The COVID-19 crisis has impacted the Canadian real estate and rental industry in ways previously thought impossible. Everything from the regular functions of realtors and lawyers to the duties of landlords has been dramatically changed in order to uphold social distancing efforts and work to continue flattening the curve. One of the most significant changes to the real estate world has been that of property showings. Social distancing guidelines have seen landlords and realtors turn to unconventional means of showing properties, including virtual showings and providing prospective tenants with personal protective equipment to reduce the possibility of transmission.
Canada’s social distancing rules and property viewings
From the very beginning of the pandemic, real estate services have been classified as essential services throughout Ontario. Despite the classification, real estate service workers are still expected to uphold Canada’s social distancing rules. Canada’s social distancing efforts have included changing everyday routines to avoid crowded places, large gatherings, handshakes and other physical greetings, and limiting contact to approximately 2 metres away from people who don’t live in the same household. Even with a nationwide quarantine in effect, many Canadians are still searching for a new place to live.
The decision to buy or rent a property is not made lightly, and so it’s important for landlords and realtors to ensure that prospective tenants and buyers are able to make an informed decision. This has been made more difficult by the fact that the industry has temporarily shifted away from in-person property viewings in order to keep landlords, realtors, and prospective tenants and buyers safe. The decision to move away from physical showings has resulted in a move to virtual tours. When physical tours absolutely must be held, landlords and realtors are obligated to ensure that masks, gloves, and hand sanitizer are used, and that social distancing measures are followed.
How landlords can show their properties virtually
Virtual home tours have been an invaluable resource for landlords and tenants throughout the pandemic. These can be done live in video calls with prospective tenants, or filmed by the landlord ahead of time and sent upon request. Most landlords opt for live virtual tours, as it’s the most transparent method. Tours are generally hosted by the landlord, who will film the house from room to room and field questions and concerns as they would with in-person showings. This allows prospective tenants to get a careful look at the interior and exterior of a property, asking to see specific elements of a property including the flooring, paint, appliances, and more.
Throughout the virtual showing, it’s critical that landlords encourage prospective tenants to ask as many questions as possible. As in-person viewings have become rare, the opportunity for the tenant to enter the property prior to signing a rental agreement may be extremely low. Answering questions confidently and showing physical proof for things like questions about damages or repairs wherever possible will allow them to make an informed decision, and ease any worries they might have about the process.
Avoid in-person showings unless absolutely necessary
Landlords should take action to avoid in-person viewings unless absolutely necessary. If you must show your property to a prospective tenant, it’s crucial that you follow best practices in order to protect yourself and anybody entering your property. Doorknobs, light switches, handles, countertops, and any other high touch surfaces will need to be cleaned and sanitized before and after viewings, and windows should be left open wherever possible to air out the property.
Disposable PPE like gloves and masks should be given to anybody entering your property, and should be worn by whoever is hosting the showing. Hand sanitizer should also be given out before and after the viewing, and landlords should take care to discourage prospective tenants from touching anything, instead opening doors, drawers, and closets themselves at the request of guests in order to minimize points of contact. By taking these precautions, you’ll minimize the risk of COVID-19 transmission, and ensure that you and anybody viewing the property is kept as safe as possible.
While the current situation is less than ideal, Toronto landlords can make the best of it by embracing technology and performing virtual property showings. Remember to encourage questions, and address as many issues as possible. If in-person showings must be held, take proactive measures to protect yourself and prospective tenants. Doing these critical things will ensure that we continue to flatten the curve, and that we can get back to in-person viewings as soon as possible.
For more information about the Toronto property management and realty services offered by the experienced team at HighGate Properties, contact us today.