Conducting in-person business has long been a staple of the real estate industry. The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic is forcing brokers and agents to adapt to new business guidelines instituted by health officials.

Health order overview

The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) first issued an order requiring Californians to stay home in mid-March to help mitigate the spread of the virus. Health officials find transmission is most likely when people are in close contact or in a poorly ventilated area with an infected person, which can be difficult to avoid in situations like open houses.

Multiple outbreaks have been traced to a wide range of workplaces, especially the close-quarter bullpen-style floorplans common to real estate offices. As essential workers, real estate professionals are at risk for both acquiring and transmitting COVID-19. The CDPH put out a list of key prevention practices, which include:

  • physical distancing to the maximum extent possible;
  • wearing face coverings;
  • frequent handwashing and regular cleaning and disinfection; and
  • training workers on these and other elements of COVID-19 prevention.

Along with these key prevention practices, the CDPH released a set of guidelines for the workplace and for showing properties and homes.

Plan for showing properties

To continue showing properties, real estate offices need to establish a specific COVID-19 prevention plan in writing. Agents must display a set of rules for agents and homebuyers at the entrance of any property or home being shown. These rules need to include specific instructions for visitors to use face coverings, hand sanitizer, maintain physical distancing and avoid touching any surfaces.

Agents must also confirm with homebuyers that they understand the rules and instructions before showing the property. A digital copy of your COVID-19 prevention plan must also be made available to:

  • clients;
  • appraisers;
  • inspectors;
  • buyer’s agents; and
  • contractors.

The agent needs to obtain their agreement to follow the plan before entering any property or home.

Cleaning protocols for shown properties

Guidelines from the CDPH call for surfaces to be cleaned and disinfected before and after each showing. Commonly used surfaces at shown properties include counters, sinks, toilets, light switches, door and cabinet handles and keypads. Proper cleaning protocols include:

  • vacuuming, instead of sweeping, to avoid dispersing pathogens into the air;
  • introducing fresh outside air during a showing by opening doors and windows and operating ventilation systems;
  • disinfecting any equipment passing between workers and clients;
  • ensuring properties are equipped with cleaning products, including hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes;
  • ensuring all agents, brokers, inspectors and clients wash hands with soap and water or use hand sanitizer upon entry and touring of any property; and
  • modifying showings to provide enough time for proper cleaning and disinfecting.

Physical distancing guidelines for showing properties

Along with cleaning protocols, physical distancing plays a crucial part in showing homes and properties during COVID-19.  Here are some guidelines to follow when showing properties:

  • use an appointment or digital sign-in process to control the number of people in a home or on a property;
  • use virtual tours whenever possible;
  • open doorways and other areas of ingress and egress prior to in-person showings;
  • remind clients to maintain physical distancing during showings and refrain from touching any surfaces;
  • disinfect any fixtures that may have been touched during the showing;
  • ensure all inspectors and clients have access to handwashing facilities and hand sanitizer; and
  • provide all information electronically.

Workplace-specific plan

The CDPH released a guide for workplace environments, which calls for a written COVID-19 prevention plan. The guidelines for workplaces include:

  • incorporating Face Covering Guidance into the plan, with a policy for handling exemptions;
  • identifying contact information for the local health department;
  • training and communicating with workers on the plan;
  • regularly evaluating the workplace for compliance with the plan and documenting any deficiencies;
  • investigating any COVID-19 illness and determining if work-related factors contributed to their illness;
  • implementing proper protocols for an office outbreak, following CDPH guidelines; and
  • identifying close contacts of any infected worker and isolating them and their close contacts.

By following and practicing these guidelines, you are protecting both yourself and your clients.

Read the latest guidelines in full here.