Keeping Safe in Real Estate with Covid-19 Pandemic

Many people will be surprised to hear that in light of most states (including Illinois) issuing a shelter in place order to slow the spread of the Coronavirus, the real estate industry is considered essential and you may still proceed with buying or selling your home.  Why is this? I think there are two important points that can be made that, when combined, supports why real estate can and should continue to operate at least for the time being.

  • Real Estate may be the most critical industry to the economy and completely shutting it down could send the economy into a tailspin.  
  • Real Estate activities are essentially low risk for spreading the virus and can even be made lower risk if proper administrative controls are followed.

While public safety is of the utmost importance, we will get through this and if real estate activities can continue in a safe manner, then the government needs to ensure there is still an economy at the end of the pandemic.  This article hopefully provides some context to how certain real estate activities are or can be made low spread risks and will also talk about how we can take proper precautions.  

Before we do a dive into protective measures let’s briefly talk about how the virus spreads to give some context to the preventative measures (Note: I am not a doctor, this information comes directly from the CDC or other professional health organizations).  So how does the virus spread?

  • Between people who are within 6 feet of each other.  Close contact with another person is the easiest way to spread the virus and should be avoided at all times.
  • The virus might also travel in respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs.
  • While it is not as common as the first two, it may be possible that a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes.

So now that we understand a little more about how the virus is spread, let’s go over some compensatory measures we can take to ensure we are doing everything we can to make real estate activities low risk to spreading the virus.

  • Stay home if you are sick and have any of the Coronavirus systems – If you are at all sick, even if you just believe you have a cold, you need to stay home and not participate in any activities until you are feeling 100% better.   Common Covid-19 symptoms are but are not limited to:
    • Fever
    • Cough
    • Shortness of Breath

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, stay home.  If you see someone who has these symptoms at a showing, send them home.  It’s not worth it. You can resume the buying process when you or your client feels better. 

  • Assume you and everyone else you are with has it – Per the CDC, the virus can take 2-14 days to even show symptoms of the virus.  There are also others who are asymptomatic who will have the virus but not have any symptoms. The best way to avoid getting infected or getting others infected is assume everyone has it no matter how healthy they seem.
  • Use virtual means whenever possible  – Listen, I would never buy a house prior to seeing it in person first and I don’t think it’s wise to invest in a property without seeing it at least once first, but limit visits.  Have your realtor give you a virtual tour before deciding to see it in person. Also, while it is great that you want to attend the inspection in person, inspectors are more high tech these days and can take video on sight and also video conference you to give a recap at the end.  We have also done report reviews over video conferences with our clients to ensure they are properly absorbing what is in the report. Unless it’s absolutely necessary for you to be somewhere, stay at home.
  • Actions real estate professionals should be taking – If you are a realtor, inspector, buyer, or title company, there is a strong possibility you will need to attend something in person.  Here are some protective measures you can take to ensure you don’t get infected or do the same to others. Please note that I biased this towards inspections, but most of these examples can be tailored to most real estate activities.
    • Ensuring only necessary people are present –  Per InterNACHI’s COVID-19 Safety Guidelines, it is recommended that only an inspector be present for the inspection.  With advancements in technology an inspector can live video stream the client in at the end of the inspection and do a walkthrough of major issues found.  Also, more and more inspectors are putting video in their reports (We are!) and can take explainer videos to make things more clear when reviewing the report.
    • Wearing the right protective equipment and offering to others – I think the best thing to limit exposure if you are around people are gloves and face masks/respirators.  This will prevent you from touching contaminated surfaces or inhaling respiratory vapor if someone coughs. We wear gloves and face masks at a minimum at every inspection. Make sure you discard the gloves and facemask after you are done or if they are not the throw away type, disinfect thoroughly.
    • Wash and Sanitize – Our inspectors wash your hands for 20 seconds under hot water before and after going out.  If you are gone a while, make sure you are washing frequently if you are touching anything. If no water is available use hand sanitizer as our inspectors do.  Bring sanitizing wipes to wipe down surfaces that are commonly touched.
    • Avoid touching your face – Even if you choose to wear gloves, resist the urge to touch your face.  If you need to scratch your nose, sanitize your hands first and then go crazy.  

A lot of this information has come from the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors (InterNACHI) COVID-19 Safety Guidelines.  All of our inspectors have completed InterNACHI’s accredited course and encourage others to do so. If you are a real estate professional (don’t need to be a home inspector) and wish to take the accredited course, please email us at info@homeinspectiongeeks.com to learn how.

These are very interesting times we live in.  There is a lot of fear and uncertainty building and that is a natural response as human beings.  We need to keep pushing forward though, it will only make the problem worse if we shut down everything all together.  With that said, be diligent about your preventative measures. There is a lot of good we can do right now, but if we don’t take this virus seriously that will all be for nothing.  I hope you found this article informative and please keep you and your family safe!