** LEGAL UPDATE **
In light of the coronavirus or COVID-19 pandemic, which raised a number of unique issues for the real estate industry, the National Association of Realtors (NAR) issued detailed guidance to its members, along with a preparedness plan.
Although these were directed primarily at the organization's real estate agent membership, and covered everything from office safety to home showings, much of the advice is worth home sellers and buyers reading and understanding, as well. That way, you'll know what to expect, and realize that your agent's potentially difficult requirements upon you are based on professional compliance.
For example, the NAR recommends to agents representing home sellers that:
- If they contract COVID-19 they stop going to the office. No one else working there should either, for the 24 to 48 hours it will take to properly clean the space. (A reminder of why your agent is especially eager not to catch anything.)
- They become familiar with state and local health restrictions and consider implementing different precautions for occupied as opposed to vacant properties.
- If their home-selling client turns out to have COVID-19 and has come into contact with the agent within the previous 14 days, the agent must immediately tell his brokerage office, as well as (with the seller client’s written consent) any agents who toured the property in the past 14 days, including a suggestion that those agents inform their clients that that they might have been exposed to COVID-19 during the house tours.
- If the home-selling client does not consent to this disclosure, the agent will still need to contact any agents who toured the property within the past 14 days, but in this case would warn them that they toured a property where someone with a confirmed case of COVID-19 lives, without providing the actual address or seller's name.
- Talk with the home-selling client about practices and precautions to be taken when showing the property, and of course stick to those. One such precaution could be limiting showings to those prospective buyers have made by advance appointment, and holding no public open houses at all.
- Request that both the seller and potential buyers disclose whether they have COVID-19 or any of its symptoms (bearing in mind that the virus can be spread by people who have no apparent symptoms.)
For agents representing buyers, NAR suggests:
- Encouraging them to start their property search online rather than in person, looking at photos and virtual tours and using technology as much as possible.
- Urging them to obtain a mortgage prequalification letter, to show to sellers as a sign of seriousness and thus to allow them to limit in-person showings to qualified buyers who are ready to move forward with a purchase.
- No handshakes.
- Asking buyer-clients to remain in their car until the agent reaches the property for a showing, and touch as little as possible in and around the house itself.
Local conditions and practices will, of course, have an impact on how much of this material is relevant and required when you are buying or selling your house. Nevertheless, attention and adherence to the prevailing practices will help facilitate a smooth real estate transaction.
Effective Date: March 26, 2020