By: Tom Bushey

The Real Estate Selling Process has Changed

Tags: Selling a Home in Calgary, Buying a Home in Calgary

2020 April 09

By now, you know that the real estate selling process has significantly changed. As Buyers and Sellers, you really do need to be prepared.

In Alberta, while we have significantly flattened the curve in the COVID-19 epidemic, the government doesn't expect to reach the peak in infections until mid-May, 2020. This is still 5 or 6 weeks away and then we still have 5 to 6 weeks to reach the time-frame that will call for similar social distancing that is currently in place. Yes, it will get far worse before it gets any better.

As Sellers (or landlords), you will be cautioned by your real estate professional to carefully consider putting your home on the market during the next several months. Once you commit to listing your home for sale, your real estate professional will provide you with the necessary agreement to get your home listed onto the local real estate market and will include at least 1 extra form as part of the standard listing agreement. This new, additional form is the "Seller Hold Harmless Agreement." This form is pretty straight forward and basically has you acknowledge that you're aware of the risks of having buyers and their agents through your home and that you will hold the real estate agency and their designated agent harmless against all claims as a result of, specifically, COVID-19. This is in addition to the indemnity term that is already embedded within the agreement. Some real estate agents will try to get this document signed independent of the Seller Brokerage Agreement, but without it being incorporated into that listing contract, lawyers tell me it would not be enforceable (There's no consideration in that hold harmless agreement alone). You'll also be asked if there are any special showing restrictions that need to be in place prior to showing your home. Some of these items may be: a) requiring that the buyers' agent confirm that their clients have not recently traveled internationally or to the best of their knowledge have not been exposed to anyone who has tested positive to the COVID-19 virus (see the buyer obligations below); b) you'll be advised to wash all door knobs, drawer handles and light switches before and after each home showing; c) you may require or request that buyers and their agents were face masks and gloves while in your home (of course you should provide them if you're requiring their use; I expect a number of other real estate agents will also have a small supply available of non-surgical masks and gloves on order, or in hand, to help). If all of those things are satisfactory, then the agent will list your property and go out of their way to help ensure full market exposure: Well-crafted verbiage, beautiful photography, accurate measurements and hopefully a 3D virtual tour and floor plan. Of course, as Sellers, you too will be required to disclose if anyone living in the home has traveled internationally, or knowingly has been exposed to someone that has tested positive to the virus. If any of those are the case, you cannot/should not have your home on the market as they would be material latent defects. Your real estate professional should be prepared to provide you with electronic signing of any and all documents in order to provide the required social distancing distances and from providing you with documents they would have handled. Even the Comparative Market Analysis and their marketing brochure should have been emailed to you prior to their meeting with you to list your home for sale. [Many of us now have the ability to conduct this meeting virtually, too. As licensed real estate professionals, technically we MUST be located in Alberta to conduct this meeting as our Alberta real estate licences are valid only while we are physically in Alberta; however, you do not.]

As Buyers (or tenants), you too will be cautioned by your real estate professional to carefully consider viewing homes in person during the next several months. Once you commit to buying a home, your real estate professional will provide you with the necessary service agreement that is required to help you and will include at least 1 extra form as part of the many types of Buyer Representation Agreements. This new, additional form is the Buyer Hold Harmless Agreement. This form is pretty straight forward and basically has you acknowledge that you're aware of the risks of viewing property with your agent and that you will hold the real estate agency and their designated agent harmless against all claims as a result of, specifically, COVID-19. This is in addition to the indemnity term that is already embedded within the Buyer Representation Agreement. Some real estate agents will try to get this document signed independent of the Buyer Representation Agreement, but without it being incorporated into that agreement, lawyers tell me it would not be enforceable (There's no consideration in that hold harmless agreement alone). As a Buyer, your real estate representative should confirm: a)  you or anyone living in your home as you has not traveled internationally, or knowingly has been exposed to someone that has tested positive to the virus, b) that you are ready, willing and able to actually buy a home, c) that in viewing homes, you should not touch anything and that you may be required to don preventative face masks or occasionally gloves to help protect the Seller's property. If the Seller hasn't provided them, don't be afraid to wear your own. Of course, driving your own vehicle to view homes is actually pretty standard practice now, but will be insisted upon during this time of required social-distancing. Your real estate professional should be prepared to provide you with electronic signing of any and all documents in order to provide the required social distancing distances and from providing you with documents they would have handled. The Feature Sheet and Comparative Market Analysis of each home you view should also be provided to you electronically.

For buyers, sellers, landlords and tenants, you will also notice a slightly different process for FINTRAC Identification. Your real estate associate will no longer handle your photo identification document but will require a copy of it (a photo of it, or an e-PDF) and will also require a secondary form of ID such as an original e-copy of a utility bill, bank statement or credit card bill that identifies the same individual at the same address.

You should expect negotiations to not be done in person. This had been a rare occurrence anyway, but in the times of social-distancing, you should expect it to be non-existent. You and your real estate professional will submit a written, electronic offer to the other party through their agent. Negotiations will be by telephone, text message and/or email. Once everyone has agreed to the final document, it will be rendered to a new written, electronic agreement which is e-signed by all parties concerned. [Until it is rendered to a document and e-signed by all parties, the "agreement" is not an agreement at all as it isn't enforceable.]

We should expect these changes to be in place for the next several months, at least, and probably until at least September, in Alberta.