Alberta realtors banned from hosting open houses, association says

The Alberta Real Estate Association (AREA) is banning its members from hosting open houses to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

"You can't control who comes in to an open house and the risk of transmission is too high … for both the realtors and the public," said Brad Mitchell, CEO of AREA, the professional association that represents the province's more than 10,500 realtors.

Mitchell said guidelines on cleaning and safety precautions to protect both realtors and clients were released last week, but after realizing some open houses were still being held, the association decided it was time to end the practice for now.

Mitchell said the decision is supported by every real estate board in the province.

Online showings encouraged

Realtors are being encouraged to host virtual tours or use video-conferencing and digital contract signatures. 

The ban on open houses will remain in place until public health advisories are lifted, the association said. 

Real estate boards in the province had already predicted a slow year in 2020, even before news of an oil price war and the coronavirus pandemic hit.

"It's going to be a very difficult time. I think, along with everybody else, we're seeing a lot of things slow down," Mitchell said. "We hope for an eventual return to business as usual but in the meantime, you know, it's going to be really tough for consumers in the province, it's going to be really tough for realtors."

Mitchell said AREA announced a 25 per cent dues reduction last week and is doing what it can to help members. 

The association has also published a list of recommendations to its website, including tips for showings and a checklist for realtors to use when interacting with clients. 

Alberta reported 42 new cases of COVID-19 on Monday, bringing the total in the province to 301.