COVID-19: How to ensure safe site visits post-lockdown

[] We look at some of the measures that real estate developers, brokers and home buyers can adopt, to make site visits safe during the Coronavirus pandemic

Even as the wait for a flattening of the curve continues, authorities have realised that the Coronavirus pandemic may be here to stay longer. As states gradually ease the COVID-19 lockdown restrictions, this may be a good time to consider a property purchase, because developers across the country have introduced various payment plans, discounts and offers for high-intent buyers. However, with the lockdown easing, social distancing has become important. Here’s a look at what developers, brokers and home buyers are doing and must continue doing in order to keep the business afloat without violating the norms.

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Dos and don’ts for site visits during COVID-19

Dr Gaurav Singh, senior medical officer, Central Coalfields Ltd, and ex-resident, AIIMS-Bhubaneswar, has the following tips:

  • Do not go for a site visit if you are not a high-intent buyer.
  • In cities where community spread has started, avoid multiple physical interactions with people.
  • Insist on appointments and ask the other party/parties, if any, to be on time.
  • Only one or two people from a family should go for a site visit.
  • Do not expose seniors and children under 10 years of age to people outside the family, as much as possible.
  • Do not hesitate to inquire about the developer firm’s adherence to safety measures to prevent Coronavirus. Your health is of far greater importance than business.
  • Do not carry a lot of things such as papers, bags, etc. Go digital.
  • Keep a small pouch or handbag and carry essentials like wipes and sanitisers.
  • Do not handle door knobs and commonly-touched surfaces like elevator buttons.
  • Do not use common toilets, as much as possible.
  • Even if offered, it may be safer to avoid outside food. It may be difficult to ensure the packaging is as clean and safe as you want it to be.
  • Travel in your own vehicle and avoid shared cabs at this time.
  • Upon return, keep aside your shoes and soak your clothes in soap and disinfectant.
  • Take a shower immediately after returning.

COVID-19: How to ensure safe site visits post-lockdown

What are developers doing to follow COVID-19 norms?

Thermal screening of every entrant to a site, safety indication on the Aarogya Setu app, sanitisation, social distancing and limited entry – these are some of the steps that developers have been undertaking. Shailesh Puranik, MD, Puranik Builders, explains: “To begin with, not over 10% of the staff are asked to report to work. At the entrance, a temperature check is done and each individual has to sanitise themselves. Sanitisers have been placed at all the necessary places and we disinfect the office twice a day.” Here’s a look at other measures that can make project sites safe:

For construction workers

Every construction site may hereon have a COVID-19 marshal, sources say, who will be in charge of the overall hygiene at the sites allocated to them. All labourers would necessarily need to have their safety gears and masks on, undergo a health check-up and follow the guidelines. They may also be required to undergo a quarantine period, before resuming work. At construction sites too, all construction materials may be kept aside for a few days before it is used, as a preventive action. It may also be imperative to have an isolation ward at work sites.

For home buyers

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Unlike transactions on e-commerce sites, most home buyers insist on experiencing the look and feel of a property, before signing the deal. Even if most of the decision making happens on the basis of information available online (for example, property listings, real estate-related advisory and news and other features available online such as EMI calculators, etc.) every home buyer looks forward to an in-person visit to the construction site. So here’s what being done/can be done:

  • Physical distancing: Anuj Khetan, director, Vijay Khetan Group, says, “We will be providing time slots to the customers for site visits, to avoid crowding and every customer will be attended to one-on-one, as per their respective allotted time.” Developer firms will have to adhere to social distancing norms, to ensure better sales prospects.
  • Adequate training: While prospective home buyers will need to do their bit to stay safe, developer firms will need to train their site managers and other employees, and equip them with the necessary gear and knowledge, to direct the home buyers who approach them for site visits.
  • Proper gear: It is up to the construction site manager to arrange for protective gear, safety masks and hand sanitisers, just in case visitors do not bring these on their own.
  • Minimalism: Site managers will also need to ensure that there are minimum things on display, so as to avoid unnecessary handling of things and their cleaning or sanitisation at regular intervals.

Vimalendra Singh, CSO of Mahindra Happinest, says that their guidelines include frequent sanitisation and strict implementation of social distancing measures across sites, with focus on areas frequented by visitors. Other procedures include planned site visits, trained security staff, single point of entry/exit, mask distribution, self-health declaration and registration, among others.

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What are brokers doing to follow COVID-19 norms?

As brokers often have to take their clients on site visits, here are some safety measures that they should follow:

Take appointments

Do not visit a construction site unannounced, with your client, even if the latter shows up or quotes urgency. A prior appointment is necessary, for a safe experience for all stakeholders. Also ensure that the site is sanitised and equipped to handle visitors.

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Keep it short and simple

Keep the property visit short and simple. Insist on doing the talking later, over a video call, so that physical interactions may be as short as possible to avoid the risk of catching a Coronavirus infection.

How should home buyers ensure safety during site visits?

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A prospective home buyer may have already shortlisted a few properties. If you are keen on a property purchase and site visit, make sure you do most of the talking prior to the site visit. The site visit should just be used as a chance to check the quality of construction. For your own convenience, do the due diligence and research online, insist on virtual property site visits and online meetings for the negotiations and discussions. Most developers and their online partners are coming up with webinars that talk about their projects, while discussions around real estate have moved online too. Use these resources to make your decisions. As a final step, if you are planning a site visit, do the following:

Carry your own things

Carry your own things, like sanitisers, to ensure that you are taking necessary precautions.

Do not handle a lot of things

When outside your home, do not touch surfaces that may be contaminated. Avoid gathering as a whole family.

Travel in your own vehicle

Typically, real estate agents arrange for a site visit and sometimes even provide you with a vehicle. However, as a safety measure, take your own car or vehicle to such places. You can easily pack and carry whatever is necessary, without having to worry about hygiene.

Avoid taking children and seniors

The authorities have released specific guidelines, declaring that seniors over 65 and children under 10 years of age, may need special attention to protect them from the Coronavirus. Hence, avoid taking them along, on site visits.

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Is it safe to visit a construction site amid the COVID-19 pandemic?

Construction activity has been allowed in certain areas and while there are fewer physical site visits than pre-COVID-19 days, developers have been making sure that they follow safety guidelines, as laid down by the authorities. In case you are not happy about the hygiene and sanitisation at the site, refrain from proceeding with the site visit.

What are developers doing to help construction workers during the Coronavirus pandemic?

Some developers have offered financial assistance to their workers. To resume work at sites, most developers are following the guidelines, to ensure the health of everyone. Measures include frequent sanitisation, social distancing across sites with focus on areas frequented by visitors, pre-planned site visits, training for the security and staff, issuing visitor passes, ensuring single point of entry/exit, distribution of masks, etc.

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Category: Lifestyle

Debora Berti

Università degli Studi di Firenze, IT

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