Thoughts on Open Houses as the Coronavirus Becomes a Looming Concern

Real Estate Agent with Long and Foster REALTORS®, Gainesville, VA VA License # 0225089470

Thoughts on Open Houses as the Coronavirus Becomes a Looming Concern


Watching the news or scrolling through Facebook,  it is clear that the coronavirus is at the very least, a legitimate concern for our communities.  A highly communicable, novel virus is on the loose.  The risk of believing this to be true is a knot in my stomach and paying very close attention to how often I wash my hands and touch my face.  The risk of not believing it is possibly spreading this virus to my mother and others in an assisted living facility by poo-pooing this public health alert.  There is no question that a flu could be life threatening to my mom.  A severe respiratory virus would kill her.  So I chose to believe this is a legitimate risk.  

As a real estate agent, my job puts me in contact with a lot of people, some strangers and many door knobs and keys that have been touched by many before me.  And with the coronavirus at the forefront of my mind, I would be lying if I told you it hasn't changed some of my behaviors.  At an open house, after reading that the virus can lie dormant AND highly contagious in people for 7 to 10 days before they are symptomatic, I found myself washing my hands after shaking hands with visitors.  In this day and age, there probably aren't too many degrees of separation between me, a home town girl who rarely goes anywhere and a worldly traveler who just rubbed elbows with someone on an international flight with someone who interacted with someone at risk for the virus.

As the virus is actually starting to pop up in various places in the United States, the threat feels more real.  Sellers have asked me, "Is it safe to have an open house?"  That's a really good question.

Open houses are not, and haven't been, necessary to sell a home since the advent of the Internet and the ability of buyers to see your home while in their pajamas on their sofa.  If you don't already know, open houses are opportunities for agents to meet nosy neighbors who may be interested in selling, buyers who are not represented and to make it easy for buyers who have hired agents that have no time to show them property to get in and take a look.  The last is a legitimate reason to have an open house, but only in a market where there aren't plenty of buyers with the good sense to hire agents who actually make time to show property.  That's not the market that my Bristow-Gainesville sellers are facing.  Open houses are completely and utterly OPTIONAL.

If you do wish to have an open house while your home is on the market during this coronavirus scare, it would be best if you thought of your home as a lobby in a public place.  Strangers will be walking through your home and touching surfaces.  They may even sneeze or cough into their hands before  touching things.  God only knows how often the average person washes their hands or what level of hygiene they practice.  

When you get back into your home, wash your countertops with soap and water to disinfect them.  (Soap and water won't hurt stone surfaces like granite.)  Use a paper towel and rubbing alcohol to wipe down frequently touched surfaces like cabinet handles, refrigerator doors and so forth.  Most important, don't touch your face with unwashed hands.  If your face is itching, grab a tissue and touch it that way if you can't make it to the sink to wash your hands.  Most importantly...WASH YOUR HANDS FREQUENTLY.

It wasn't until I consulted with my eye doctor about a contact lens problem I was having that I was not washing my hands properly.  Apparently, most people wash their hands wrong.  Sure, do it for 20 seconds.  We all know that now.  But are you washing the tips of your fingers?  I wasn't.  Whenever I do it, I have an image of surgeons washing their hands.  Scrub your fingertips on the soapy palm of your hand.  After all, your fingertips are going to be the most likely point of contact for contaminated surfaces and your own face.

Buyer demand in Bristow and Gainesville is unlikely to wane as a result of this virus.  The expansion of Micron in Manassas is adding many more jobs to our area than Amazon added to our state.  If you are a home seller right now, just be cautious and don't be too comfortable in your own home while it is on the market.  There will be many buyers through and you have no idea what they are touching during their tours.  Wash your hands frequently and you should be in good shape.


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Catherine Ulrey
Keller Williams Capital City - Salem, OR
Equestrian and Acreage Property Specialist

Same can be said for showing appointments.  We just don't know the exposure potential buyers have had, or who is carrying it without knowing.  Personally, I wouldn't hold open houses, and I would do extra screening for showing appointments.  We have several known cases here in Oregon, better to be safe than sorry for us, and our home owners.

Mar 10, 2020 02:51 PM #1
Michael Jacobs
Pasadena, CA
Los Angeles Pasadena 818.516.4393

Hello Chris Ann - awareness of all things seem to have increased so thoughts on open house viability and procedures seem natural to me.  

Mar 10, 2020 05:15 PM #2
Sheila Anderson
Referral Group Incorporated - East Brunswick, NJ
The Real Estate Whisperer Who Listens 732-715-1133

Good evening Chris Ann. I was never an open house person but this isn't the time for it. If I were an way I would permit it either.

Mar 10, 2020 05:38 PM #3
Abby Stiller
REMAX Realty Group - Cape Coral, FL
Professional Bilingual Realtor (239) 284-8637

Also, coronavirus can linger on surfaces for up to 9 days! so just it's a great idea to clean the counter tops after open houses or showings if it's owner occupied. Let's pray that we find a vaccine for it soon Chris Ann Cleland 

Mar 10, 2020 07:08 PM #4
Kathy Streib
Room Service Home Staging - Delray Beach, FL
Home Stager - Palm Beach County,FL -561-914-6224

Hi Chris Ann- all of what you mentioned is important. Because we don't know exactly how long the virus can last on an object we can only use our knowledge of other similar viruses. Door knobs, countertops, and even coughing in our elbows are areas that can harbor the virus. 

Mar 10, 2020 07:51 PM #5
Realtyna Inc
Realtyna - Newark, DE
Realtyna- MLS RETS Integration software & services

Hi Chris Ann Cleland, thank you for your well thought out, and very reasonable, comments on the challenges and risk of this disease

Mar 11, 2020 02:13 AM #6
Wayne Martin
Wayne M Martin - Chicago, IL
Real Estate Broker - Retired

Good morning Chris Ann. Never has it been more important to wash your hands. And mine are so dry from continuous washings. Wash on! Enjoy your day!

Mar 11, 2020 04:13 AM #7
Grant Schneider
Performance Development Strategies - Armonk, NY
Your Coach Helping You Create Successful Outcomes

Good evening Chris Ann Cleland - this has gotten everyone thinking.  I wash my and hands and I don't shake hands.

Mar 11, 2020 02:54 PM #8
Ricki Eichler McCallum
CastNet Realty - Corpus Christi, TX
Broker,GRI,ABR, e-Pro, TAHS

Hi Chris Ann,  Such good information and advice.  Stay safe.

Mar 12, 2020 10:10 AM #9
Peter Mohylsky. The Santa Rosa Beach Expert
PrimeSouth Properties - Santa Rosa Beach, FL

It is interesting re reading this as times have changed.  do you still feel that hosting an open house is the responsible way to act? 

Apr 09, 2020 09:23 AM #10
Chris Ann Cleland
Long and Foster REALTORS®, Gainesville, VA - Bristow, VA
Associate Broker, Bristow, VA

Thanks for the question Peter Mohylsky, The Beach is closed but I am open. As you can tell by reading my post and seeing this, "Open houses are not, and haven't been, necessary to sell a home since the advent of the Internet and the ability of buyers to see your home while in their pajamas on their sofa."


it is obvious that I do not believe in open houses in general.  As of now, they are not advised for health reasons.

Apr 09, 2020 01:18 PM #11
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Chris Ann Cleland

Associate Broker, Bristow, VA
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