With the sudden spike in COVID-19 cases, the Real Estate Council of British Columbia (RECBC) and British Real Estate Association (BCREA) are asking realtors to temporarily suspend the practice of holding open houses, reverting back to the guidance that was in place this past spring.
In an industry bulletin on Thursday, the BCREA says in-person interactions should be reduced as much as possible at this time. Instead, realtors should take every opportunity to use technology to conduct their business, such as virtual open houses, showings, and executing documents remotely.
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BC’s coronavirus curve has been winding sharply upwards in recent weeks, with the number of new cases reaching a single-day record of 425 on Thursday.
Brokerages are expected to develop their own policies for their realtors that reflect the guidance of RECBC and BCREA.
“Given the growth in COVID-19 transmission rates, it’s important that buyers and sellers understand the risks inherent in showings,” reads the bulletin.
“When discussing showings as part of marketing a client’s property, it’s important to discuss all the different risk factors, from the spread of COVID-19 to concerns from neighbours or tenants, as well as the precautions that can reduce some of these risks. These risks can differ depending on whether a home is vacant, owner-occupied, tenant occupied or a strata unit in a multi-tenanted building.”
Realtors are also asked to follow the October 26 health order that limits gatherings at residences to six people in addition to the occupants, and practice proper physical distancing.
“This limit on gatherings applies to both inside and outside the home, meaning consumers cannot wait on the property if another showing is already underway. Consumers should also understand that in the case of smaller properties, six people might be too many to still allow for safe physical distancing,” continues the bulletin.
All of this is in the backdrop of BC’s highly active real estate market, as a result of pent-up demand from the spring shutdown and households reconsidering their housing needs in the context of the pandemic.
According to the BCREA’s housing market forecast for the fourth quarter of 2020, home sales are expected to rise 16.9% to 90,450 units this year, after recording 77,350 unit sales in 2019. In 2021, sales are forecast to increase by 9.7% to 99,240 units.
“The housing market had a record fall season and prices are rapidly rising as pent-up demand floods into an under-supplied market,” said Brendon Ogmundson, BCREA chief economist, in a statement. “As that pent-up demand fades, sales will likely come down from their current record pace, albeit to a still robust level of activity as record-low mortgage rates and a recovering economy continue to drive sales.”