The real estate industry is changing its business model, like many other essential services amid the coronavirus pandemic, but that doesn’t mean those looking to buy or sell a home won’t be able to safely navigate transactions.
Broker of Record Pauline Aunger of Royal LePage Advantage (Smiths Falls/Perth) said she and her agents are taking every safety precaution they can.
“People have bought houses that are closing in the next 30, 60, 90 days who would be virtually homeless unless the transactions proceeded,” Aunger explained.
Aunger said that responsible brokerages had questionnaires weeks ago, asking potential clients if they have been out of the country, have a fever, or been tested for COVID-19.
In homes on the market, there are antiseptic wipes and disinfectant spray, and people are asked not to touch anything. Cupboards and closet doors have been left open, “so the realtor and the clients are not put at risk,” she said.
“We’re trying to do everything we can virtually, including final walk-throughs for a client.”
Aunger said she doesn’t go anywhere without precautions, and she’s constantly cleaning door handles, lock boxes, keys, and countertops with antiseptic wipes.
“We make sure keys are transferred through lockboxes … there are lots of things that have been put in place because we don’t want people homeless. We need to close (the sale) for them. We also want to make sure we are very responsible how we do it. We want to keep everyone safe.”
For retired couple, Nina and Mark Gagnon, a move from Alliston, Ont., to the Perth area has been an adventure to say the least. They put their home on the market in January and it sold in four days. Then they had to find a home; one near their children and grandchildren in Smiths Falls
It wasn’t until Feb. 14 that the ink dried on an offer to purchase their new place — a great Valentine’s gift to each other, they said.
“Our real estate agent (Aunger) was wonderful,” Nina said in a phone interview just two days after moving into their new home.
“Pauline was fantastic. She knew of an inspector who came at the last minute. We had the inspection done and on the 14th it all gelled together, so that was really special.”
The Gagnons then went back to Alliston to pack up their old place and finish paperwork with their lawyer.
“That was when all these restrictions were starting to come into place (about the coronavirus),” Mark said. “He said to us, quite bluntly, ‘We’re not sure if you will be able to move.’”
They were concerned with the registry office being closed, and bank hours being reduced, not to mention a moving company and real estate services. It was such a relief to them, they said, that these were all deemed essential services.
“We were worried with the move,” added Nina. “We had been self isolating. I was very open with (the three movers), and asked if they’d been out of the country. They wore gloves, but one of the movers was high-risk and he had a child also high-risk. They had to persevere. These are brave people on the frontline.”
Nina said they got them all pizza for dinner. “We really appreciated them. They worked really hard until 11:30 p.m. that night.”
When they left Alliston, they made sure the house was spotless, leaving behind their last two roles of toilet paper — since it’s such a hot commodity.
When they told Aunger this, their agent ensured there were two roles of toilet paper at their new home.
“It’s just the little things but it means a lot,” Nina said, mentioning the virtual tour Aunger was able to provide of the home before it closed.
Nina said the former homeowners left them a note saying they hoped the Gagnons loved the house as much as they did. They also left fresh batteries in the smoke detector and a list of the paint colours used throughout the home.
“They really didn’t need to do that,” she said. “But it was very sweet.”
She also said their daughters visited — one split her birthday bouquet of flowers in half and placed it on their door step while practising physical distancing, the other and her grandchildren drove up to the house, waved and blew kisses.
“We got flowers from our church with a message that they hoped we arrived safely,” Nina said, as the gestures put smiles on their faces and filled their hearts with love.
The Gagnons said they have already fallen in love with the Perth area and their neighbourhood, and look forward to making new friends.
Has the market been good or bad compared to last year?
“It’s too early to tell,” Aunger said. “We have buyers and sellers who were in the middle of transactions — conditions were still being worked through over the past couple of weeks and so their offers were written before the province declared (a state of emergency) — so the sales are reflective of business already written.”
As for house shopping now, there are ways to do so safely.
“We have so many virtual (options) right now,” Aunger said. “If people are looking to buy, they should consider everything. There are lots of videos, lots of photos. Take a drive through the neighbourhood. Make sure it’s a place you would want to live before you make that appointment to see it.”
For those who are on the fence about buying or selling during the coronavirus pandemic, Aunger suggests a sober second thought.
“It’s a discussion that every responsible realtor has with their clients,” she said. “Even though we will ask all the questions — Are you prepared to have people in your home? Do you have a compromised immune system? Are you elderly? Do you have small children? You want to give some thought to that because you don’t want to put yourself at risk.”
It’s not a no, per se, but on a case-by-case basis after that discussion with the agent.
“I think when this is over, it will rebound like it’s done after every downturn in the economy,” she said. “Real estate has been a constant that will bring it back.”
The Ontario Real Estate Association (OREA) urged Ontario’s realtors to stop all face-to-face business, including open houses, agent and public office hours, and in-person showings, particularity of tenant-occupied homes. In these unique situations — where a property listed for sale is occupied by tenants — the health and safety of those tenants, the realtors and their clients is of utmost priority.
Realtors have the modern tools and knowledge at their disposal to do virtual showings, video conference calls, and digital signing
Read the full article by Laurie Weir here.