Minnesota Realtors is calling for a halt to all real estate open houses statewide, and the group asked the Northstar­MLS to disable the "open house" feature in its online home-listing database.

Prospective buyers will still be able to view house listings, but the move is aimed at reducing contact among groups of home buyers, sellers and their agents.

"To support our government and health agencies in efforts to stop the spread of COVID-19, we encourage every association member to refrain from holding open houses during this global emergency," said Chris Galler, CEO of Minnesota Realtors, which represents more than 21,000 agents and others throughout the state. "We recommend leveraging virtual touring options as an alternative to open houses."

Many agents have already stopped conducting open houses and have asked buyers to do virtual walk-throughs of homes before previewing them in person to comply with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines for limiting contact.

The NorthstarMLS, which is owned by the Regional Multiple Listing Service, accounts for about 90% of the real estate agents in the state, and compliance with the recommendation is voluntary.

The move comes after Housing First Minnesota suspended its biggest marketing event of the year ­— the spring Parade of Homes ­— and canceled the upcoming Remodelers Showcase for the first time in the more than 70-year history of the event.

Galler said there have been no known COVID-19 exposures or incidents during open houses, and real estate agents are taking several precautions during house tours, including only allowing one person in the house at a time and having buyers drive separately to houses. Houses can also be placed on a TNAS (temporarily not available for showing) status.

With title companies, inspectors, appraisers and others operating on reduced schedules during what's normally the busiest time of the year for closings, there's growing concern about the timing of closings, Galler said. The association on Monday published a new form that's aimed at extending purchase-agreement deadlines called the Addendum or Amendment to Purchase Agreement: Coronavirus Disease of 2019 (COVID-19).

It allows parties to voluntarily agree to extend the deadlines of the purchase agreement if pandemic-related events such as illness or government shutdown make it impossible or impractical for either of the parties to perform under the original terms of the purchase agreement.

"During this time, Realtors are making adjustments to keep the market moving, and Minnesota Realtors is working to support them as things change day by day," Galler said. "It's a very fluid situation, and our members want to continue helping their clients while taking measures to be safe."

Jim Buchta • 612-673-7376