Yesterday (March 23) Premier Ford announced the closure of all non-essential businesses in the province of Ontario. This will take effect at 11:59 p.m. tonight. This is a drastic, yet necessary, measure to slow the spread of COVID-19.
The provincial government has provided a list of essential workplaces under this direction, which can be found at https://www.ontario.ca/page/list-essential-workplaces. Please note that under “other Business”, #67 “Land registration services, and real estate agent services and moving services” is included in this list.
Why was “real estate” deemed essential?
OREA asked for the essential service designation and for the Land Registry Office to stay open because there are thousands of transactions in Ontario right now that have yet to close officially. Every one of them is different.
While some may not require the help of a REALTOR® to close, others will. OREA was concerned that if REALTORS® were not permitted to support these transactions, those families and businesses could have been left high and dry.
Many other professional services appear in the essential list, including banking, lawyers, and accountants. Shutting down these sectors completely, like real estate, could have had a huge unintended consequences for consumers and damaging domino impact on other deals.
What does this mean for REALTORS®?
Most importantly, it means that REALTORS®, following the advice of health officials, will be able to support families in this difficult time who need to close on a home.
What it doesn’t mean is that REALTORS® are at liberty to conduct business as usual.
OREA is taking the position – and RAHB agrees – that all REALTORS® should stop face-to-face business, including open houses, in-person showings, and maintaining agents and public office hours.
The government gave the “essential” label to real estate to permit transactions to close – NOT to allow members to carry on with normal business practices during a crisis.
All members should be moving to remote work – full stop.
What about showings involving tenants?
No REALTOR® should, during this state of emergency, participate in a face-to-face showing, especially of a tenanted property. Legally, the Residential Tenancies Act may permit showings, but for obvious health and safety reasons, these showings need to stop. Instead, OREA encourages members to work with clients who are landlords to show these properties virtually.
To underpin RAHB’s position that no in-person open houses be permitted by RAHB members during the Ontario COVID-19 state of emergency, RAHB has suppressed the open house function in Matrix.
Read important information about showings and virtual showings below.
Today the Premier emphasized that shelter-related business is a top priority; however, this situation is first and foremost a public health emergency, and the government will not hesitate to shut down other workplaces, as necessary to protect Ontarians.
The government has stressed that everyone should work from home when possible and where possible. To help businesses operate remotely, there are several initiatives taking place:
- The big telecom companies have removed internet data caps amid COVID-19, allowing more Ontarians to work from home without worrying about extra charges.
- The Premier announced the switch to off-peak hydro for the next 45 days to help Ontarians who are working from home. This reduction will be automatic on the bills of Ontarians. Small businesses may also be eligible for this off-peak hydro rate.
Effect on the RAHB market area
REALTORS® have always been advocates for their community, and RAHB REALTORS® have been doing their part to slow the spread of COVID-19 by cancelling open houses. It’s the right thing to do.
Currently, it is hard to determine what effects COVID-19 will have on the housing market; specifically, the number of new listings, sales, and average price. We have heard from some RAHB REALTORS® who have seen very little change in activity within our market, and there are others who have clients who are postponing their sale or search for a property until COVID-19 subsides. RAHB will closely monitor the housing market during this time of uncertainty.
As a reminder, RAHB releases weekly statistics every Wednesday on News & Alerts and our monthly statistics are at the beginning of each month.