Greetings dear readers,
Whether you are a realtor, buyer, seller or in one of the many industries that depend on real estate sales; this post is meant to suggest a set of best practices for our industry for the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic.
If the economic effects of this outbreak last until late July or August (as the president has suggested), our industry can scarcely afford to shut down completely for that duration of time. And so, are there ways in which our industry can move forward, while maintaining the safety of everyone? In other words, can our industry continue operating without spreading the virus?
First, we must agree that at the very least, we must maintain the directions of any and all jurisdictional authorities. In Summit County, this means read and follow Standing Public Health Orders, such as this one.
Beyond the guidelines issued by the authorities, we should agree that human contact at every stage of our business should be minimized or eliminated. Indeed, this is already possible and to some degree, common in our business. I have personally conducted entire real estate deals without ever having met my client the Buyer.
Therefore, let’s look at a list of 16 best practices for the real estate industry, in the new reality of this COVID-19 pandemic.
- To the greatest extent possible, use every method you can think of to minimize or eliminate human contact.
- Close your office. Our business is conducted primarily online these days, you don’t need it anyway. We don’t even have a central office! Our business address is my house, which is where I work. But, we don’t have an office. This makes us leaner, more nimble and we have lower overhead for times like these.
- When working with a Buyer, pre-screen and preview properties alone, take a video, send it to the client to review before ever having them set foot in the property.
- Make use of property videos, virtual tours, Matterport tours and the property photography to help the Buyer understand the property to the greatest extent possible before ever setting foot in the property in person.
- If the Buyer likes a property, advocate for the advantages of placing an offer on the property before the Buyer views it in person. This can eliminate in-person showings of other properties all together, resulting in only one, the property the Buyers intend to buy.
- If a showing is absolutely necessary, drive to all showings in separate cars.
- Maintain social distancing (at least 6 feet of separation) at all times during the showing. Politely refuse to shake hands, hug or do anything that would increase exposure (these violate social distancing standards anyway).
- Provide masks, gloves, booties, and other protective gear if necessary to prevent surface contamination. According to the most recent study, the virus can live on hard surfaces for 72 hours, and in cardboard for 24 hours. Wait at for at least the recommended periods of times or disinfect properly between showings.
- Lay down guidelines for the showing… no touching surfaces, no using facilities, walk through and look only.
- Get the Seller’s permission (via their Broker) to show the property.
- Draft a COVID-19 clause to be added to every listing, for the purpose of informing all participants and limiting liability. I took a first stab here: Seller and Broker are both aware of and have taken measures to understand the COVID-19 (corona virus) pandemic. In order to help prevent the invisible transmission of the virus, both Seller and Broker agree to adhere to all guidelines set forth by all jurisdictional authorities. In addition, Seller and Broker agree to hold each other harmless for any effects or downstream consequences related to COVID-19. Keep in mind, I’m not an attorney. I offer this in good faith. Consult an attorney to revise or draft a proper, legal clause.
- Pre-screen all participants… ask them to verify that they don’t have symptoms or other risk factors such as recent travel or exposure. Ask them to take and report their own temperature. While we can’t control for a-symptomatic participants, it would be foolish to allow the symptomatic to take part in any way.
- Conduct the entire negotiation process electronically. Where possible use skype, facetime or similar tools for meetings with clients.
- Conduct the entire contract process electronically. Use CTM E-contracts, DocuSign, Adobe Sign and the like for the contract process.
- Arrange to electronically or otherwise remotely grant access to appraisers, inspectors, surveyors and other service providers.
- Conduct the closing remotely.
If you are a realtor, follow guidelines issued by NAR, CAR and SAR.
Good luck out there and stay healthy. Most importantly, consciously act to flatten the curve. And, if you are forced to choose between showing a property and doing something that increases the chance of the spread of the virus, choose to wait and do it later or not at all. Nothing is worth risking spreading the virus. Your clients will understand. Speak with them openly about it and try to identify what they are and are not comfortable with doing.
Please leave ideas, suggestions and comments below.