Photo: James Bombales

Over the last couple of weeks, we’ve seen an unprecedented number of closures and cancellations in an effort to limit community transmission of COVID-19 — the closure of restaurants, the cancellation of countless major flight routes and the possible postponement of school until September, to name just a few. Now, Canada’s largest real estate board is voicing its concern over a common business practice that could contribute to the spread of the coronavirus.

Over the weekend, the Toronto Regional Real Estate Board (TRREB), issued a strong recommendation to realtors to halt in-person open houses in light of the current global pandemic. In an effort to provide safety and ensure health to realtors and the general public, TRREB explained in a press release that they would be “suppressing” open houses on MLS and other affiliate websites.

“In light of provincial government restrictions on public gatherings and guidance regarding social distancing, TRREB recommends that Members do not hold open houses for the time being,” stated TRREB President Michael Collins in the issued press release. “TRREB will be suppressing open houses on its Stratus MLS® system and our public facing websites, Collaborate and, until it is safe to restore.”

TRREB clarified that it would not enforce MLS R-345 — a rule that suspends listings on the MLS system if a property is not made available for showings or inspections — while government health advisories remain in effect.

Open houses, typically hosted over the course of a few hours on weekends, provide a set window of time for potential buyers to walk through a home. Given the mounting pressure for extreme social distancing measures in order to curb the growth of infections, open houses could quickly become an environment for the coronavirus to transmit from person to person.

“We’re at a critical phase with 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 Collins.

Collins referred realtors to review the current COVID-19 best practices for TRREB, which encourages realtors and clients to stay home if sick, consider community risks and practice social distancing. With technology at their disposal, realtors are also being incentivized to use other methods to showcase their properties to potential buyers, such as virtual tours.

“Realtors are reminded that there are alternative online and virtual marketing opportunities for sellers that can easily be accessed by buyers,” said TRREB CEO John DiMichele. “We encourage members to use alternative marketing strategies such as video and virtual tours wherever possible, and to continue to follow directives and guidance being given by the government and public health agencies.”

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