with gloves and masks that they wear before entering the property. All furniture and accessories are being cleaned and disinfected before and after use. The trucks and warehouses are being cleaned and disinfected regularly as well. 
According to the government, moving is an essential service. For the time being, moving companies will continue to move customers. Companies are doing everything they can to ensure that the safety of customers and team members is put first by following guidelines put in place by the federal and local governments, provincial health agencies, and the World Health Organization. Since the Ontario government has banned gatherings of more than five people in a bid to stop the spread of the virus, some companies may limit the number of people who can be home during the move itself. Practices of good sanitation, cleanliness, and precaution continue to be the foundation for companies moving forward.
You can find more about your specific moving company on their online website.
Mortgage Brokers
Here at Knowledge Broker, we’ve become partners with many divisions of the real estate industry, including mortgage brokers. One of our trusted mortgage agents shared how COVID-19 has changed her life, personal and professional. 
“People need me. They need help with their deferrals and some need money and fast. My days start at 7:30 am and end at 1:30 am. A lot of my clients lost their jobs and had purchases closings. Never have I ever been so worried for people and asked myself ‘what will they do?’ so often. I also lost many clients that wanted the great low rates they saw on the news. When the Bank of Canada’s rate drop didn’t translate to mortgage rates, they didn’t want to proceed. I don’t blame anyone at this point, but there is no guarantee that rates won’t keep going up since lenders are afraid of people losing their jobs.” 
Mortgage deferrals are an option. Insurers and lenders announced that eligible clients can delay mortgage payments. This is a compassionate program implemented for those who are experiencing serious financial hardship due to COVID-19 and who are unable to make their mortgage payments. To access this, you must apply to the program and assistance is determined on a case-by-case basis. 
Since the Bank of Canada lowered its rate, your interest rate will also drop. This drop most likely will not be instant. That, and how much of the rate cut will be passed along to you will be determined by the lender. 
If you have a fixed-mortgage rate, then nothing changes. The rate you negotiated is guaranteed for the entire term of your mortgage. However, if your fixed rate is significantly higher than the current rates available, it might be worth calling to see if it makes sense to renegotiate your terms and take advantage of the lower rates today.
Real Estate Lawyers
Real Estate Law is also an essential service and many law offices have remained open. Lawyers are actively taking steps to minimize disruptions and are closely monitoring the situation. Some offices are rotating employees to minimize the number of people in the office at once, reinforcing proper hygiene protocol with all employees, and enforcing 14-day quarantines for all staff who have recently travelled. 
Some offices are also now closed off to the public including couriers. Where possible lawyers are using Zoom and other online platforms to watch their clients sign documents. The clients are then instructed to drop off the documents outside the office. In the few cases where the client has to be in the room with the lawyer, lawyers have set up a signing area. This area is away from their workspace where they can stand six or more feet back and guide their clients through the signing procedure. This area is then disinfected for the next client and the forms are then handled with gloves. 
Due to banks reducing their hours, locations and customer intakes, lawyers are now taking the necessary steps to install a wire transfer. This way they can quickly deposit funds faster without leaving their offices. Wire transfers haven’t been a favourable method in the past as they are more expensive for the client. They can also take up to two weeks to install.  
Lawyers are also hearing stories from clients about institutions giving curtesy calls to check if the client has been laid off from work indefinitely. If they have their funds may be cancelled before the client can even hang up the phone. 
For all of the real estate industry divisions, please make sure that you are diligent as clients and remain updated on all newly implemented measures suggested by the Canadian health ministry and government. Above all, remain healthy and safe. 

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JOSHUA CAMPBELL (@knowledgebrkr)
Real Estate Broker
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