Relaxed social-distancing restrictions begin for Massachusetts businesses on March 1, but what does it mean for open houses? Not much.
As public health metrics continue to trend in a positive direction, starting Monday, March 1, Gov. Charlie Baker is relaxing restrictions as the state moves into Phase III Step 2 of the state’s reopening plans. These include: opening indoor performance venues at 50% capacity (with no more than 500 individuals); reopening indoor recreational activities with greater potential for contact at 50% capacity; raising capacity limits across all sectors to 50% excluding employees; and removing capacity limits at restaurants.
How do these changes impact the real estate industry as the spring market gets underway?
Executive orders issued last fall limited indoor gatherings to 10 people or less in private residences, which has been evident in communities throughout the state with potential buyers lining up outside open houses for hours each weekend all winter long waiting for a chance to look inside.
COVID-19 Order #54 limited indoor gatherings to 10 people or less in private residences, requiring real estate professionals to ensure open houses, showings and inspections are limited to that many people at one time.
According to Gov. Baker’s office, that order is still in play despite the March 1 changes to the state’s reopening guidelines.
According to Mike Verseckes, director of media and public relations of the state’s Office of Housing and Economic Development, there are technically no changes to real estate in this phase.
“Real estate open houses have been permitted for some time, they do not have their own, individual sector-specific protocols (whereas, restaurants and retail, etc. do),” he said. “Open houses, however, are still required to adhere to Mandatory Workplace Safety Standards.”
Those standards include limiting indoor gatherings to 10 people or less in private residences. It also appears those limits will continue to be in play when the state moves into the next phase later this month.
Massachusetts communities are expected to move into Step 1 of Phase IV of the state’s reopening plan on March 22 allowing previously closed business sectors currently under tight capacity limits to operate at a strict 12% capacity limit after submitting plans to the state’s Department of Public Health. These include indoor and outdoor stadiums, arenas and ballparks.
Also, effective March 22, event venues and public setting gathering limits will increase to 100 people indoors and 150 people outdoors. Outdoor gatherings at private residences and in private backyards will remain at 25 people, with indoor house gatherings remaining at 10 individuals.