We have reached a point where the Coronavirus has impacted virtually every person in America thereby impacting Real Estate. Given the fact that many sellers still want to list their homes for sale and even more buyers want to buy, Realtors must adapt and take control in order to show homes in the safest way possible. Over the last year, we have put a lot of thought into the safest way to show homes during this fearful time in our history. We are not doctors, or lawyers, or infectious disease professionals but after a lot of discussion and research on CDC recommendations, we did come up with what we think is the best way to do this so that homes can be shown while this threat still exists.
First, showings should only be conducted for serious buyers who confirm they have no symptoms of COVID-19 and who are truly interested in a home. This is not the time for tire kickers. We have concluded that the best way to show a home for the foreseeable future is by having “Showing Blocks with Controlled Traffic” with the buyer wearing a mask or cloth face covering of some sort and agreeing to touch as little (or none) of the home as possible while viewing it.
It means showing a home over one consolidated period of time instead of having multiple private showings at various times throughout a day or week. The biggest reason we feel this is safer is that a seller realistically will not come home after every single private showing and thoroughly clean their home. Whereas, after many showings over a few hours, they would be much more likely to come home and clean once and for all.
1. First, listing agents need to confirm with home sellers that no one in their home has any symptoms of COVID-19. If they do, the home should not be listed at all.
2. Schedule a showing block timeframe and say, “Saturday from 1-4 and all buyers must wear a mask or cloth face covering”, or at multiple times like Monday 10-12, Tuesday 6-8 and so on. It’s best to schedule them in 15-minute increments so you don’t have people waiting around. We also suggest making it clear that only the actual buyers should come in to see the home. No need for random other family members or friends. This could be posted in MLS as the official showing instructions.
3. The listing agent should arrive early, put on their cloth face covering, and wash their hands immediately upon arriving. Realtors may want to bring hand soap with them if they have it available.
4. Either ask the seller to leave what rooms and closets they want to be shown open or walk through and open all rooms and closets that are necessary and available to be seen during that showing block. As well, have all necessary lights turned on by the sellers or the agent can do this prior to allowing buyers to view the property, so no additional people touch the switches.
5. Post two signs: one right outside the door that reads, “Showings will be done in groups with the listing agent. Please do not enter until the listing agent invites you.” Then, one right inside the door that everyone who comes in will immediately see: “PLEASE BE RESPECTFUL AND MINDFUL OF COVID-19. Please do not touch surfaces, open drawers or cabinets, and refrain from using the bathrooms. Thank you for your cooperation.”
6. Nicely announce to everyone that if anyone has any symptoms of COVID-19 they are not to enter the home. Then, explain that they are there to only walk through the home in the rooms that are already open and they are not to touch anything unless they need a handrail going up or down a stairway or something truly safety-related. Make it clear that no one can go around opening cabinets, touching surfaces, opening closets, turning on lights, or opening doors to other rooms.
7. If there is a large group waiting, explain to everyone that they will go through in groups of 2 – 4 people and everyone will stay together as one group. But everyone must make every effort to remain at least 6 feet apart as they get the tour from the listing agent.
8. Right before they enter, the listing agent should remind everyone to put and or keep their cloth face coverings on. Then, the listing agent will proceed with giving the first group a thorough tour that does not last more than 10 minutes and then will bring everyone back out of the home. At some point during that tour politely remind everyone not to touch anything.
9. After that tour is complete see them off, get the next group, and repeat the same process over.
10. After the last group leaves, the home seller should go around and wipe all doorknobs, all railings, and all doors by hand with sanitizing wipes to disinfect surfaces.
To further decrease foot traffic, buyer’s agents should consider not attending the tour. They could wait outside if they do decide to go at all, possibly with their buyers on a video call with them as they go through. Listing agents need to embrace this through open communication with the buyer’s agent and willingness to show the buyer the home. This is no time for arguing about procuring cause.
When the seller gets home, they can clean the house once and for all as opposed to multiple times not as thoroughly. At this time of year when there are many more buyers than sellers, if a seller doesn’t do an open house (which right now they should not), they will likely end up with an overwhelming number of private showings.
Other protective measures should be taken if possible, like having all visitors wear booties, rubber gloves, and any other personal protective gear that will make everyone safer. Many of these protective materials are hard to come by but if someone has them, they can/should use them. Showing homes this way will likely decrease the chances of spreading the virus and makes showings safer for sellers who need to sell, buyers who need to buy, and the Realtors involved.
Please note, the example and the steps laid out above involve the listing agent attending the showings and controlling the traffic of showings in an occupied home. We want to mention that this also could be done by a buyer’s agent if a listing agent schedules a showing at a specific time and the buyers agent attends, or perhaps multiple buyer agents in 15 minute increments where the listing agent doesn’t necessarily need to attend. Realtors should consult with their sellers to come up with a plan that works for all parties but we wanted to mention this entire process could be done without the listing agent in attendance. Handling showings in a vacant home may not require as many steps.
Realtors are free to use this as a guide, but it is in no way a guarantee of any sort. All Realtors should consult with their own Brokers, lawyers, medical professionals local or state or even federal boards of health or centers for disease control.