Is This The End Of Open Houses?

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My brother and his family arrived safe and sound last week, and we all breathed a collective sigh of relief.

They moved to London, England back in 2016, I believe, although it could have been 2015.  Wow, the phrase “time flies” is an understatement.

They’re quarantined up at their cottage for two weeks, but we’ve been calling on Facetime every day, and if there’s a silver lining in all of this chaos, it’s that I’m talking to my brother and his family more now than ever.

Friday was a long day, and after I put my daughter down to sleep, I had an upbeat call with my bro.

We shared some much-needed laughs, although many of those were at my Dad’s expense.  We were both in agreement that when my Dad’s time on this earth comes to an end, he’ll meet his fate by either falling into a volcano, sinking into quicksand, or getting eaten by a hippo.  Nothing quite like bonding over some playful ribbing of another loved one, right?

My brother said one thing to me that, in hindsight, seemed obvious, but at the time, was so thought-provoking.  It’s so, so obvious, that you’ll all merely assume that you’d already thought of this, but be honest with yourself if you can.

What was this thought-provoking idea?

As my brother stated, “This officially marks the end of the ‘handshake’ as an acceptable social greeting.”

I had truly never thought of that.

But as time goes on, and the world heals, we will likely never shake hands again.

I’m not a germaphobe, but I was borderline in my early-20’s.  I never loved the handshake to begin with.

Now here we are in 2020, and we can safely pinpoint this year as the time, and this virus as the cause, of the official death of the handshake.

I can’t help but think of the parallels to Demolition Man here.  Remember the 1993 blockbuster?  Okay, well the jury is out on whether this meets the blockbuster criteria, but pretend you don’t see the title on your GUIDE on a Saturday night and your heart skips a beat.

There’s a scene in the movie when Sandra Bullock’s character rather bluntly asks Sylvester Stallone, “I was wondering if you’d like to have sex tonight?”

Stallone’s character agrees, but in the future, sex isn’t what it once was.

Here’s the scene:

Not the best quality, but the world is apparently ending, so we have bigger problems.

The future portrayed in Demolition Man doesn’t allow for actual sex, but rather provides for virtual sex.

Bullock’s character, Lenina Huxley, is disgusted with the idea of “fluid transfer.”

TMI on a Monday, maybe.  But you see the parallel here, right?

Imagine telling our kids that we used to shake hands.

I can just imagine my 20-year-old son asking:

“Dad, wait a second – are you telling me that as some sort of ritualistic salutation, you would voluntarily exchange germs with a person?  Was this to gain trust?  Or demonstrate a level of committment, as if to tell that person that you’re in the boat with them?  You can handle their worst, and vice versa?  Why didn’t you just wave like we do today?”

That day is coming, trust me.

Whether we are “social distancing” for another six months, six weeks, or six days, nobody is going to want to shake hands with another person, ever again.  The longer this social distancing lasts, the harder the pattern will be to break.  I asked a person at Longo’s today, “Where’s the tofu?” from eight feet away.  It felt so odd, and yet I feel like we will accept this far faster than we’ll ever back away from it…

One of the more interesting developments in the real estate world over the past 24 hours was the officially-un-banned, but unofficially-banning of open houses in Toronto.

I predicted in a blog post last week that one of the unfortunate, but exceptionally unavoidable social consequences to come out of COVID-19 will be extreme judgment of others.  What they do, how they act, where they go, and what they do or don’t promote.  More on that in a moment…

Most real estate agents concluded that conducting open houses in the era of COVID-19 would undermine our collective attempts to promote social distancing.  As a result, most agents did not open their listings this past weekend.

On Saturday, both OREA and TREB issued bulletins to their members about open houses, although OREA beat TREB by about two hours.

Here’s OREA’s release:

 

Can I still be cynical, even in these dire times?

Perfect.

So just how tough are times going to be when OREA is offering to give back $110 “annually” to real estate agents?  If that determines whether you live or starve during the next couple of months, then maybe you should rethink your future when this is all said and done.

Bottom line, OREA advised us not to conduct open houses, but didn’t ban us from doing so.

Here’s TREB’s release:

 

Once again TREB didn’t “ban” us from doing open houses, but rather advised us not to.

To be completely transparent, I have no idea whether or not such a ban is in either OREA or TREB’s power.

As for showings, well, the show(ings) must go on!  Sorry, bad bun.  Trying to find some humour in all of this.

The real estate market cannot simply shut down.  There are people who both need to buy and sell, as well as those that simply want to.

Precautions are being taken.

Any decent listing agent will supply hand sanitizer and rubber gloves, and leave them by the front entranceway of a house or condo.

Here’s a photo from a listing my colleague visited on Saturday:

I would also add that any decent listing has also been professionally cleaned before it’s listed.

There are no more “double-bookings,” and appointments are being limited to a half-hour.  For those not active in the market, it’s not uncommon for, say, five agents to have appointments on a listing at 6:00pm, which could mean 10-15 people inside the property at one time.  Today, we’re seeing viewings limited to one buyer at a time.

Here’s a listing that shows all of the above:

Many sellers are moving out during their time on the market, to protect the buyers who come through, as well as themselves.

And then some properties that are geared towards investors are being marketed as follows:

If you know the floor plan, the view, and have access to the virtual tour, plus you know the rent the tenant is paying, you can probably make a decision on a unit like this without stepping inside it.  This is certainly not the most effective way to sell real estate, in my opinion, but it’s more than plausible – when there’s a tenant attached.

Last week was a very busy week for new listings, and that surprised me a little bit.

I’ll keep tabs on the market this week, both in terms of new listings, as well as sale prices from last week, and I’ll follow up Wed/Fri with a look at how the market is doing.

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