Reopening Real Estate Businesses Guidelines

As the first Covid-19 vaccines roll out, the real estate industry is eager to resume business and help clients desperate for new spaces. Thankfully, the National Association of Realtors (NAR) has released guidance on best practices for reopening real estate businesses and operating them safely in the “New Normal.” Drip Hydration will be exploring these guidelines and what they mean for you.

Understanding how Covid-19 spreads

In order to understand why the recommended protocols help with reopening real estate businesses, you must first understand how the virus spreads. As explained by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Covid-19 is primarily transmitted through respiratory droplets produced when people speak, sing, cough, or sneeze.

These droplets can be inhaled, or can land on surfaces. Should someone come in contact with the contaminated surface and subsequently touch their face, they are likely to get infected.

Guidance for realtor associations and brokerages

NAR released specific guidance for associations and brokerages about how to reduce Covid-19 transmission while operating. This guidance is broken down to address workplace precautions, employee concerns, and other industry-specific solutions. NAR’s Covid-19 Workplace Re-Entry Checklist and Covid-19 Sample Preparedness Plan are available in full at their website.

Prepare your physical workplace

Consider the following recommendations as you make plans for reopening real estate offices:

  • Ensure your HVAC is in good repair and is up to date. Increased ventilation and high-efficiency air filters can help reduce virus transmission
  • Promote social distancing by…
    • Modifying layouts to control points of entry and allow at least 6 feet of space between employee work stations
    • Installing higher walls/sneeze guards between workspaces
    • Capping capacity limits in common areas like breakrooms
  • Promote healthy habits with…
    • Visual cues like signs and floor decals
    • Readily available sanitation stations in high traffic areas
    • A well-stocked supply of PPE available to all employees and customers
  • Reduce opportunities for transmission by…
    • Adopting touchless technologies to complete transactions
    • Ensuring high-traffic areas and high touch points (such as door handles and elevator buttons) are frequently sanitized throughout the day
    • Staggering work schedules to avoid crowding in areas like the bathroom and lunch areas
  • Remove and discourage the use of shared tools, such as remote controls and conference room phones, to minimize the chance of virus spread

Empower your staff

Your employees are essential to your success. NAR suggests having a clear policy on everything Covid-19 related, and making sure your employees are thoroughly trained on it. This may include:

  • Designating a specific point person to field concerns and questions regarding the virus
  • Staff should be trained on the signs of Covid-19 and instructed to report themselves for any symptoms, exposure, or confirmed case
  • Sick employees should be sent home immediately, and their work spaces sanitized. Anyone within 6 feet of the sick person during that time should consider themselves exposed and follow CDC instructions
  • Ensure your policies regarding sick time and home isolation requirements are not punitive, as this may make employees reluctant to self-report and could lead to an outbreak if someone comes in ill

This time has been physically and mentally taxing for everyone, so keep in mind that many minor or “invisible” ailments and conditions have been exacerbated by the pandemic. Work with employees to provide reasonable accommodations that allow them to function more easily, especially employees with child or elder care obligations.

Make yourself available to any staff who wish to discuss accommodations due to their high risk of severe illness. (Do NOT, however, approach staff and ask if they are a vulnerable person or try to force them to work remotely because you think they may be at high risk.)

Addressing industry events, meetings, and travel

NAR’s recommendation is to pay close attention to local mandates and restrictions when deciding what policy to implement, noting that many U.S. employers have restricted all business travel for the time being. Some other factors for consideration:

  • Appointing a staff contact for both personal and business travel related questions
  • Include provisions which address personal travel, as well as employees in households with someone who has recently traveled
  • Requiring employees who have recently traveled (or live with someone who has) to work remotely for a specified period can help protect the rest of your employees. An extension of the remote period due to developing symptoms should be extended to employees without penalty

The importance of testing

Many employers have chosen to utilize health screenings and testing to combat the spread of Covid-19. Health screenings can be done by a designated person virtually or on site, or may take the form of self-surveys employees can complete at their homes prior to departing for work.

Some businesses have opted to work with on-site medical services, like Drip Hydration, to have a nurse visit their office facilities and administer tests to employees. These appointments can be set up as a one-time visit or ongoing appointments at regular intervals.

Further resources for reopening real estate associations and brokerages

Covid-19 guidance for realtors

NAR has also provided resources and guidance for realtors. Realtors may be scratching their heads wondering how many existing laws apply in the “New Normal.” Let’s review a few highlights from NAR’s guidance!

  • Reasonable Accommodations: Reasonable accommodations are exceptions made to standard operating procedure to provide services to people who could not otherwise access them, which do not result in an undue financial and/or administrative burden to your business. As you evaluate the risks involved, you should analyze the need to provide services to someone with Covid-19 while also protecting the health of all persons involved. A few examples of Covid-related reasonable accommodations are:
    • Virtual showings
    • Sending a proxy to view a property
    • Addendums like a Sight Unseen Rider, or a clause stating the contract is contingent upon an in-person visit on a later, specified date

Determining appropriate, reasonable accommodations can be a collaborative process. If a person responds to your proposed scenario with a reasonable alternative that mitigates the threat of harm involved, you must consider the option. However, you are not required to provide an alternative that does not sufficiently mitigate the direct threat of harm.

  • Disability protections: Many realtors are wondering if persons with Covid-19 are considered disabled under the law; this is a grey area that may be defined by the courts in the future. However, NAR advises to assume that individuals with Covid-19 are covered by the disability protections of the Fair Housing Act based on the information they have at this time.
  • Assessing the risk of providing services: Anti-discrimination laws generally prohibit questions regarding a person’s health when weighing whether or not to accept them as clients. However, given the highly contagious and potentially devastating nature of the pandemic, federal agencies have issued guidance specifically addressing Covid-19. You may ask someone to tell you if they have experienced any symptoms or have been exposed to anyone who has symptoms or a confirmed case. If you plan to do this, you should develop a uniform practice in doing so. NAR states that If you decide to collect this information in writing, make sure you familiarize yourself with state law and best practices regarding your responsibility for the maintenance of health data.
  • Viewings: If you are operating in person, you may limit showings to pre-qualified buyers. However be certain to obtain a pre-qualification letter from all buyers to prevent a Fair Housing violation. Be sure to review NAR’s guidance regarding showings.

Further resources

Local mandates for real estate reopening and operations

We’ve linked information on local rules surrounding real estate for a few major metropolitan areas. Anyone from outside these areas should consult their local health departments and licensing entities for further guidance.

 

 

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Let Drip Hydration Put Your Mind at Ease

With the legal landscape of liability regarding Covid-19 seeming uncertain, testing is one way you can stay ahead of the spread while you are reopening real estate businesses. Whether you are a large brokerage or a small independent realtor, Drip Hydration can help you access convenient, fast testing. With as little as 24 hours notice, one of our skilled nurses can visit your office and administer Covid-19 tests to you and your employees. Depending on your test of choice, you can receive accurate results in 30 minutes or less.

In the event that someone tests positive, our medical professionals can guide them on what to do next, and help you get operations back on track safely. Between our progressive group and ongoing discounts, our services may not be as expensive as you think. For businesses operating remotely, we also offer in-home testing services. Employees may be excited to hear that our discounts apply to in-home services as well, and PPO insurance holders may be eligible for partial reimbursement of our services.

Call us today for a consultation!



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