Q: Can I buy or sell real estate during the Covid-19 shelter in place order?
A: First and foremost, my heart goes out to all who are suffering through these difficult times. Whether it’s physically, financially, or mentally, every one of us is feeling the impact of isolation and hardship. Either in spite of or because of the circumstances we are in, there are many people who are looking to move. Tenants are moving in and out of apartments, owners are putting their homes up for sale, and homebuyers are moving forward with their own plans. While some real estate buyers did put their plans on hold- due to job loss or general uncertainty, our local real estate market has remained surprisingly active. Sellers are looking to take advantage of the recent increase in values, and Buyers are hoping to take advantage of low mortgage rates and the opportunity for less competition during this unique time.
So, let’s talk about the impact of the shelter in place orders. Many of you may already know that residential real estate has been designated an essential service. Initially, that was somewhat meaningless as in-person showings were strictly prohibited. Most people are not willing to make a purchase like this without seeing the property in person- and rightly so. It is important to see and hear more than photos or a video can show you. Luckily, the shut-down orders have now been amended. California, County of Los Angeles, and City of Los Angeles all are now allowing in person showings of homes under certain conditions:
-Only qualified buyers may be given an in-person showing. Agents must obtain loan pre-approval or other sufficient documentation to ensure that you are a serious buyer. No window shopping allowed as the real estate industry tries to conduct business while eliminating unnecessary exposure.
-At the showing, there can be no more than two prospective buyers, and their agents allowed inside the home. The two buyers must reside in the same household.
-All persons entering the home must wear facial coverings, gloves, and foot coverings.
-Social distancing must be practiced at all times during the showing. If the home is small or the layout is such that safe distancing can’t be maintained, then only one person at a time may be permitted inside.
-All persons are to avoid touching anything inside the home. After the showing, the Seller’s agent must disinfect all areas most likely to have been touched, such as doorknobs and countertops.
In addition to the above items, you will be required to sign the California Association of Realtor’s newly created form, the Coronavirus Property Entry Advisory and Declaration. This form is for all involved parties- Sellers, prospective Buyers, tenants, real estate agents, inspectors, etc. By signing this form, you are acknowledging the risk of Covid-19 and the possibility of exposure caused by allowing someone into your home or accessing another’s home. You also are attesting that to the best of your knowledge you have not come into contact with anyone afflicted with Covid-19, that you have none of the symptoms of Covid-19 and that you believe you are not likely to transmit the disease. Many real estate brokers are doing a great job of following these orders and guidelines and working hard to protect their clients from exposure. Buyers are very willing to take these precautions and anxious to continue their home searches. I don’t think any of us are taking for granted the opportunity to do business and want to do it safely.
One important note- the rules for in-person showings do not mean business as usual for rental properties. Although it is legal to show a rental subject to these conditions, if the property is occupied, it may only be shown with the consent of the tenant. Of course, many tenants are not comfortable allowing people into their homes. This means a landlord must wait until the tenant has moved out before showing to prospective tenants, losing rent in the process.
As Realtors, we are certainly grateful for the ability to conduct business and assist clients during this stressful time. We are painfully aware that so many are prevented from working in their chosen profession right now. With privilege comes responsibility- your health and safety must always come first and we all must continuously adapt as necessary to reduce the risks to our clients and the overall spread of the coronavirus. We are extremely humbled by the heroic efforts of those who work on the front lines. Our grocery store employees, food delivery services, remote shoppers, delivery persons, pharmacists, doctors- they are keeping us all going at great personal risk. This is Nurses Week- we can’t possibly overstate the role of nurses- if you have ever spent time in a hospital, you know that the nurses are the ones who truly take care of you. They do amazing things as a matter of course, and right now they are our superheroes and we are sincerely grateful for you all.
Remember, readers, the best thing you can do to show your appreciation for nurses is to stay out of the hospital. On that note, I implore you all to be as safe as you can possibly be and I wish you all good health. We’ll get through this together as neighbors.
Disclaimer: This article is intended to be primarily for entertainment purposes and is not to be considered legal advice.
LISA PHILLIPS, ESQ./ CA Dept. of Real Estate Broker License #01189413
Lisa Phillips is a Realtor in the Los Angeles area, with close to 25 years as a real estate broker and attorney and is a Broker-Associate at Lotus Estate Properties in Marina del Rey. Lisa is a member of the National Association of Realtors “Green Resource Council” and achieved its “GREEN” Designation. In addition to her real estate and business savvy, Lisa is passionate about helping others, actively volunteering in the community, and donating a percentage of all sales commissions to charity. For more information, please email Lisa@LisaPhillipsEsq.com