The Coronavirus situation has made us take an extra look at precautions. This update will cover 2 sides of the issue: (1) Our association reaction and (2) what you need to know as Realtors working with clients.
1. Board Precautions: We have taken very basic safety measures that should assure we are able to operate uninterrupted, especially as a host of many meetings and events. If you attend a live event, we have sanitizing wipes for you to use, and can be assured the staff is increasing safety precautions with food handling as well. In addition to washing hands, we encourage ALL (staff, volunteers, attendees) to stay home if not feeling well. Staff is NOT allowed to come into work if feeling ill. If you are not comfortable attending meetings in public, (except for live CE) we have a call-in video conference capability for you to use instead. Your participation still matters! If you wish to cancel class or meeting registration, you may do so without penalty (but please don’t be a “no-show”, we would appreciate a heads up to ensure we have enough attending and to save on paper and food).
2. Realtor Precautions: The National Association of REALTORS has released information regarding your business precautions as well. In Berkshire County, we’ve already heard of sellers asking those entering their homes for showing to take extra precaution, sanitizing hands on entry (with provided hand sanitizer) or wearing a mask if they have a cold. Some Realtors have been asked to post a sign with these directions and to provide supplies to help keep everyone clean. That is a discussion for you to have with concerned sellers and determine how you / your firm will respond. Here is an excerpt from the NAR Coronavirus: A Guide for REALTORS®with some additional things to think about:
What unique issues does coronavirus present to the real estate industry?
When an infectious disease, such as coronavirus, is associated with a specific population or nationality, fear and anxiety may lead to social stigma and potential discrimination. REALTORS® must be mindful of their obligations under the Fair Housing Act, and be sure not to discriminate against any particular segment of the population. While the coronavirus outbreak began in Wuhan, China, that does not provide a basis for treating Chinese persons or persons of Asian descent differently.
May I ask clients or others I interact with in my real estate business if they have traveled recently, or have any signs of respiratory illness?
Yes, you may ask clients or others about their recent travel, particularly to areas identified as having an increased risk of coronavirus. To avoid potential fair housing issues, be sure to ask all clients the same screening questions based on current, factual information from public health authorities.
I typically drive my clients to showings. May I refuse to drive potential clients to see homes?
Yes. However, be sure that any change to your business practices is applied equally to all clients. You may refuse to drive clients who show signs of illness or reveal recent travel to areas of increased risk of coronavirus, or you may instead decide to stop driving clients in your car altogether, and simply arrange to meet clients at a property. If you do continue to drive clients in your car, it is a good idea to frequently clean and disinfect surfaces like door handles and seat belt latches, and to ask clients to use hand sanitizer when getting in and out of the car.
Should I still conduct open houses on my listed properties?
Speak openly and honestly with your seller about the pros and cons of holding an open house. Assess the risk based on your specific location, and direct your clients to local and state health authorities for specific information about the severity of the risk in your area. You could also propose alternative marketing opportunities for your seller’s consideration, such as video tours and other methods to virtually tour a property. If you do hold an open house, consider requiring all visitors to disinfect their hands upon entering the home, and provide alcohol-based hand sanitizers at the entryway, as well as soap and disposable towels in bathrooms. If you decide to do any cleaning at your client’s home, be sure to check with your client in advance about any products you plan to use. After the open house, recommend that your client clean and disinfect their home, especially commonly touched areas like doorknobs and faucet handles.
What precautions should brokers consider taking in their offices?
Brokers should use their best judgment when formulating a plan. First, brokers should implement a mandatory “stay-home” policy for any staff member or agent exhibiting any sign of illness, and depending on where the broker is geographically located, a broker may want to consider imposing a mandatory remote work policy for employees and instructing agents to stay out of the office. In addition, taking measures such as holding virtual meetings or potentially postponing or cancelling in-person meetings or events may be good measures to take to limit close contact between individuals. Be sure to monitor updates from the CDC, as well as your state and local health authorities for additional information and guidance on holding meetings or events. For travel considerations, review NAR’s “Coronavirus: A Guide for REALTOR® Associations”.
The CDC reports that most people in the United States do not have an immediate risk of exposure to the virus. However, the situation is rapidly evolving, and the CDC will update its risk assessment as needed. Visit the CDC’s website (link is external) for latest updates.