British Columbia

Real estate open houses coming back to B.C. with new guidelines

The British Columbia Real Estate Association, the Real Estate Council of British Columbia, and the Office of the Superintendent of Real Estate and WorkSafeBC announced new guidelines Wednesday to resume physical home showings by realtors.

'I think we’re going to be in this stage … for a long time. Until we have vaccines in our arms'

Real estate open houses are returning after being put on hold as a pandemic safety precaution. (Robson Fletcher/CBC)

It's not business as usual, it's not a return to normal, the real estate industry says, but open houses are coming back to B.C.'s real estate sector.

The British Columbia Real Estate Association, the Real Estate Council of British Columbia, the Office of the Superintendent of Real Estate and WorkSafeBC announced new guidelines Wednesday to resume physical home showings by realtors.

Darlene Hyde, CEO of the real estate association, said it could represent a long-term change for open houses, which were on hold for pandemic safety reasons.

"I think we're going to be in this stage … for a long time. Until we have vaccines in our arms," said Hyde. "I call it the twilight zone: not quite normal, not quite lockdown."

Hyde said open houses going forward won't be the open houses of old, with looky-loos able to randomly wander in to have a peek.

Instead, prospective buyers will have to pre-register, keep physically distant from others, wear a mask and leave their contact info so contact tracing can be done.

The guidelines, however, are just that, Hyde said. They aren't legally mandated but instead are "strongly encouraged."

Concern for tenants

The Vancouver Tenants Union, which advocates for renters' rights, said the return of open houses is not welcome because it could lead to currently occupied rental homes that are up for sale being viewed by dozens of people.

"Vulnerable tenants who are immuno-compromised or living with disabilities and self-isolating will have their health put in danger," wrote union committee member Mazdak Gharibnavaz in an email to CBC News.

"Not only will the continuation of open houses lead to the eventual eviction of current tenants, it will also serve as yet another tool for landlords to harass and intimidate tenants into leaving sooner."

Hyde says she expects all realtors will keep to the guidelines with the "hyper-sensitive" awareness of pandemic risks and public health guidelines.

"Realtors are very eager to serve their clients but they're equally cognizant of the public health requirements and want to keep their clients safe," she said.

Marie Antoinette Shields is glad the new guidelines mean she can finally get on with selling her house in Burnaby so she can move to a smaller town.

Marie Antoinette Shields said she's eager to get her Burnaby home sold. (Zahra Premji/CBC)

She's been waiting months to make a sale and is hopeful the new guidelines could expedite the process.

At the same time, she wants to be kept safe as strangers walk in and out of her home.

"Come in and see my house, by all means," Shields said. "Let's all be safe together, and let's all wear a mask… It's sort of common sense."

With files from Zahra Premji

now