Despite the restrictions imposed on the real estate industry during the level 4 lockdown, we continue to hear reports of real estate transactions taking place. Tommy’s Real Estate have continued to meet the needs of some buyers and sellers during this time albeit at a lower level than normal. Today’s technology makes this possible with so much data and information available online and signatures on documents also being processed digitally.

As we prepare this blog post for publication, we have learned that Wellington will come out of level 4 at 11.59pm on Tuesday 31st August moving to level 3 with Auckland remaining in level 4 for a further period of time. With the assumption that Wellington may be operating under level 3 for some time to come, we have dedicated this blog post to how this impacts on our industry; what our obligations are and how we can work within the parameters of level 3 and still offer a meaningful service to our clients.

COVID LEVEL 3 – WHAT WE CAN AND CAN’T DO: All businesses operating at alert level 3 have a responsibility to adhere to public health and safety obligations. This broad statement includes the following which we have become accustomed to: Two metre physical distancing, the wearing of face masks, working remotely where possible, keeping records of close contacts and providing a NZ Covid tracer app QR code at our offices. More specifically to our industry we are required to minimise time at any property and to work with the homeowner to ensure there are not more than two visits to a property per day. We are also obliged to stay away from clients’ homes if agents or occupants are unwell or are self- isolating.

MEETING CLIENTS AND APPRAISING A PROPERTY: Where possible, we are required to appraise the property using virtual methods instead of visiting the property. If we conduct a virtual appraisal at alert level 3, we should then conduct a physical appraisal at alert level 2. With a virtual appraisal, the agent should get a comprehensive and full disclosure from our vendor client by asking detailed and specific questions about the condition of the property. We must be satisfied that no purchaser or potential purchaser is adversely affected by the lack of a physical inspection. If a virtual appraisal isn’t possible, agents who can comply with health requirements may visit a property if the homeowner and any tenants agree but subsequent discussions should be by phone or video call.

SIGNING THE AGENCY AGREEMENT: All discussions regarding the agency agreement must be done remotely. This includes solicitor contact. Contracts should be signed electronically. Contactless pickup or delivery for the contract documents is acceptable if absolutely necessary.

MARKETING A PROPERTY: Photographers, videographers or home stagers or other professionals who visit a property must comply with health requirements. Visits are limited to two per day whether they are prospective buyers or photographers etc. Agents should arrange access and then wait outside or in one room of the house while the professional works. Agents should not use letterbox drops to market a property during level 3.

SHOWING A PROPERTY TO COLLEAGUES: Visiting a property as a group is not allowed during level 3.

OPEN HOMES AND VIEWINGS: Open homes are not permitted at alert level 3.

PREPARING FOR VIEWINGS: Use on-line viewings where possible. If this isn’t possible or practical, private viewings are allowed at level 3 under the following conditions: Ensure buyers are serious contenders for the property. No more than two visits per day and no more than two buyers from the same bubble at any one time. Prospective buyers cannot travel between regions for a private viewing. Agents should email prospective buyer’s details of expected health standards to be maintained during their visit and ask pertinent questions about their health status i.e. no coughs or colds etc. Face masks must be worn and the vendor or any tenants must agree to the inspection and vacate the property during the viewing. Listing and selling residential properties will have its difficulties during level 3.

The purpose of this blog post is simply to touch on some of the situations that our agents must take into account in complying with government and industry expected health standards. We will be relying on the goodwill and cooperation of our buying and selling clients but the better job we all do of handling these restrictions now, then the sooner we can return to a more user-friendly mode of operation. The process after a sale has been negotiated is much the same; social distancing, face masks and protection of one another will continue to be with us for some time yet it seems. Meantime it is business as usual, and we look forward to assisting our many clients old and new through these troubled times.

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