Real estate agents must not attempt to relax COVID-19 precautionary measures.
Selling a home during a pandemic is a delicate balancing act. It’s important to avoid unnecessary exposure to strangers, but equally important to allow serious buyers – and professionals like home inspectors – to view a property in person.
With infection figures decreasing and vaccines on the way, SA has now moved to lockdown level 1, it may be tempting for real estate agents to relax their guard in terms of masks, social distancing and sanitisation in order to sell a property. However REBOSA Chairman Tony Clarke, says this kind of risk is both irresponsible and unnecessary.
“A good agent can sell a property just as effectively with strict Covid-19 protocol in place as they could before the pandemic hit,” he says. “There really is no excuse for putting lives at risk by relaxing health and safety procedures. Buyers and sellers should make a point of confirming that their agents are following industry best practices, and demand better if it turns out that they are not behaving with the professionalism our industry expects.”
REBOSA (Real Estate Business Owners of South Africa) has published a comprehensive set of Covid-19 workplace readiness guidelines and templates for use by the real estate industry. Recommended measures include encouraging real estate professionals to work from home where possible, implementing strict in-office hygiene controls and regular screening, enforcing social distancing and mask-wearing, and preparing for swift transmission control in the event of a team member testing positive for Covid-19.
To minimise risk during interactions with customers and members of the public, REBOSA recommends agents conduct meetings via telephone or video call, and use electronic documentation where possible. Virtual viewings of properties are encouraged, with in-person visits limited to serious buyers only.
“It’s a good idea for sellers to request that buyers get prequalified before viewing a property in person, and strictly limiting visitors to two at a time,” says Clarke. “Showhouses are low risk as long as the proper safety protocols are followed. That means keeping doors and windows open to maximise ventilation during viewings, making sure all parties wear masks and sanitise their hands on entry and exit, and avoiding touching any surfaces as far as possible.”
REBOSA strongly discourages agents from travelling to viewings in the same vehicle as clients, recommending all parties maintain a distance of at least 1.5 metres from each other at all times. A log of all private and showhouse visitor details is also recommended to enable transmission tracking if necessary.
“We are very fortunate to have such a detailed set of best practice guidelines to follow,” says Clarke. “It lets our agents focus on their jobs with the confidence that they are doing everything possible to protect their own health and that of their co-workers and clients. Those who aren’t doing so have absolutely no excuse for their selfish behaviour, and must be held accountable for their actions.”