Remember that Mervyn's commercial from 1992 where customers lined up outside the department store chanting " Open! Open! Open!"? This weekend might seem just like that as open houses return to the real estate market in Northern California.
As of last Friday, the California Association of Realtors has said that open homes can resume under a couple of specific circumstances, specifically:
“Open Houses” on a walk-in basis are still prohibited. All showings still require either an appointment or a digital sign-in process prior to entry, including completing a PEAD form. Any such showings still must follow these rules:
Have protective equipment like masks and hand sanitizer made available.
Thoroughly clean all shown properties and disinfect commonly used areas such as doors and door knobs, cabinet handles, switches, etc.
Control the number of people in the house by only allowing in one buying party at a time (which could consist of more than one person). The listing agent and buyer's agent may also be on the property at the same time.
All showings require appointments OR digital sign-ins.
Based on these rules, an advertisement using the term "Open House" alone is likely deceptive, as it implies a walk-in basis without the mandatory appointments/digital sign-in protocols that are not typical for an “Open House.” Although it is recommended that no “Open House” signs be used, if they are, they must also include information on the sign or a sign rider indicating that appointments or digital sign-in is required before entry. Of course, the regular protocols of advance digital completion of PEAD forms before entering, social distancing, limitations on persons going through the house at one time, cleaning and disinfecting between each showing, etc. still apply. But at this time, any type of traditional open house — allowing spontaneous walk-up with no digital sign-in, appointment or adherence to protocols — would threaten the policy allowing licensees to show property. Worse, it would threaten the health of the seller and those visiting, potentially causing a super-spreader event.
REALTORS® using “Open House” signs or advertisements without the riders about advance appointments or digital sign-in may be subject to ethics discipline for violating the “true picture” test under Article 12 as the common understanding of an “Open House” by the public and the industry does not include advance digital sign-ins or appointments, along with the other protocols that would delay a spontaneous showing. In the end, variations on this would have to be decided by panels, in the context of the COVID-19 rules in place at the time.
As a reminder, cities or counties may have more restrictive orders than the State Guidance. Some local rules prohibit any type of “Open House” or restrict the number of persons who can view the property to two at one time. The more restrictive local rules will supersede the statewide industry guidance and must be followed. Of course, in those jurisdictions prohibiting “Open Houses” altogether, “Open House” signs should not be used at all.
So while seeing a property on the weekend allows Buyers to meander a little and dream before making it official with their agent, we're not quite all the way there yet. However, having larger windows of time to see a home sure should feel better than the fifteen to thirty minute time slots previously given before making an offer. Slow and steady. "got agent?"