Knowledge is so important, especially during this time where uncertainty looms large. As we stay informed about the changes within the real estate industry, we want to make sure that you do too.
The government has been updating the list of essential businesses and as of right now, real estate remains on that list. However, effective Saturday, April 4, 2020, the Government of Ontario issued an update that now prohibits open houses during the COVID-19 pandemic. For now, “every person who is responsible for a business that provides real estate agents services shall ensure that the business does not host, provide, or support any open house events.”
There are also showing updates. The Real Estate Council of Ontario (RECO) strongly advises that brokers and agents follow the advice of health officials and limit client showings to cases where it is necessary for serious clients.
Everyone knows that there are parts of the real estate process that typically require in-person interaction. However, RECO strongly advises that due to the events of today, agents should discuss technological alternatives with their clients to ensure all involved remain healthy.
These recommended alternatives include:
- Virtual tours/walkthroughs and digital floorplans.
- Electronic documents and signatures.
- Electronic funds transfer rather than certified cheques.
- Smartphone technology, video conferencing, and written communication.
RECO published the following Q&A for public knowledge:
If a client insists, do agents have to agree to use paper documents, physical cheques and in-person communications?
No, as a registrant and business operator, agents decide which services they are prepared to offer. Agents should make those decisions based on the most current guidance and direction of health authorities, which at present is to reduce or eliminate direct physical interaction that could promote transmission of the virus. It’s important to ensure clients understand the importance of following current direction from health authorities and the risks that come with paper documents and in-person meetings.
Can a seller client decline to allow showings in advance, but allow buyers to make their offers conditional on a satisfactory showing?
There is nothing in the Real Estate and Business Brokers Act, 2002 that would prohibit such a practice. However, agents should seek advice from their brokerage and legal counsel about the pros and cons before recommending such a clause to a client. When representing the seller, agents should ensure they understand the risks that may come from this approach. Consider including language that would protect the seller in case the buyer then refuses to provide or unreasonably delays a final, written decision about whether they will waive the condition or not.
Keep in mind that this information is subject to change as the pandemic changes. We will continue to update you as we learn of more changes.
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