Real estate agents are being forced to adapt their open house strategies to address the current COVID-19 crisis and quickly changing government restrictions on what is allowed.

“The first responsibility of a Realtor is to protect our clients’ interests,” said Tina Hand, president of the East Bay Association of Realtors. “This now includes protecting them from the current global pandemic. We’ll do this by adapting our business practices to new social and market realities and use our knowledge, experience, skills and technology to safely and ethically help home buyers and home sellers.”

According to a new survey from the National Association of Realtors, nearly one in four home sellers nationwide is changing how their home is viewed while the home remains on the market.

The “new normal” includes more attention to hygiene and precautionary measures, as outlined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, during open houses. For example, Hand said some real estate agents are extending open-house hours to encourage “social distancing” and avoid too many people in a home at one time.

Other real estate agents are using technology, such as video chat and other aps on their cell phones, to host “virtual showings,” so potential buyers can experience an open house without being there in person. And some agents are working with sellers who prefer not to hold open houses at this time.

“Whether it’s changes requiring potential buyers to wash their hands or use hand sanitizer, or following mandates to shelter in-place, Realtors will work within the guidelines stipulated by local or state governments and implement the measures necessary to get the job done,” Hand said. “It’s critical that our members work together to ensure their safety and their clients’ safety.”

She said real estate agents are also checking daily with their local and state associations because of the ever-changing government regulations impacting their day-to-day operations. And they have begun screening buyers and sellers to determine if any members of a household are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19, especially a fever, or if anyone has potentially been exposed to someone who may be infected.

The Bay East Association of Realtors represents more than 6,000 residential and commercial real estate professionals throughout the San Francisco Bay Area.