Coronavirus: FAQs for sales agents
The REIQ has been closely monitoring the impact of COVID-19. As your peak body, we have developed an article that answers the questions we’ve been fielding through our Agency Advice lines over the last few weeks.
Q: Should I still hold open home inspections?
A: Effective from 16 October 2020, Queensland’s Chief Health Officer has further relaxed the rules surrounding open house inspections pursuant to Restrictions on Businesses, Activities and Undertakings Direction (No. 8), which can be viewed here. The new restrictions limit real estate-related activities to a maximum of 50 participants, inclusive of agents and owners. Indoor gatherings may have no more than one person per 4 square metres. All social distancing and hygiene requirements remain in effect.
Furthermore, agents conducting open homes must keep contact information about all guests and staff for contact tracing purposes, including name, email address (residential address if unavailable) and mobile phone number for a period of at least 56 days, unless otherwise specified. If requested, this information must be provided to public health officers. The information should be securely stored, not used for any other purpose and deleted after 56 days. The REIQ has developed a personal information collection entry poster that may be used for this purpose and can be accessed by clicking here. We have also developed a personal information collection notice, which can be downloaded here.
The REIQ has developed a poster to be displayed outside open homes and auctions, which can be found here. Finally, the REIQ has developed a Stop Sign poster which advises potentially ill people to not enter the property. It can be accessed here.
Note: People should observe physical distancing to the extent possible. If a business, activity or undertaking is required to maintain a 2 or 4 square metre requirement, this applies to areas of the business that are open to or used by the public.
In compliance with the current health Directions and in line with health and safety requirements, The REIQ strongly recommends that agencies continue to remain vigilant and complete preventative measures to reduce the risk of contracting and spreading the COVID-19 virus via real estate practices.
Although ‘open house inspections’ are now permissible subject to certain requirements, The REIQ recommends that inspections are conducted in a controlled manner as outlined below to ensure the health and safety of real estate professionals and the broader community.
It is important to both seek and follow the advice of your seller client, adhering to their instructions. If a client instructs that they are not willing to hold private inspections, you are required to comply with this direction.
The REIQ recommends the use of live stream technology, 360 virtual reality tours or video presentations.
Should your client not wish to have physical inspections carried out, it’s important to respect their decision and follow instructions. In such circumstances, you should consider informing the client (in writing) that the prospects of a sale may be limited due to the restrictions. Postponing the sales campaign may be a necessary consideration.
What precautions should I implement when conducting private inspections?
Should your client make their home or property available to private inspections, the REIQ recommends the following:
- Contact the seller to ensure no one in the home is currently ill, is in self-isolation or has just returned from overseas before proceeding with an open home. (If they have answered yes to any of these questions, it is recommended that the open home be postponed at least 14 days (in accordance with Queensland Health recommendations);
- Contact the prospective buyers prior to an inspection to ensure they are not currently ill, are in self-isolation or have just returned from overseas and advise them to not attend if they have answered yes to any of these questions;
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth at all times when conducting inspections;
- Provide written notice to attendees stating that entry will not be permitted to people displaying symptoms and/or those who meet other ‘at risk’ criteria as stipulated by health authorities;
- Consider wearing disposable medical-grade gloves before touching any objects and fixtures within the home, especially high-touch surfaces such as door handles, tap handles and window fittings;
- Provide and/or advise the use of disinfectants to owners and guests prior to and at the end of an open home;
- Politely decline to shake hands or have any other physical contact with owners and clients; and
- Reassure both owners and prospective buyers that you are simply following best practice precautionary measures which are not in response to any confirmed coronavirus cases within the agency or immediate area.
For prospective buyers and clients:
- Display appropriate signage at the entry of the home with the specific requirements clearly outlined for all prospective buyers to adhere to prior to entering the property (such notice should it make it clear that attendees may be asked to leave the property if they appear to exhibit symptoms or the agent is concerned that they may pose a risk);
- Provide alcohol-based hand sanitiser and request all on-site clients use it upon entering a property;
- Consider providing disposable medical-grade gloves, masks and/or protective foot coverings for attendees and consider asking them to remove their shoes (particularly if owners have requested these precautions);
- Request all attendees to refrain from touching any objects and fixtures within the home and instead ask the agent/s to demonstrate the functionality of any devices should it be necessary;
- Maintain social distancing of at least 1.5 metres where possible;
- Politely request refraining from any physical contact with others whilst in the home; and,
- Do not permit entry to anyone who is coughing, sneezing or showing any signs or symptoms of illness.
Sales agents may ask an attendee to leave an inspection if they pose a risk to others. If a sales agent becomes concerned that an attendee is an ‘at-risk person,’ it is recommended you respectfully discuss the matter with the individual (while also maintaining a distance of at least 1.5 metres). Whether to ask the person to leave is ultimately subject to the sales agent’s judgement, however, it is important to consider information released by health authorities, including:
- If the person has a fever or cough;
- If the person was instructed to self-isolate; or
- If the client is behaving inappropriately/failing to adhere to the instructions provided.
Importantly, it is essential to ensure you have an accurate record of the names and contact details of all attendees. Should someone in attendance at the inspection later show symptoms of respiratory illness or is diagnosed with COVID-19, the attendance record will allow you to contact the vendor or any other necessary individuals to notify them of the situation so that they can take appropriate action, including undergoing medical testing. To comply with privacy law requirements, you should ensure that this is disclosed to the attendee as a purpose for which the information is collected.
Q: What should do I do if a seller refuses to allow me to enter their home for a private inspection?
A: It is important to respect any decisions an owner makes regarding home inspections, including their choice to refuse anyone access to their property. As stated above, agents must follow the lawful instructions of their clients. Sales agents have other options available to them to put forward as alternatives which the client may consider, including the use of live stream technology or video platforms should a client direct that no personal inspections take place.
However, should none of these options be acceptable for the seller, you may wish to consider suspending the sales campaign to a later date.
Q: Should I conduct in-home appraisals?
A: It is important to speak with your employer (the agency principal) in the first instance and follow their directive. It is recommended that if you’re currently ill or showing symptoms of illness that you do not engage in any in-person contact with members of the public. This means attending in-home appraisals may not be appropriate until a later date.
If you are not ill or showing any symptoms of illness, it is important to also check that the client is comfortable for an in-person home appraisal to take place. Should the client be happy to meet in their home, it is recommended you follow the same steps when conducting an open home. Should the client not be comfortable, consider some alternative options available such as hosting a virtual meeting or meeting at your office (should this be acceptable for you, your staff and the client).
Q: Should I invite potential buyers or sellers into my office?
A: The REIQ recommends sales agents adopt precautionary hygiene protocols in their offices and ask prospective buyers and/or sellers who may be feeling unwell to reschedule after 14 days (in accordance with Queensland Health directives). Recommended hygiene protocols include:
- Display appropriate signage at the reception desk with the specific requirements clearly outlined for all prospective visitors to adhere whilst in your office;
- Provide alcohol-based hand sanitiser and request all on-site visitors use it upon
entering the office;
- Request all visitors refrain from touching anything where practical;
- Maintain social distancing where practical
- Politely refrain from any physical contact with visitors; and
- Do not permit entry to any visitor who is coughing, sneezing or showing any signs or symptoms of illness.
For any upcoming in-office scheduled appointments with prospective buyers and/or sellers, contact them to ensure no one in their home is currently ill, is in self-isolation or has just returned from overseas prior to the meeting (if they have answered yes to any of these questions, it is recommended cancelling the meeting to an alternative date after 14 days (in accordance with Queensland Health directives).
While some agencies are already cancelling in-person meetings and shifting to virtual meetings and conference calls, these are options sales agents may also consider in lieu of meeting in-person at your office so as to continue conducting business.
Q: I often drive my clients to showings. May I refuse to drive potential clients to see homes?
A: The simple answer is yes. However, be sure that any change to your business practices is applied equally to all prospective buyers. You may refuse to drive anyone who shows signs of illness or reveals recent travel to areas of increased risk of COVID-19, or you may instead decide to stop driving clients in your car altogether and arrange to meet clients at a property. If you do continue to drive prospective buyers in your car, it is recommended that you frequently clean and disinfect surfaces like door handles and seat belt latches and to ask everyone to use hand sanitiser prior to entering and exiting the vehicle.
Q: Can auctions still go ahead?
Pursuant to Restrictions on Businesses, Activities and Undertakings Direction, real estate auctions can now be conducted provided that agencies comply with applicable maximum person limits and social distancing requirements. Auctions may have a maximum of 20 attendees in addition to a maximum of 3 people conducting said auction.
In compliance with the above Direction and in line with health and safety requirements, The REIQ strongly recommends that agencies continue to remain vigilant and complete preventative measures to reduce the risk of contracting and spreading the COVID-19 virus via real estate practices.
Furthermore, agents conducting open homes must keep contact information about all guests and staff for contact tracing purposes, including name, address and mobile phone number for a period of at least 56 days, unless otherwise specified. If requested, this information must be provided to public health officers. The information should be securely stored, not used for any other purpose and deleted after 56 days. The REIQ has developed a personal information collection entry poster that may be used for this purpose and can be accessed by clicking here. We have also developed a personal information collection notice, which can be downloaded here.
Q: How can I get a contract signed?
The signing of documents can take place in person provided the hygiene protocols outlined above are followed for prospective buyers and sellers attending your office. An alternative is using electronic signatures which are recognised by law in Australia (Electronic Transactions Act 1999 Cth). There are many online platforms available to choose from.
Q: What tech can I use to keep me selling?
A: Tech executions of forms and contracts: Uploading forms and contracts, filling them in manually, scanning, emailing them through the office email and then waiting for them to be returned via email and the data entered into your CRM and filed properly is a laborious, slow and old-school process at the best of times. With your team working from various locations across town, your paper trail will end in tears. RealWorks integrates with all of the major CRM’s and stores your documents digitally. Most forms in RealWorks can be executed using DocuSign and Property Managers can access One Touch Execution for their tenancy agreements. This will allow you to create forms and contracts centrally and share links, keeping paperwork centrally regardless of who in your team needs to access it.
Tech for appraisals, marketing planning and sales solutions: A beautifully designed, hand-delivered appraisal that you run through in-person most likely needs to be substituted for a digital version at the present time. Look at options like Proposal Point and then schedule a Zoom meeting to step the vendor through. Some solutions combine these tasks with full end-to-end digital sales solutions like Realtair. Realtair’s Pitch, Sign, Flow and Track products let you not only pull together state-of-the-art appraisal documentation more quickly but also handles the sales process from end-to-end and connects seamlessly with Campaign Track so activities can be easily scheduled and delivered. Real Time Agent is also worth a look as it will save you four hours per property in paperwork and administration.
Tech for alternatives to Open Homes: If your sellers are okay with you visiting the property, you can do a quick virtual walk-through with HomeLive or create a virtual tour with Virtual Tours Creator so you can see where people stop and click. But if your sellers barricade the doors, there’s still an option. Check out RealAR. Provide them with a floor plan and your portal listing photos and they will build an augmented walkthrough that will help buyers feel like they’re really there.