If you currently are or were recently shopping for a new home, you’d know that the circuit breaker measures implemented earlier this year were particularly strict for the property industry. On 7 April 2020, the government halted all non-essential businesses and activities, including closing condo show flats and stopping physical property viewings.
The market took a huge beating that month (there was a 58% month-on-month drop in private home sales in April 2020), before seeing signs of recovery in May as buyers grew more confident and turned to virtual viewings. However, although May 2020 was an improvement, it still featured a -48.9% year-on-year growth when compared to May 2019.
Thankfully and to the relief of home buyers, property agents and developers alike, the government announced yesterday (16 June 2020) that as part of post-circuit breaker phase 2, show galleries can reopen and physical viewings can resume.
Here’s a look at the circuit breaker timeline thus far:
3 April 2020: Circuit breaker announced, show galleries shut
- Circuit breaker measures were announced to start on 7 April and end on 4 May 2020 (inclusive).
- Show galleries that were to remain open until 6 April (one day before circuit breaker began) had to immediately comply with safety distancing measures.
- Developers were strictly not allowed to conduct any physical viewings and had to close their show galleries. All promotions and marketing activities had to be done virtually.
- Home buyers could still purchase property, but no physical interaction was allowed.
21 April 2020: Circuit breaker extended to 1 June 2020
- All previously announced circuit breaker measure were extended to 1 June 2020 (inclusive).
- Show flats and physical viewings remain halted.
20 May 2020: Circuit breaker ends, enter phase 1 of reopening
- Circuit breaker was announced to end as planned on 1 June 2020.
- However, while some measures were lifted, show galleries were to remain closed until further notice.
[LATEST] 16 June 2020: Phase 2 to begin on 19 June 2020
- Social gatherings of up to 5 pax are now allowed.
- Most retail businesses and F&B outlets can resume business as usual, but with safety distancing measures in place.
- The Council for Estate Agencies (CEA) has confirmed that property transaction activities can resume.
- Show flats and physical property viewings are included, and can resume for appointments of up to 5 pax.
- To facilitate contact tracing, real estate salespersons (RESs) must keep a record of every person that they meet during physical viewings or meetings.
Condo show galleries and physical viewings to resume starting 19 June 2020
While show flats and physical viewings are allowed to resume from 19 June onwards, it’s not exactly back to ‘business as usual’. As a baseline, all safety distancing measures for going out in public will continue to apply.
- Wear masks at all times.
- Maintain 1m spacing between people.
- Do not show up unwell or you will be asked to see a doctor or return home.
In addition to the above, here’s what you need to know about resuming property-related activities.
What should I expect at show galleries?
You can expect the same safety precautions currently in place at malls. You’ll be expected to record your entry for contact tracing purposes.
As “free for all” open houses tend to attract large crowds, it will not be allowed. The basic safety distancing rules will apply, and no more than 5 pax should be present at each time.
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What should I expect at home viewings?
For show galleries, the project developers will put in place the safe management measures above. If you’re visiting a non-public place (like the property site), the onus is on your property agent.
When viewing property, each agent will keep records of visitors for contact tracing purposes. To minimise buyers’ contact with surfaces, your agent should arrange for the windows and doors of the site to be opened, and switch on all the lights beforehand.
You should also not receive any hard copy documents while there. All info sheets and marketing materials should be sent to your electronically.
Basically it’s “just see, no touch”.
Agents must also leave a time gap between appointments, so you should never come in contact with the viewers before your time slot.
I prefer to avoid meeting face-to-face. Can I use electronic signatures?
In phase 2, if you need sign any property transaction documents in person, you’re allowed to. However, if electronic signatures are encouraged where possible.
Generally, electronic signatures may be used in place of “wet-ink” signatures for tenancy agreement, sale & purchase agreement and option to purchase. However, since different organisations such as banks and the transacting parties may have their own policies or preferences, it’s best to check with your property agent and/or any legal professionals involved.
Unfortunately, HDB currently does not allow the exercise of option to be done remotely or electronically.
On the lookout for HDB flats? Shop for HDB resale units via PropertyGuru.
Conclusion: it’s good news, but let’s not be complacent.
Unsurprisingly, this announcement was generally met with excitement from industry members like property developers and agents. The easing of circuit breaker measure will definitely be helpful in facilitating transactions and encouraging sales.
However, we should all bear in mind that we are not yet entirely in the clear. There are still active COVID-19 cases in Singapore. As such, the use of IT tools like video or virtual conferencing should still be the preferred mode of communication.
Although you’re technically allowed to ‘chiong’ for property viewings, you are not advised to. Instead, you should request for virtual viewings first, so as to reduce the physical viewings required.
Needless to say, you should also maintain good hygiene habits and adhere to the safety precautions at all times. Stay safe and good luck in your search for that dream home!
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