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Real Estate Free-For-All, Part I: Why Agents Should NOT be Encouraging Showings During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Even during the pandemic, the Hotline has been ringing daily with questions from licensees seeking guidance on how to maintain daily operations while complying with the Governor’s various Orders. Many are frightened or concerned, wondering how to continue to support a family when no face-to-face interaction can occur with clients, no physical offices can be open, when there is confusion and misinformation as to what title companies can and cannot do, and Buyers and Sellers push (or are being pushed) to close on the purchase and sell of real estate. One of the most popular questions: can I continue to show homes?

To get straight to it, Agents cannot physically show properties. This has been the position of RAYAC and PAR from the issuance of the Governor’s Orders, and was most recently confirmed when the Pennsylvania State Police notified a Pennsylvania brokerage that the showing of properties was in violation of those Orders, as PAR reported here on March 28, 2020.

Some Agents are using this time to get creative with remote interaction, using the internet; email; and voice/video conferencing to communicate with clients. In some instances, Agents have been truly working remotely without interaction with any member of the public. Other Agents, however, have apparently encouraged either Buyers, Sellers, or both to arrange for showings when only the Buyer and Seller are present, not the Listing Agent or more importantly, the Buyer Agent.

The most vital reason this should not be occurring should be obvious: client safety. This scenario is right out of a cheap slasher film. The Agent cannot provide his or her Buyer with access to the lockbox without an Agent’s physical presence at the listed property to facilitate the showing. Are Agents really promoting the client’s best interest, health, safety, and well-being by encouraging Sellers to welcome a complete stranger into his or her home, or Buyers to go into a complete stranger’s home unaccompanied by his or her Agent? More importantly, is an Agent willing to put his or her real estate license on the line by encouraging the potential spread of this virus by sending clients out in defiance of the Governor’s Stay at Home Order? As one of my high school math teachers used to say: “USE YOUR NOODLE, PEOPLE!” Not only could you be endangering someone’s life, you could be putting your real estate license at risk.

Instead, first explain to, and then remind, your clients why the Governor has required that certain non-life sustaining businesses be shut down until at least April 6, 2020, including those practicing real estate without a waiver. Also, keep in mind that waivers apply to a business’ physical location and not to a certain real estate practice by any one Agent, such as showing houses (i.e. even an agent with a waiver CANNOT show a property for the duration of the Stay at Home Order). Lastly, reiterate to the Buyer that you will not be able to answer many, if any, questions about the home without being physically present during the showing.

If the client(s) insist on moving forward despite this initial conversation, recommend a “remote showing,” where the Seller videoconferences with the Listing Agent, Buyer, and Buyer Agent. For obvious reasons, this should not be a preferred practice but would likely not be engaging in the practice of real estate from a physical location in violation of the current restrictions.

While we are all frustrated and anxious about events impacting our lives generally and the Real Estate industry, I implore you to use common sense during these times and not to act in a way that may be perceived to be beneficial in the short-term but could have drastic and dire consequences in the long-term.

The attorneys at Stock and Leader recognize that everyone is struggling with the disruption and uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic. Many individuals and businesses face decisions about how to move forward and function in a time of absolute uncertainty. We are striving to learn as much as we can and quickly as we can. Stock and Leader is here to help you through these difficult and uncertain times. Our focus is on you. You can be confident that Stock and Leader stands beside its clients and will help you navigate these unchartered waters.

Stock and Leader is here to help you through these difficult and uncertain times. If you have any questions related to these updates, please contact our Real Estate team:

Jody Anderson Leighty, Esq.
Timothy P. Ruth, Esq.
Peter T. Ruth, Esq.
Dave A. Jones, Esq.
Victoria Woods, Esq.

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