Photo: James Bombales

As provincial COVID-19 case numbers exceed their springtime levels, Ontario real estate agents are being asked to once again avoid hosting in-person open houses.

On Friday, October 9th, the Ontario government introduced a series of modified Stage Two measures in three targeted public health units to combat a concerning rise in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations.

Peel, Toronto and Ottawa health regions, areas that have seen higher rates of virus transmission, have been required to close indoor dining, reduce social gathering limits and implement other stringent safety measures, including the reduction of indoor open house visitors.

In an effort to minimize the spread of COVID-19, Ontario’s major real estate associations have called on agents to avoid hosting physical open houses.

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“With cases in Ontario rising, we must continue to limit face-to-face interactions as much as possible and use virtual tools first and to the greatest extent possible,” said Sean Morrison, President of the Ontario Real Estate Association (OREA), in a statement issued on Friday. “Today, I am calling on Ontario REALTORS® to once again stop hosting open houses.”

During the onset of the pandemic in late March, the Toronto Regional Real Estate Board (TRREB) strongly recommended that realtors halt open houses and resort to virtual alternatives. By early April, open houses were banned throughout the province. Provincial restrictions were gradually lifted across public health regions as case numbers improved during the summer, allowing physical open houses to resume again in August with social distancing measures in place. Even at this stage, agents were still encouraged to avoid open houses, if possible.

On Friday, the provincial government reduced capacity limits on open houses to 10 indoor visitors with physical distancing measures in place. TRREB has urged realty professionals to continue using alternative marketing strategies when possible, such as video and virtual tours.

“We’re again at a critical phase with a second wave of this pandemic and we all have to do our part to be successful in confronting this challenge in order to protect the health and safety of REALTORS®, their clients and the general public,” said TRREB President Lisa Patel in a press release.

The latest public health restrictions came into effect on Saturday, October 10th, and are to remain in place for a minimum of 28 days. The provincial government will review the restrictions on an ongoing basis.

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