It goes without saying that the arrival of Coronavirus, COVID-19 is wreaking havoc across the world. Our personal lives have been affected by closures of schools, public venues, cancellations of concerts, convention centres, and now more-and-more people are being asked to work from home. Social distancing might become the Phrase of 2020.
Meanwhile, albeit at a much slower pace, life continues for those of us looking to buy or sell a home, whether the reason is job-related, financial, emigration, or any other life-altering change. There will undoubtedly be home sellers who are no longer comfortable having their home for sale and prefer to retract their properties from the market. However, as of this writing, it seems the vast majority of home sellers remain motivated to sell their homes, but have, understandably so, relevant concerns going forward.
To avoid catching and/or spreading the Coronavirus, home buyers and sellers should pay close attention to these preventative etiquette rules advisable when viewing a property;
1. Respect social distancing
Whereas before, the real estate agent might have driven prospective buyers to a number of houses in their personal vehicle, given the 'social distancing' guideline, home buyers might prefer to meet on-site using their own vehicle. In following the World Health Organisations rule of social distancing, one-on-one showings are more advisable.
2. Wash hands
As a home buyer, ensure that you wash your hands prior to viewings (with soap and water for at least 20 seconds at a time). Preferably, dry them afterwards using paper towels that can be thrown away immediately. Home sellers might request the real estate agents that any visitors are to wash their hands upon entering the property as well.
3. Use hand sanitisers
By now, most of us have alcohol-based hand sanitisers in the car or on our person, and will have used them before exiting the vehicle. However, there's a good chance the real estate agent will present you with hand sanitiser at the entrance of the property and ask you to quickly clean your hands - rather be safe than sorry, this way the agent can genuinely tell the home seller he's made sure every visiting buyer sanitised their hands upon entering the home.
4. Avoid handshaking
Physical handshakes might have been the way to go prior to the Coronavirus, however, in light of this being exactly how the virus spreads, home buyers should not be surprised to have the real estate agent extend his elbow as a greeting. Similarly, if the home seller is present and introductions ensue, there's no need to feel socially uncomfortable - we all know what's happening at the moment.
5. Wear gloves
The real estate agent might consider providing a set of gloves to wear during the viewing. As we know, interested home buyers like to 'touch the house' (i.e. slide hands over kitchen countertops, feel the quality of cabinet doors, open closets to look inside, etc.) which, given the current circumstances, may make some sellers feel uncomfortable. If individuals refuse to wear gloves, they should refrain from touching anything in the house. After all, contamination on surfaces is one of the main ways the virus spreads.
6. Practice respiratory hygiene
Particularly during these uncertain times, try to follow good respiratory hygiene. When sneezing or coughing, cover your mouth and nose with your bent elbow or tissues.
7. Remove shoes
As it stands, a number of sellers don't appreciate having water, mud, or dirt traipsed through their homes. Going forward, extra precautions by sellers might require that all viewing parties remove their shoes, or wear shoe covers. A survey was conducted by the National Association of Realtors (NAR) recently and they found that 1-in-4 home sellers are requiring interested home buyers to wash their hands, use hand sanitiser, remove shoes, or wear shoe covers before entering their home.
8. Use of bathroom
Rather empty your nervous bladder at the local coffee shop a few blocks away prior to/after the viewing. But, if you must urgently go, perhaps ask the real estate agent for wipes to make sure everything you touch gets wiped down to reduce the chances of virus infection.
9. Wear a mouth mask
In taking extra precautions, some home sellers might prefer and request all visiting home buyers to wear a mouth mask as well. Whether such a request is realistic is a different matter, as rampant shortages of mouth masks may hinder the buyers' (or agents') ability to do so.
10. Viewings with young children
Any viewings of properties with young children might be highly discouraged due to home sellers heightened concern regarding the exposure of the Coronavirus to their home.
If some of these basic guidelines of viewing a house during the Coronavirus period have been violated, it will negatively affect the sellers' response to any serious interest by the home buyer.
In closing, if a buyer viewing has been arranged, should either party experience a fever, cough or difficulty breathing, it is advisable to seek medical attention or stay home and postpone the viewing. There's no need to jeopardize anyone's health - another viewing can always be arranged once you feel better!