Real estate boards across Canada urging against all open houses

Mar 26 2020, 6:33 pm

Real estate boards in the country’s largest markets are calling on real estate agents to halt all face-to-face business on a temporary basis, especially with staging open houses.

The Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver (REBGV) issued a bulletin asking its agents to refrain from holding open houses until further notice, given calls from governments to practice physical distancing, limit social interactions, stay home, and only make essential trips.

“Realtors want to do their part to help prevent the spread of illness in our communities and to meet the housing needs of residents in a responsible way,” said Ashley Smith, president of REBGV, in a statement.

“We’ve heard from some in the community who are unhappy that their Realtors are not holding Open Houses. To those people, we ask for your understanding given the public health crisis we all face today.”

Realtors and sellers are advised to consider alternative approaches, such as virtual showings and other technology-based solutions that do not involve in-person meetings. To help accommodate this, REBGV has removed the rule requiring that properties listed on MLS be made available for showings.

Similar messaging has been provided by the Toronto Regional Real Estate Board (TRREB), which is not enforcing its policies with showings and inspections, and is suppressing listings of open houses on its MLS system.

“While we appreciate that this is the real estate brokerage’s decision in consultation with their clients, home buyers, sellers and businesses, we are recommending that open houses stop until further notice,” said TRREB CEO John DiMichele.

“Realtors are reminded that there are alternative online and virtual marketing opportunities for sellers that can easily be accessed by buyers. We encourage members to use alternative marketing strategies such as video and virtual tours wherever possible, and to continue to follow directives and guidance being given by the government and public health agencies.”

Following the Ontario provincial government’s declaration of a state of emergency earlier this week, the Ontario Real Estate Association (OREA) issued its own statement, urging realtors to stop all face-to-face business, including open houses, agent and public office hours, and in-person showings, especially for tenant-occupied homes.

“While clients who may decide to host private showings during this time are making the decision for themselves, tenants often have no choice in the matter, putting the health of all those involved at risk,” said OREA President Sean Morrison.

“As realtors, it is our responsibility to give clients the best advice possible – and that includes ending all face-to-face business until this crisis is resolved.”

But the Alberta Real Estate Association (AREA) has gone a step further by implementing a ban on its members from hosting open houses.

“This unprecedented health pandemic has forced all Albertans to make significant changes,” said Kristie Kruger, chair of AREA.

“Because open houses are public, with unpredictable attendance, it is difficult to ensure they comply with Alberta Health recommendations.”

The BC provincial government has also banned landlords from entering tenanted rental homes, unless the situation is for emergency reasons.

There are 14,000 real estate agents in Metro Vancouver, 56,000 agents in the Toronto region, and over 10,500 agents across Alberta.