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What a difference three months makes.

Restrictions in place to slow the spread of COVID-19 have altered almost all standard practices, including real estate transactions. So, if you’re buying or selling a home, things look a little bit different.

Protection for both sides is the priority, says Len T. Wong, a REALTOR® and owner of Len T. Wong and Associates.

One protective measure that has gained popularity is a disclosure form that must be signed by prospective buyers before entering a seller’s property.

“We are finding a lot of Realtors have to submit that before they can show a property,” said Wong.

CREB® has made several disclosure forms available to Realtors that help gauge buyers’ and sellers’ potential exposure to COVID-19.

These forms cover whether the person in question has symptoms of COVID-19, has tested positive for COVID-19, or lives with anyone who has tested positive for the virus,

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, Wong says “85 to 90 per cent” of his clients have expected to sign this type of agreement. Buyers may also need to limit the size of their viewing group when entering a home.

Wong recommends his clients cap it at three adults – no children – plus a Realtor. If there’s a second showing, people beyond the immediate household may be allowed, he adds.

Sellers are also advised to leave room entrances, closets and cabinets open, and light switches on, so buyers will not need to touch anything during their viewing.

“Sellers will usually have Lysol wipes or gloves and the odd time masks, but what I am finding is that probably at least three-quarters are bringing in their own masks and gloves,” said Wong.

“How your home presents online has never been more important than it is now.” – Sarah Johnston, CREB® chair

A buyer should not expect to fill a day with viewings either, as their Realtor may limit that number based on personal preference.

“(Previously) the most I’d tend to take a client out is five or six properties a day,” said CREB® chair and CIR Realty real estate advisor Sarah Johnston.

“We have narrowed that down to essentially two to three and that is at an absolute maximum. If we can see one property at a time that’s even better because we do not want to risk transmitting anything from one home to the other.”

Realtors and their clients are also following recommendations to travel in separate vehicles to showings.

One of Johnston’s clients had potential COVID-19 symptoms that turned out to be allergies. As a precaution, they delayed the viewing.

“People have been great about rescheduling if anything does come up,” she said.

For buyers, financing has been another stumbling block.

“That timeline is taking a lot longer,” said Johnston, adding banks have been a “bit more risk-averse.”

With many Canadians opting for mortgage deferrals, she adds, “they are being a lot stricter on the mortgages that they are taking on.”

While open houses had been banned in Alberta as a precaution due to the pandemic, the Alberta Real Estate Association (AREA) recently started loosening restrictions around the home-selling staple.

The first stage for permitted open house showings in the province involved vacant properties only, but open houses will be permitted in all properties starting on June 12. This corresponds with the start of Stage 2 in Alberta’s relaunch strategy.

In the meantime, listing agents have needed to lean on digital tools.

“How your home presents online has never been more important than it is now,” said Johnston.

She has noticed a substantial uptick in views for the virtual tours of her listings during the past few months.

“People are spending so much more time online and prequalifying the home … so by the time they get to a property, they feel like they have already been there and have already looked through it,” she said.

For more information about buying and selling during COVID-19, check out CIR Realty’s guide here.