Open Houses during Stage-3 reopening


Many homeowners and Realtors, myself included, are not comfortable with the idea of scheduling open houses yet.

Dear David,

My house is listed for sale. I’ve heard that open houses aren’t allowed right now, but can I ask my Realtor to book numerous showings at once, to achieve the same effect? – LOOKING FOR A WORKAROUND

DEAR WORKAROUND: At the time of this writing in August 2020, we are less than a month into Stage 3 re-opening across much of Ontario.

With indoor gatherings now permitted to a maximum of 50 people, open houses are technically allowed, with certain safety protocols. It goes without saying that the 50-person limit far exceeds what would be expected or practical in terms of an open house. It’s also a huge step beyond the Ontario Real Estate Association (OREA) recommendations that limit buyer visits to two people plus an agent, within a set time frame, with proper social distancing.

Many homeowners and Realtors, myself included, are not comfortable with the idea of scheduling open houses yet. Personally, I’m in favour of stricter, more protective guidelines when it comes to my clients’ homes and prefer to err on the side of caution. If open houses are to proceed at all, I think that COVID-era protocols, such as self-screening questionnaires, sign-in sheets and ID verification, should be carried out as normal procedure moving forward.

The trend of signing into open houses was picking up steam before the pandemic hit. Unfortunately, we saw that some visitors didn’t take the precaution seriously. It was not uncommon to see a sign-in sheet with fictional names such as Clark Kent and Peter Parker. Beyond being blatantly disrespectful to the homeowner, this attempt to avoid identification is a safety issue in today’s environment. With the health of my clients potentially at stake, I’d prefer to have visitors text me their names and receive a digital feature sheet in response. This would minimize the touch points at sign-in, and allow accurate contact tracing should it ever be needed.

The pandemic hasn’t changed the fact that sellers shouldn’t be present for an open house. OREA currently recommends that homeowners leave their lights on and closet doors open during buyer visits. Agents are tasked with guiding the movement of visitors through the home, and with prohibiting the use of bathrooms, so that “no touching” rules can be maintained. Personally, I think that mandatory masks are a great idea for all home visits and would like to see gloves required as well, since they are the least expensive of all personal protective equipment.

If record-breaking real estate sales in last five months have taught us anything, it’s that open houses are not essential when it comes to selling a home. Statistically, very few listings sell because of open houses, which was the case even before the pandemic.

PRO TIP: In the age of COVID-19, open houses should only be conducted at the seller’s request, and with their full understanding and approval. Protocols should be discussed with the homeowner and posted outside so that visitors know what to expect. Personally, I would always recommend scheduling an in-person visit with your agent. Health and safety must come first. #AskDavid #Advice