RECA – Ask Charles – October

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I want to buy a new home but I’m worried about contracting COVID-19 while I view properties. What can I do to minimize my risk?

The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has affected the lives of many Albertans. It’s reasonable to be worried about contracting COVID-19 during property viewings or other in-person real estate interactions. Fortunately, there are precautions you can take to reduce your risk.

First, you’ll want to determine your personal risk tolerance with COVID-19 prior to attending any viewings. Review the current public health recommendations. Do you or members of your family have any medical conditions that increase vulnerability to the virus? Would you be comfortable working with real estate or mortgage professionals who are unvaccinated?

Once you’ve weighed your tolerance, work with your real estate professional to plan viewings in a way that can mitigate the risk of contracting COVID-19.

  • Optimize the use of virtual communications tools. For initial viewings, prospective buyers can view photos or video tours of properties that they may want to view in person. Virtual communication platforms reduce in-person viewing and ensure that prospective buyers have a genuine interest in purchasing the property.
  • Meet your real estate professional at the properties. Taking separate vehicles will help you maintain a safe distance of at least six feet (two metres). You can also ask in advance for in-person meeting options that allow you to keep a safe distance when working with your real estate professional.
  • Ask your real estate professional to request health and travel information from sellers and their professionals before attending viewings. While the seller can decline to answer, if they do answer, they must answer honestly. The seller may also ask for your health and travel information and can refuse entry to their home based on your answer.
  • Limit the number of people attending the viewing. Limit the number of people you bring with you to viewings to one other person. While it’s nice for your kids or parents to see your potential new home before you buy, more people through the space means more chances for exposure to the virus. Consider involving extended family other ways—for example, you can let your kids pick a new paint color for their rooms or ask your parents what things they’d look for if they were buying a home and report back for their input.
  • Seek specific viewing conditions in writing. Work with your real estate professional to request conditions such as the use of masks, hand sanitizers or gloves, or additional safety precautions which limit contact with surfaces or the amount of people at a given time. Remember, the seller might also have their own conditions for viewings. You and the seller must agree and sign off on these conditions before the viewing, and you and your real estate professional must adhere to all conditions when you are on the property.

The COVID-19 pandemic has affected the needs of both buyers and sellers for property viewings. Discuss your needs and concerns with your real estate professional and put your decisions in writing. Documenting and signing off on conditions can help alleviate confusion or uncertainty during this important part of your home buyer process.

You’ve got questions. He’s got answers.

Charles Stevenson is the Registrar at the Real Estate Council of Alberta. Buying, selling, and managing real estate in Alberta can be confusing, but it doesn’t have to be.

If you have a new question for Charles, please email [email protected].