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Holidays, COVID-19 and Real Estate Showings

The ever-evolving list of considerations when viewing property

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It's no secret that the real estate market is one sector of the economy where the effects of coronavirus have had the opposite influence than on the vast majority of the U.S. economy. From the start of the pandemic, the real estate industry in Oregon has been considered an essential business/industry. In fact, the real estate market has soared all while facing a global pandemic. Demand for housing remains extremely high even during what is typically considered a slower season for realtors in Central Oregon. Buyer demand remains high and as such, so do the showing requests.

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With the recent surge in coronavirus cases both nationally and locally, it seemed a good idea to revisit safety protocols and considerations. Unlike many other businesses, real estate involves people's homes, one of the most intimate places for people. It is their sanctuary, their safe place, and now their schools—and for many, their place of employment. For many, their home has become the only place during this pandemic where the guard can come down and a relaxing breath of safety can be inhaled.

Respect and consideration for others' health and safety is of critical importance when viewing property, especially now. Pile the holiday season on top of an already interesting time and voilà– real estate showings can get a little complicated.

The first and most crucial thing when looking at properties is consideration for others' time and space. It may become more difficult for people to leave a home for a showing during certain hours because of homeschooling requirements, or perhaps they work from home and are on Zoom meetings and conference calls. They may need 24 hours' notice to pick up the house, pack up the kids and the dogs and reschedule that Zoom call, all while waiting for the Webex class to finish so they can dart out the door in time for the showing. In other cases, like tenant-occupied properties, the residents did not choose to put their home on the market and may not be so receptive to having to do the above routine and allowing strangers in their home. It's important to be flexible with timing. While the goal is to find the perfect property, sometimes it requires waiting a couple hours or working around someone else's schedule. In terms of punctuality, now may not be the best time to arrive to a showing 15 minutes early. There may be other showings before one's scheduled appointment, or the resident is threading the needle on timing between those classes and Zoom calls.

In addition, keep the showings concise. With so many places closed or operating in limited capacity, it is entirely possible that the home's occupant is parked somewhere, with the kids, the dogs and doing a Zoom call or a Webex class from the car.

Now is not the time for touring homes for the sake of touring just in case. If the neighborhood or the style and size of the house, for example, are not what meets the requirements, perhaps it's a good idea to focus on seeing only the properties that do.

It's key to also have consideration for one's realtor. The National Association of Realtors and the local associations are suggesting limited contact between clients and brokers. That means riding in separate cars to showings and forgoing in-person meetings to virtual meetings and digital document signings. While real estate brokers are not considered frontline workers, every time a realtor steps out with a client they are interfacing with people who are not part of their everyday pod. They, too, may have elderly parents they are caring for or a member in their household who has a compromised immune system.

Also, be respectful of sanitation and mask requirements. Always wash hands frequently, wear booties and sanitize hands prior to entering a property. Wear a mask! When entering someone else's home, this isn't a choice. It's mandatory. Aside from the fact that it is a statewide ordinance, this is someone's home and sanctuary. When inside the house, refrain from touching anything. Opening the cabinets, turning on the water and the various other things I have seen clients do over the years is not appropriate right now. Videos can be taken of the interior of linen closets or cabinets. Keep in mind may people have cameras and other devices around their home. Disrespectful behavior not only reflects poorly on the person viewing the property, but also can lead to liability issues for a real estate broker. It is best to mind one's Ps and Qs.

Finally, it goes without saying that if one is not feeling well or has been exposed to someone who has tested positive for COVID-19, reschedule the showing.

We are no doubt in one of the most trying times this country has seen in over a century. And now more than ever we need to demonstrate kindness, respect and consideration. This goes for not only real estate showings, but for our community members as a whole.

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