Buying and selling property safely during the Pandemic

26 Jan 2021 10:00 am

by John de Villiers, Editor Lexis Digest, LexisNexis South Africa

Let’s face it. Online searches for property, unbelievable virtual property tours, Skype meetings, online mortgage applications and remote working might have become the “new normal” for the “digital real estate ecosystem” but they don’t really replace the physical enjoyment and fun of house hunting.

Therefore, following the return of the real estate industry to work under Alert Level 3 in June, the Estate Agency Affairs Board (EAAB) issued a number of guidelines[1] for estate agents, their employees and the public, on how to conduct business safely during the pandemic. They have been compiled in line with various legislative instruments such as the Disaster Management Act, the Occupational Health and Safety Act, COVID-19 regulations and the Basic Conditions of Employment Act.

In terms of these guidelines, estate agents are encouraged to make buyers and sellers aware of all the safety protocols prior to a viewing and they must agree to adhere to them at all times.

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The protocols regarding Meeting with clients; Viewing of the property by buyer/tenant; and Contractual agreements, are of particular relevance for buyers, sellers and prospective tenants.  They are urged to familiarise themselves with them before entering into a prospective property transaction.

They read as follows:

8.1 MEETING WITH CLIENTS:

  1. Meetings with clients should, be conducted via telephone and/or any other forms of electronic media.

8.2. VIEWING OF THE PROPERTY BY BUYER/ TENANT

  1. Any viewings of a property should be done virtually. Physical viewing is only recommended where a buyer/tenant has expressed definite interest in a particular property, and in line with viewing protocols.
  2. The current occupant should be advised where necessary, not to be present in the property at the same time that the estate agent views the property with the potential client. Should the current occupant client (sellers) not be able to leave the property, or remain outside, they will be encouraged to remain in the other section of the property.
  3. The current occupant will be required to give the necessary consent prior to potential clients being brought to their property.
  4. All potential clients must have received all the safety protocol information prior to the viewing and must agree to adhere to these protocols at all times.
  5. Estate Agents may not travel with clients in the same vehicle to view the property.
  6. At the viewing it is expected of the estate agent to ensure proper ventilation by opening all doors and windows of the property, prior to granting access to potential clients.
  7. Physical viewings at a property should be kept brief taking into account the health protocols.
  8. Estate agents and clients should wear fabric face masks, whilst conducting property viewing.
  9. Estate Agents must visibly sanitise their hands prior to entering the client’s property, and will be required to visibly sanitise their hands prior to leaving the property.
  10. Clients, who refuse to sanitise their hands prior to entry, will not be granted access to the property.
  11. Estate Agents and potential clients are to ensure that where possible there is no touching of any surface or object in the property.
  12. Estate Agents should carry their own sanitizers and wipes to clean any surface or object he/she may have accidentally come into contact with.
  13. Estate agents should ensure that no more than two potential clients are taken through the property at a time in order to maintain compliance with health protocols and adherence to social distancing guidelines.
  14. Estate Agents must confirm that they have satisfied themselves as to the absence of any observable symptoms associated with Covid-19, as it relates to fever, cough, sore throat, redness of eyes, shortness of breath, body aches, loss of smell/taste, nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, fatigue and/or weakness.
  15. Estate Agents must enquire whether the potential client and/or immediate family have been experiencing any of these symptoms 14 days prior to the viewing and/or whether they have been in contact with a confirmed case of Covid-19. Should any client (or occupants of the property) display any of these symptoms (currently or 14 days prior to the viewing) and/or have been in contact with a confirmed case of Covid-19 14 day prior to the viewing, the Estate Agent and their Potential Clients shall not be permitted to enter the property.
  16. Estate agents should ensure that clients maintain a physical distance of 1,5m from all persons in the property at all times.
  17. Estate agents have to capture the details of potential clients who have visited any property in their database, detailing the potential client’s name, surname and contact details, as well as the property address, and time and date of viewing.

8.3 CONTRACTUAL AGREEMENTS

  1. The details of offer to purchase must be recorded electronically and should be sent to potential clients for the purposes of concluding a transaction.
  2. It is recommended that estate agents have virtual meetings with clients to discuss various aspects of the offer to purchase, and where possible should ensure that clients sign these offers to purchase electronically.
  3. In the event that any of the parties do not have facilities to print and/or scan documentation, the estate agent may deliver the physical documentation to the relevant party and request signature. In the event of a physical meeting, all hygiene and social distancing measures must be applied (as documented herein).
  4. Clients must be informed of the estate agency’s policy as it relates to the completion and signature of legal documentation on showing interest in either employing the Company to market their property, and/or when expressing interest in submitting an offer to purchase and/or lease a property.

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