May 18th 2020
|Who would have thought? 2020 opened up to us as a year of great expectations. The economy was robust. The real estate market was soaring. It was going to be an amazing year. Who would have ever imagined that just over the horizon lurked a devastating monster that would effectively threaten the health and well being, even the very lives of people around the globe and bring the world economy almost to a stand still? And yet just a couple of months into the year that is exactly what happened. COVID-19.
While many sectors of the economy, especially the retail sector shut right down, real estate has been deemed an essential service and continues to operate. And that is the way it should be, because unlike retail transactions, real estate is an ongoing process. From the time an Agreement is struck until keys change hands, there is a lot to be done. Building inspections must be performed, appraisals completed, financing put in place, and once started they need to be seen through to completion. Shutting real estate down would have left a lot of people stranded in mid-process. And of course, there are situations where people need to sell, and situations where people need to buy. It often is not a simple lifestyle change. It is a necessity.
A lot of changes took place around Re/Max Garden City Realty which would allow us to operate while at the same time ensuring the safety of our staff, our Agents and of course the clients and customers we serve. While a lot of real estate firms elected to lock their doors, we chose not to do so. What we did do is temporarily close the doors at our branch offices in Grimsby and Fonthill, and centralize our operations at our head office in St. Catharines. Of course, Agents in all our offices were free to and in fact encouraged to come in and use their offices. Our space design is such that each Agent has his/her own private office, thus ensuring social distancing is maintained. And we felt that when face to face meetings with clients occurred, we would rather that take place in a private office or conference room where sanitized surfaces could be maintained, than in the close confines of a car.
Our St. Catharines office is now open to the public Monday to Friday from 9-5. As health precautions we installed a plexiglass hygiene shield at our front reception desk, made available hand sanitizers and Lysol to disinfect surfaces, and a COVID-19 survey to ensure people we deal with are not posing a safety risk.
Unique phones were set up at our reception desk for both Grimsby and Fonthill to ensure calls coming in to either of those offices would be identified and handled appropriately by a live phone attendant.
To keep our agents fully informed about the evolving COVID-19 situation and best practices to employ our Broker of Record, Wayne Quirk, sent out weekly videos to all company personnel.
One such practice that was implemented, in addition to our COVID-19 Client Survey, was the use of latex gloves and house viewing sanitation packs, both of which were made available to all agents for use by their clients. We recognized that there was a lot of misunderstanding about the spread of COVID-19. Some people, for example, choose to wear protective gloves all day. This does no real good. The virus is spread largely from contact and that can happen when someone touches a live virus residue, whether with their bare hand, or with a glove. So, to ensure safety we instructed our Agents, when conducting a showing of a home to at that point give the visitor a clean pair of latex gloves. This way, should they touch any surface in the home we can be assured they do not leave any contaminant behind, and in the event they come in contact with any contaminant in the home, which is transferred to the glove, this is dealt with by disposal of the gloves at the end of the visit.
Challenging times to be sure, but through it all we have been able to have our administration on hand to process transactions, our front desk available to input listings, handle calls and inquiries, and our sales force to do the important work they do, as efficiently as possible while taking reasonable precautions to keep everyone safe.