Real estate agents 'over egging' safety with open home briefings and waivers
Watch the step onto the deck, use the stair handrail, and look both ways before going out onto the shared driveway.
Such warnings from real estate agents to open home visitors are becoming standard practice.
The Real Estate Institute of New Zealand (REINZ) said that under new health and safety legislation agents must take all "reasonably practicable" steps to ensure the safety of people attending open homes and it recommends briefing each visitor.
Some open home registers now require potential buyers to formally acknowledge they have read a list of risks and hazards, will follow the salesperson's instructions on how to avoid them, and agree to closely supervise any accompanying children.
Christchurch house hunter Mel Street has attended at least 20 open homes since March and first noticed the beefed up health and safety rules about six weeks ago.
On two occasions she was asked to sign a waiver saying she had read the list of hazards - such as tripping on a laundry step - and took responsibility for any injuries she might suffer.
"I thought it was really odd, very much treating me like a child. It felt very American, cover your back and don't sue me for anything."
Communications manager for WorkSafe New Zealand John Tulloch said some of the REINZ recommendations were an over reaction and Worksafe would discuss them with the industry.
If there were extraordinary or significant risks, such as an open trench or a still room undergoing renovations, it was reasonable to expect agents to warn customers, he said.
"But as far as normal household conditions like steps and drive ways . . . I think its over egging things to be going that far."
Christchurch real estate agent Jamin Marshall said the stricter approach to health and safety meant two agents were sometimes needed to show a big property.
"We had 22 people through in one half hour slot. You try talking to them, pointing out hazards and helping them buy the property. It's not easy, but we do it."
Wellington REINZ spokesman and Tommy's principal Euan Murrell said the new health and safety guidelines issued to real estate agents were a lot of extra work, and highly impractical.
"It's over the top. It is becoming a nightmare. If we did everything that we were expected to do, you probably wouldn't do open homes.
New Zealand head of agency operations for Ray White, Graeme Fraser, said some agents now put a sandwich board at the gate listing hazards, and on rainy days used "slippery when wet" signs at homes with tiled floors.
In the case of an Auckland property with steep stairs from the basement to the living area, the owner took the agent's advice and installed a temporary handrail.
"If there was a significant hazard identified during the listing process that the vendor didn't want to rectify, we'd have to sit down and work out whether we'd take the listing . . .a deck that was rotten on the first or second floor, something that was pretty major."
Showing people through properties still under construction was risky and clients should wear high viz vests, hard hats and safety glasses, Fraser said.
His company had received compliments from open home viewers impressed with the safety-conscious approach, however common sense had to prevail if open homes were to continue.
"If we got to the point where there was so much risk and compliance, then we are probably going to have to start to look at whether we go back to individual inspections."