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Open houses resume, but the home-buying pastime has drastically changed – The Globe and Mail

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A new home is displayed for sale in a new housing development in Ottawa on Tuesday, July 14, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press

Leave the doors open and all the lights on. That’s one of the many new guidelines for people opening their homes – perhaps for the first time in months – so real estate agents can play host to open houses.

Some provinces are now allowing open houses, with new rules in place, after regulators clamped down on showings amid the COVID-19 outbreak.

The Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver said earlier this month that open houses will resume, with warnings to potential house hunters. Visitors to open houses there can expect to see signs displaying health precautions, use handwashing stations and sign a visitor log for contact tracing.

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Ontario’s Stage 3 reopening plan, which hit much of the province on Friday, also includes open houses under its new gathering limits of 50 people, or 30-per-cent capacity, with physical distancing enforced.

Regina-based real estate agent Tim Otitoju says minimizing the need to touch doors and light switches is one of several ways the open house process has changed.

At showings, he is the one to open any front door – with gloves, sanitized hands and a mask – and he limits the number of people in the home at one time.

Before entering, potential home buyers and sellers answer questionnaires and sign waivers about any symptoms or exposure to COVID-19. Sellers who agree to the open house must sanitize the home.

The situation is all the trickier when landlords look to show properties occupied by tenants.

The Real Estate Council of Ontario has been discouraging unnecessary in-person private showings, as well as open houses. But RECO doesn’t have the power to require agents to get a tenant’s consent.

“The imbalance of power that exists between landlord and tenant means renters are not always in a position to speak up and they should not be made to feel unsafe in their home,” said Mazdak Gharibnavaz, in a statement from the Vancouver Tenants Union, opposing the return of open houses.

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While open houses are once again an option in many areas, that doesn’t mean every seller is on board, Mr. Otitoju says. Many still prefer to stick with virtual showings, and Mr. Otitoju himself opts for Zoom instead of in-person meetings for reviewing offers.

“I’ve got little shoe covers in the back of my care. My realtor tools have certainly changed,” says Mr. Otitoju, an agent with Platinum Realty Specialists.

“I’m finding that this is working. Now, a lot of people coming out to open houses are in the market to buy that type of house. The time to go around to open houses as a hobby – it’s not the time to do that right now. Buyers know that. Sellers know that. Realtors know that.”

It’s all part of the changing sales process in real estate.

It might seem obvious that for a purchase as big as a house, no one wants to buy a sight unseen. But Anthony Hitt says even buyers of expensive properties are seeing the upsides of virtual tools that were popularized during the pandemic.

A tour where a seller or agent carries a camera around the house, for example, can allow buyers to look closely at finishes, views through windows and inside cabinets, says Hitt, president and CEO of Engel & Volkers Americas.

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For sellers, it reassures them that those who end up at in-person showings are interested in buying, he says.

Cameron McNeill, who does marketing of prebuild properties in the Vancouver area with MLA Canada, says that although showrooms have been open for a month, people continue to do more research online before coming to in-person appointments.

Mr. McNeill predicts that shopping for homes will become more like car shopping, where much of the research and emotional buying journey is done before hitting the lot.

“The most valuable thing you have is your time,” says Mr. Hitt, saying that online tours cut down on travelling.

“I don’t think we are going to eliminate open houses. We may see less of them and they may come at a different time in the process. … I don’t think a lot of consumers, even with masks and all the precautions, are ready to run out and be in a crowded property.”

It used to be common to share a meal with a client, but that’s not on Mr. Otitoju’s mind these days, he says.

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“I don’t remember the last time I shook someone’s hand,” Mr. Otitoju says. “It’s not the only way to build relationships. You build relationships with your actions, and people see that.”

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COVID-19: Ottawa adult vaccinations at 69 per cent; Ontario reports 192 new cases – Ottawa Citizen

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Ottawa Public Health reported Friday that 69 per cent of adults in the capital are fully vaccinated.

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According to the OPH vaccination dashboard, updated Friday morning, 591,639 people aged 18 and over have the two shots.

In all, 83 per cent of the population 12 years and older has received one dose.

Seven new cases of COVID-19 were reported in Ottawa on Friday, bringing the total number of cases since the pandemic began to 27,268.

The death toll remains unchanged at 593.

Ottawa Public Health knows of 41 active cases in the region. However, there are no COVID-19 patients in hospital.

In indicators of interest, the rolling seven-day average of cases per 100,000 residents is 3.9, while the populations per cent positivity in testing is 0.5.

The reproductive number, the average number of people that one infected person will pass on a virus to, is 1.28.

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Latest COVID-19 news in Ottawa

Ontario reported 192 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 and one new death on Friday.

While it’s the second week the province’s numbers have been below 200, confirmed cases have climbed significantly from Monday, when 130 new cases were reported.

Currently, there are 137 people in hospital in Ontario, with 136 in ICU due to COVID-related illness and 84 on a ventilator. (Ontario Public Health statistics of ICU hospitalizations and ventilator cases contain some patients who no longer test positive for COVID-19 but who are being treated for conditions caused by the virus.)

There have been 548,986 confirmed cases and 9,308 deaths since the pandemic began.

In health regions in the Ottawa area, Renfrew and District reported three new cases. There were no new cases reported in the Eastern Ontario Health Unit, Kingston or Leeds, Grenville and Lanark units.

Latest COVID-19 news in Quebec

Quebec reported 101 new cases of COVID-19 and one more death Friday morning.

Hospitalizations in the province declined by four patients, for a total of 67. The number of cases in ICU were unchanged at 21.

The province administered 94,624 additional vaccine doses were administered over the previous 24 hours.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, Quebec has reported 376,530 cases and 11,239 deaths linked to COVID-19.

Latest COVID-19 news in Canada

Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam reported Friday that 46.7 million doses of vaccine have been administered in Canada, and more than 60 per cent of people over the age of 12 have been fully vaccinated.

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Dutch Teen Who Went to Space With Jeff Bezos Told Him He’s Never Bought Anything on Amazon – Gizmodo

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New Shepard lifts off from Launch Site One in West Texas with four humans on board. (July 20, 2021)

The award for “Best Small Talk on a Flight to Space” goes to Oliver Daemen, the 18-year-old from the Netherlands who was part of Blue Origin’s inaugural crewed flight to space earlier this week. On the roughly 10-minute flight, Daemon told Amazon founder Jeff Bezos what probably sounded like blasphemy to his billionaire ears: He had never bought anything on Amazon.

In an interview with Reuters on Friday, Daemen recounted his first flight to space, from when he got the call asking him if he was interested to the conversations he had with his crewmates, which included Bezos, his brother Mark Bezos, and 82-year-old pilot Wally Funk. Daemen, whose father is the CEO of a private equity firm in the Netherlands, became the youngest person to ever fly to space, while Funk became the oldest.

The teen also holds the distinction of surprising Bezos, whose Amazon empire has made him one of the richest men in the world.

“I told Jeff, like, I’ve actually never bought something from Amazon,” Daemen told Reuters. “And he was like, ‘oh, wow, it’s [been] a long time [since] I heard someone say that.’”

Considering that Bezos thanked “every Amazon employee and every Amazon customer” for making the flight possible after he and the crew returned to Earth, Daemen’s comments may have been a little awkward. However, it’s nice (and kind of funny) to hear that someone was frank with him. Bezos no doubt has enough people telling him that Amazon is God’s gift to humanity, so it’s cool to see one of the youths set him straight.

Daemen wasn’t originally supposed to go on the flight with Bezos and crew. He was offered the opportunity after the winner of the online auction for the seat, whose identity is still unknown and who paid a whopping $28 million for it, said they couldn’t go because of “scheduling conflicts.” Daemen, who was a participant in the auction and had already secured a spot on the second flight, was then moved up on the list. His father, Joes Daemen, paid for the seat.

According to Daemen, his family didn’t pay anything near what the mysterious bidder paid for the opportunity.

“We didn’t pay even close to $28 million, but they chose me because I was the youngest and I was also a pilot and I also knew quite a lot about it already,” he said.

The teen, who will begin his studies at Utrecht University in September, said he wasn’t sure what he wanted to do professionally, but would consider focusing on space travel. He also told the outlet that his fellow travelers were “super fun and all down to Earth.” Well, considering Daemen’s referring to a man that wants to stupidly move all polluting industry into space, I’m not sure I’m sold on that.

Congratulations on the award for that great small talk, though.

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Several Ontario mass vaccination clinics wind down as focus shifts to smaller sites – CP24 Toronto's Breaking News

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The Canadian Press


Published Friday, July 23, 2021 1:37PM EDT


Last Updated Friday, July 23, 2021 1:37PM EDT

Several mass COVID-19 vaccination clinics across Ontario are winding down as first-dose registrations wane and communities shift their focus to smaller venues.

The large clinics held in local arenas, hospitals and recreation centres across the province have been a key part of the vaccine rollout that began in the winter.

Now that first-dose vaccination coverage has hovered at around 80 per cent for adults provincewide, many health units are beginning the transition to smaller, more targeted vaccination approaches.

“Our large-scale clinics are ending because they are no longer filling up,” the Northwestern Health Unit, which covers the city of Kenora, Ont., and surrounding communities, said in a statement this week as its mass clinics wrapped up operations. “Once they are over, we will provide the vaccine in our offices and at smaller clinics in the community.”

Grey Bruce, a current hot spot for the more infectious Delta COVID-19 variant, is also shutting down its mass clinics at the end of the month to return the large sites for community use.

The health unit is advising people with shots booked for August and beyond to reschedule, and is offering smaller clinics across the region that includes several rural areas.

People living in the Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph region were urged this week to seek out their shots before the local health unit starts closing mass clinics the week of Aug. 6.

“I encourage people to take advantage of the thousands of available appointments at our clinics before we move to the next phase,” Rita Isley, director of community health for the region, said in a statement. “These last few weeks of our mass clinics are the easiest way to get your shot.”

The health unit said it will shift to small clinics and pop-ups “into the fall” after the last of the large clinics close on Aug. 20.

Larger cities are also following the trend, with Mississauga, Ont., aiming to close a convention centre used as a vaccination site on Monday, with another hospital clinic closing the next day.

Mayor Bonnie Crombie said the transition away from mass clinics is part of the city’s focus on bringing vaccines to the least-immunized communities, with more emphasis planned on pop-ups, drive-thru clinics and primary care sites.

“This is a good news story and it shows that our mass vaccination clinics have done their job getting the majority of our people vaccinated,” Crombie told reporters on Thursday.

“We can now look at this period as the home stretch of our initial vaccine rollout to get to that final 10 to 20 per cent of our population and ensure that they, too, are vaccinated.”

​Kingston, Ont.’s health unit announced last week that it would enter a “new phase” of its vaccination effort, with plans to shut down mass clinics beginning in August and shift to pharmacy, mobile and primary care sites.

Mass clinics in the London, Ont., will see reduced hours in the coming weeks amid dwindling demand, the health unit announced this week. It said immunizations have sped up and many people have moved up their second-dose appointments that were scheduled for the fall, meaning the large sites won’t be needed.

“As the health unit turns its focus to individuals in the community, the vaccination effort will rely on mobile and walk-in pop-up clinics, as well as providing opportunities to be vaccinated at community events,” the Middlesex-London Heath Unit said in a statement.

Health Minister Christine Elliott said earlier this month that primary care sites would become more essential to the province’s vaccination plan as mass clinics at hospitals, stadiums and other large venues wind down and resume their old uses.

A spokeswoman for Elliott said targeted vaccination strategies will play a greater role going forward as the province aims to reach vaccine hesitant communities.

“The province is working with the public health units to improve vaccination rates through mobile clinics and community-based pop-ups, dedicated clinic days for people with disabilities, holding townhall meetings in multiple languages, and providing services such as transportation, translation services, and drive-through clinics,” Alexandra Hilkene said in a statement on Friday.

The Grey Bruce health unit noted this week that its local COVID-19 situation is now a “pandemic of the unvaccinated,” a trend documented around the world.

The health unit says 95 per cent of cases reported in the first two weeks of July were among people not fully vaccinated, and encouraged people to get their shots, noting that it’s likely that vaccinated people may be subject to fewer restrictions such as isolation rules in the event of future outbreaks.

“Vaccinating the majority of people sets us on the road to return to normal,” it said.

Ontario reported 192 new COVID-19 cases on Friday and one death from the virus. Sixty-six per cent of Ontario adults are now fully vaccinated.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 23, 2021.

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