I’m planning to list my cottage for sale. Since it is currently vacant, can my real estate person host open houses during the state of emergency in Ontario?

During these days of physical distancing and contact-free curbside transactions, the prospect of owning a cottage may whet peoples’ appetites for recreational real estate.

As I write this, open houses are not permitted in Ontario. Under the current provincial state of emergency, the government of Ontario has banned brokerages and salespeople from hosting open houses. The ban applies to open houses for all property types – primary, vacation, recreational and vacant or occupied dwellings within cities and rural areas, including cottage country. The ban is in place to protect people from virus transmission and comply with the need for physical distancing and prevent group gatherings, as advised by health officials. Until the ban is lifted, real estate salespeople are limited to providing private showings and asked that they be reserved for only the most serious of potential buyers.

Recognizing that non-local residents visiting cottage communities has become a somewhat controversial topic, I strongly suggest discussing how the property will be marketed and the precautions that will be put in place to protect your family and visitors with any salesperson or broker you may be considering. Services available and strategies differ from brokerage to brokerage, so you will want to get a good understanding of the services available to promote the sale of your property before signing a seller representation or listing agreement.

You are embarking on a very different real estate journey than you were likely to have experienced before the pandemic. Fortunately, many brokerages and real estate professionals throughout Ontario have spent the last few months adapting to and implementing the changes needed to continue to safely trade real estate during these unique times. You can expect your salesperson to work with you to address such things as physical distancing, vulnerability screenings, protocols for physical access to the property and safety and sanitation measures. Many brokerages have also ramped-up their technological capabilities and digital media tools to offer video conferencing, virtual home tours and video walk-throughs.

For readers thinking about purchasing a property outside of the area in which they currently reside, there are a few things to keep in mind when preparing to view a property.

    • It is always a good idea to speak with your lender and real estate salesperson regarding your financial needs prior to considering vacation or recreational properties.
    • With showings currently reserved for the most serious of buyers only, you may be asked to confirm the seriousness of your interest to purchase prior to scheduling a showing.
    • You may be requested to complete COVID-19 and vulnerability screening (this typically involves a questionnaire regarding such things as recent travel and potential exposure and may involve a voluntary temperature check).
    • Remember to limit your interactions within communities when visiting these properties. Before buckling up, you should fill up your gas tank and pack lunch and snacks for the road to help reduce the pressure on resources for local residents. This is one way you can do your part to help protect yourself and others across the province.

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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