Real estate agents can re-open their offices when New Zealand relaxes into to a new alert level but open homes and physical auction attendance will remain banned.
Bindi Norwell, chief executive of the Real Estate
Institute, said clarity had been provided from the Government yesterday on how real estate agents and managers could operate during alert level 3.
"A real estate agent can open, but people should work from home if they can," she said of the new guidelines.
"The agent can enter people's homes, but not have customers in the office. You cannot run an open home. Similarly, workers going into peoples' homes, such as furniture removers, electricians and plumbers could also return on the basis that distancing is maintained," she said, quoting the guidelines.
REINZ had worked closely with the sector in the past few weeks to develop guidance on what activity could occur at various levels, she said.
"This guidance was provided to different ministers on April 9 and [the latest] clarifications seem to line up with the material we have prepared," she said.
REINZ was seeking further clarification from ministers over the coming days to help buyers and sellers.
"We're also looking for additional clarification around whether private viewings of homes and rental properties are acceptable under level 3," she said.
"Once we have this additional information, we will be releasing detailed guidelines for the profession in the coming days," she said.
Rental inspections are banned under the level 4 alert, meaning managers who visit properties can no longer do that.
Peter Thompson, managing director of Barfoot & Thompson, said: "We're not 100 per cent sure what [alert level 3] means. How many people should be viewing a place at one time? What about photographers? If a property is being inspected, is it one building inspector and one agent? Moving companies are allowed to operate at level 3 so people will be able to settle and move."
The agency had sold around 220 residential properties during the level 4 alert, mainly in sales being negotiated beforehand, he said. Some sight-unseen sales had occurred "but with conditions in the contract." No agency offices would be opened and Thompson said contracts would continue to be signed remotely.
Ollie Wall of Ponsonby's Wall Real Estate, which specialises in the upper end of the housing market, said it was helpful to know that real estate agents could open their offices and that they could again enter people's homes. That was on the basis that safe distancing was maintained.
"We only show by appointment so we are lucky. The traditional campaigns favoured by the big agencies will be impossible in this new environment," he predicted of mass marketing and big open-home campaigns.
"Unless new information comes to light, we will hit the ground running once we enter level 3. We will be limiting buyers to two members of the same bubble and one agent per appointment," he said of a physical home visit.
"We will supply hand sanitiser and encourage purchasers to use this when entering and exiting the property as well as asking them not to touch anything in the homes," Wall said.
That agency's approach had always been extremely targeted and those who visited a property had been vetted in advance, he said.
"We've usually been in phone contact numerous times and are already very likely buyers before visiting by appointment. Rather than getting as many people through the door as possible, it's quality over quantity," Wall said.
The agency would make a few other small changes including more photos and information online where with floor plans "which we don't often share online for privacy reasons".
Vikas Verma, general manager of NZME-owned property listings site OneRoof.co.nz, says: "The need for social distancing during Alert Levels 4 and Level 3 means buyers need different ways to view properties when physical access may be limited or impossible.
New and existing technology, such as virtual walkthroughs, 3D tours and online auctions, could make it easier for the housing market to continue to operate as the country fights the coronavirus pandemic.
"That is why OneRoof has launched a new virtual viewing function and search tool, which will allow buyers to search the area they want to live and click on a virtual viewing button to find properties where a 3D or virtual walkthrough or video tour is available."
Chris Dibble of Colliers International said that business was hoping for further information from the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, REINZ and the Property Council.