On May 19, 2020 Governor Wolf issued new guidance for businesses in the real estate industry located in counties in the Red or Yellow Phase of the State-wide reopening. This guidance specifically supersedes and replaces the previous revised guidance issued on April 28, 2020. Most importantly, the new guidance permits those real estate businesses to operate throughout the Commonwealth during the Red and Yellow Phases as long as certain measures are taken to protect employees and the public.
Some of the most relevant changes from the prior guidance are the following new and revised requirements (i.e. things you MUST do):
- Every person at a work site, business location, or property offered for sale must wear a face mask or covering. The requirement for gloves and foot coverings has apparently been removed; although best practices continue to suggest the use of this personal protective equipment.
- Parties must utilize separate transportation to showings and in-person activities. Although it’s unclear, it would be highly unlikely that this now requires a couple attending a showing to take their own vehicles; however, it would not be compliant for buyers and sellers, or more importantly agents and their clients, to travel to showings, listing appointments, or closings together.
- All in-person activities must be scheduled by appointment and records of such appointments must be maintained, although it’s unclear who must maintain those records. It seems like common sense that the listing agent would maintain records of showings, a title company of its closings, or a notary of its acknowledgments. Read strictly, the maintenance of records is required by “[a]ll businesses and employees in the real estate industry authorized to conduct in-person activities…” Whether that’s the application in reality has yet to be determined, whether by enforcement, a modification of current guidance, or new guidance altogether.
- The limitation on persons in a property at any given time has been modified to include “no more than the real estate professional and two people…” Previously only two (2) people, including the real estate professional, were permitted “on site” at any time. Needless to say, this created issues for couples, or buyers with children. While this is a necessary expansion to address those issues, agents should not treat this as a return to normal. Remind clients that parents, grandparents, and others will have to wait outside if they also attend the showing.
- Title companies must utilize remote notary, powers of attorney, and/or exchange documents electronically when possible. When in-person meetings are required, only those signing documents and his or her legal counsel OR real estate professional may attend. Social distance must be observed at all times.
In addition to the required guidance, the Governor’s Office further provided guidance that all real estate professionals are “encouraged” to follow, such as minimizing in-person activities and continuing to utilize remote and electronic marketing when able, keeping parties up-to-date on current protocols and safety information, stagger showings by thirty minutes, provide verbal health screening for all participants, and not touching anything while in a property.
Two things remain specifically prohibited, 1) providing food during any in-person activity, and 2) group showings, open houses, broker opens, or office tours. Enforcement measures continue to include disciplinary actions up through and include suspension of licensure.
While far short of a return to pre-COVID real estate business practices, this new guidance most importantly allows for real estate licensees to immediately resume their livelihoods, which is paramount.