VANCOUVER -- Buying a new home or condo is a daunting task at the best of times and the coronavirus pandemic hasn’t made it any easier.

“Everything came to screeching halt,” said Colette Gerber, chair of the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver (REBGV).

And real estate agents, real estate boards and regulators have had to regroup to deal with it.

For a while, sellers were reluctant to let anyone inside their homes, and buyers were wary of the health risks of entering.

But now the landscape has changed and things are picking up again. Technology has allowed sellers to conduct virtual open houses and changes have been put in place for buyers.

The REGBV has created a set of guidelines for real estate agents to go over with their clients.

First you’re going to have to sign off on COVID disclosures, acknowledging new rules and protocols about viewing properties and the potential health risks.

But before you’ll even be allowed inside you’re encouraged to narrow down your list and limit the number of properties you see. Before booking a viewing, prospective buyers are asked to:

  • Check out all photos – the MLS listings have increased the maximum to 40
  • Check out virtual tours
  • Look at online floor plans
  • Use Google Earth to view the area
  • Drive by the property
  • Get pre-approved financing
  • Make sure the property ticks off most of your boxes

“And if they don’t eliminate the property, we get them in,” said real estate agent Sheila O’Brien.

The new guidelines help reduce contact with others and protect both buyers and sellers from potential risks associated with the pandemic.

Buyers will also be asked to drive themselves to the property where they’ll be greeted by the showing agent, and they may be asked to wear protective gear likes masks, gloves and booties - or bring their own. And once inside, buyers will be asked to limit contact by letting the showing agent open and close doors, while maintaining distance from each other.

If you’re ready to make an offer, systems are in place to do that electronically, including digital document signing.

And it appears the new 'normal' is being embraced. In May sales picked up 34 per cent over April as people became accustomed to the changes.

“Any realtor in this city who’s doing business will tell you the market is very brisk,” said O’Brien.

“Yes, buyers and sellers are much more comfortable,” Gerber agreed.