I recently sold a property. The purchase agreement includes two pre-closing visits for the new owners and an inspection by an engineer. How can I protect myself, the buyers and the specialists that need access to the property?

Congratulations on the sale of your property. As you have likely heard from your salesperson, many people still need to buy and sell property – despite the global COVID-19 pandemic. Recognizing this need, government officials designated real estate as an essential service. As we have discussed in past columns, it is important that both buyers and sellers become familiar with the restrictions put in place by government officials – federally, provincially and within municipalities – to ensure all parties are abiding by physical distancing requirements in response to direction from public health authorities.

You, like many others in the province, and across the country, who are in the midst of a transaction, have unprecedented considerations to take into account in order to fulfil your contractual obligations. Fortunately, there are a number of reliable contacts on your side to assist in closing your sale. Look to your real estate representative and lawyer to work with you to come up with an approach that will meet your obligations and satisfy your buyer’s needs while respecting the need for precautions.

RECO strongly suggests that both buyers and sellers be prudent in working through a real estate transaction to avoid in-person interactions wherever possible. Where physical interaction cannot be avoided, protocols should be put in place. Once established, protocols should be clearly articulated with all parties – including tenants that may reside in properties in transaction.

All parties should follow the direction of public health authorities when determining what extra steps and protocols are needed to lessen the threat of transmission – this includes respecting self-isolation orders, protecting the vulnerable, following handwashing and sanitizing guidelines established by health officials, discouraging visitors from touching any surfaces in the home and limiting the number of people in a home at any given time – and sanitizing high-touch areas, like doorknobs, light switches and cupboard handles – before and after a visit, when an in-person visit to a property is unavoidable.

Now to address your particular situation, discuss ways to reduce the number of people entering the home, and ways to reduce the items they may have to touch or move by moving them ahead of time, if possible. You might also offer to take the buyers through a virtual tour of the home by video chat to allow them to see the home virtually and ask you questions directly. You might also be able to take measurements for specific areas that are of interest to them. These steps and others might reduce the number of visits or eliminate them all together. It’s time for everyone to get creative to help keep everyone safe.

If you are someone who is considering a purchase or sale in the near future, it is important to remember that finalizing a transaction typically requires interactions with a number of services, some of them regulated, which may require access to the property in question. This may include inspectors, architects, engineers and/or trade specialists. You should work closely with your real estate representative to discuss the health risks associated with visits, physical distancing compliant measures that are available and establish a plan and protocols for entry when a visit is unavoidable and absolutely necessary.

If you have a question for Joe about the home buying or selling process, please email information@reco.on.ca.

Joseph Richer is Registrar of the Real Estate Council of Ontario (RECO). He is in charge of the administration and enforcement of all rules that govern real estate professionals in Ontario. You can find more tips at reco.on.ca, follow on Twitter @RECOhelps or on YouTube at http://www.youtube.com/RECOhelps.

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