What COVID-19 and Statewide Lockdowns Will Mean for Real Estate Agents

Written by Celeste O'Hara Posted On Thursday, 26 March 2020 15:47

This story is developing and will be updated as information is acquired. 

BREAKING: NAR has prepared several guides to help members navigate the COVID-19 relief package.

NAR published a comprehensive guide to the $2 trillion, 880-page bill educating REALTORS® on the many benefits secured by NAR, as well as offering separate, evolving guidance to help its members navigate the crisis.

The measure includes:

• $350 billion for the Small Business Administration 7(a) loan program, allowing eligible small businesses to secure up to $10 million toward mortgage interest, rents, utilities and payroll costs.
• A significant expansion of unemployment insurance for the self-employed and independent contractors that could provide benefits for up to 39 weeks. These workers are not usually covered under traditional state unemployment benefit programs.
• An employee retention tax credit estimated to provide $50 billion to companies that retain existing employees.
• Rebates of $1,200 to single filers and $2,400 to joint filers, plus $500 for each child, subject to income limitations.
• A 60-day foreclosure moratorium and up to 1 year of mortgage forbearance.

Among a host of other initiatives, NAR is also working with lawmakers to expand access to remote online notary services and provide direct rental assistance for families who have income loss due to COVID-19.

Hats off to NAR and staff for its hard work with Congressional leaders on the relief package.

UPDATE: March 23, 2020 3:19pm PST

Realty Times reached out to the National Association of Realtors® (NAR) with questions regarding the real estate industry during this time of quarantine and social distancing and received the following statement:

“NAR has been aggressively working on behalf of our members as a flurry of legislative activity aimed at providing economic relief from COVID-19 emerges on Capitol Hill. At the same time, we are committed to ensuring lawmakers consider the importance of the real estate industry in these conversations.

Comprising 19.1% of our nation’s GDP in 2018, there are 9.5 million jobs in the real estate, rental and leasing industry, and every two home sales generate one job in this country. NAR continues to work on a state by state level to ensure certain real estate services are deemed “essential” in emergency declarations. Many state Realtor® associations are in contact with their respective governors about this as well.”

Additional NAR resources:

For agents with questions on open houses, NAR has compiled a Q&A sheet with open house guidelines for Realtors® to address questions including whether or not an open house should be held, what precautions to take during an open house, and whether or not a Realtor® may ask if someone is or has been sick or travelled out of the country. Visit the NAR website for the complete open house guide.

Realtors® can also access a general COVID-19 guide with information about the virus and containing the spread within the real estate industry. This guide is also available on their website.

UPDATE: March 23, 2020 12:47pm PST

The Orlando Regional Realtor® Association (ORRA) CEO, Cliff Long, has published an open letter announcing the closure of ORRA until futher notice. He writes:

"Today, we closed our association doors indefinitely. I won’t reopen those doors until local authorities say that I can and/or until such a time that I can ensure that a gathering at the association won’t endanger my members. I realized that keeping my doors open had been sending a signal to our members that they too could keep their doors open (along continuing to show homes, host open houses, etc). Now it is my hope that ORRA’s closed doors will send a new message and serve to convince members to follow suit, and in the process save lives. Let’s flatten the Curve!"

Editor Saul Klein’s Note:
I had a conversation with my friend Cliff Long prior to his release of this letter to the CEOs and Executive Officers of Associations and MLSs across the US and Canada. Cliff sees this moment in time as an opportunity to serve. His passion and leadership shine through in this message to the Industry.

Click here to read the letter in its entirety, or visit the ORRA website to watch a video announcement from Cliff Long.

UPDATE: March 21, 2020 5:30pm PST

The California Regional MLS (CRMLS) is restricting open house options.

"In light of Governor Newsom’s Executive Order and CAR’s recommendations, CRMLS is in the process of removing open house options from all CRMLS systems...including Matrix, Paragon, and Flex."

Additionally, because Realtors® cannot conduct business under the new statewide lockdown, CAR and the National Association of Realtors® (NAR) have asked Congress for aid for Realtors®:

"As independent contractors, REALTORS® do not have access to the safety net of unemployment benefits afforded to millions of others during this crisis.

​Both C.A.R. and NAR are requesting meaningful, long-term relief so that the real estate market can recover quickly."

UPDATE: March 21, 2020 12:00am PST

The California Association of Realtors® (CAR) has issued the following guidelines:

“Yesterday Governor Newsom and the State Public Health Officer issued Executive Order N-33-20 requiring all Californians to stay home except as needed to maintain continuity of operations in 16 infrastructure sectors. This supersedes all existing local city and county orders that are less restrictive. The real estate industry is not exempt from this prohibition except as needed to maintain “continuity of operation … of … construction, including housing construction.” Therefore, REALTORS® should cease doing all face-to-face marketing or sales activities, including showings, listing appointments, open houses and property inspections. Clients and other consumers are also subject to these orders and should not be visiting properties or conducting other business in person.

Property management and repair work, which generally involves maintaining sanitary and safety conditions is permissible. Additionally, many other aspects of the real estate industry can continue to occur without in-person contact, including documentation and signing, and in many circumstances, closings. Other activities may also be managed remotely, though there may be some difficulties.”

In their guidelines CAR also advises agents on how to respond should an agent learn that a visitor to a property has tested positive for COVID-19. They suggest that agents may disclose this information, however they recommend not disclosing on the MLS as there will be “no further showings “ as of the March 19 order and “the concern at issue is backward-oriented and person-focused (and not a permanent property condition) for those potential visitors and/or agents identifiable from lockbox or other records as having been at the property during that time period with the exposed person. Notice could then be given in a targeted way.”

Should agents need to disclose, CAR recommends a generic notification that does not reveal personal information or invade privacy, such as “a visitor to the property on Xdate has tested positive for COVID 19.”

Read the complete guidelines on the California Association of Realtors® website. 

March 20, 2020 3:45pm PST

Yesterday evening California Governor Gavin Newsom issued an executive order for all residents to stay at home, with the exception of essential activities and businesses. This morning real estate brokerages across California are reeling and are wondering what this lockdown means for their businesses as they are faced with looming questions in unchartered territory.

As brokerages across California gather with their agents via web and phone calls after many offices closed their doors as part of social distancing and, now, lockdown orders, teleconferences have been riddled with questions – Can I do an inspection? What does this mean for my closing? Can I show homes? – and brokerages simply don’t have the answers. The most common response: use common logic and be safe.

Realty Times understands the frustrations that many agents are facing in California, and the fears that agents outside of California are also likely experiencing as other states begin to enforce restrictions on businesses across the country. We are working to find answers for you and have reached out to the California Association of Realtors® and the National Association of Realtors® for comments on how agents should navigate themselves at this time. We will update this post with more information as we acquire it.

We will also be doing a weekly feature on the industry in relation to COVID-19. To be updated on this series as well as all of our daily headlines, please subscribe to receive our emails.

Rate this item
(4 votes)

Agent Resource

How to capture your next prospect - click here

Realty Times

From buying and selling advice for consumers to money-making tips for Agents, our content, updated daily, has made Realty Times® a must-read, and see, for anyone involved in Real Estate.