By Todd Fahlman
The first thing that comes to my mind when I think about real estate today is the safety of our families, loved ones, friends, home buyers and sellers. The second thought is a song written by Bob Dylan, “The times they are a changing.”
There are times when something occurs, and it changes how we do normal. I believe the COVID-19 virus is a pivotal moment in our nation’s history. We are going to see things change that will not return to the old way.
I want to address how as an industry we have already made strategic changes to ensure the safety of our clients and ourselves. Real estate may slow down a bit but it never stops. Shelter is a basic need, and we see people moving in every real estate market imaginable. During the 1980’s when mortgage interest rates were up around 18% people still bought and sold homes.
You may recall a time when you didn’t need to prove your income to get a loan on a home and purchased whatever you wanted – no credit, no job, no income.
During the great recession the real estate market dramatically bottomed out, but still lived on. Just recently we have seen home prices skyrocket, and people are still buying and selling homes.
Fear is a real feeling, and I’m not going to ignore the reality of our present-day circumstances. But I still have people calling to help them buy and sell property. We have financial, relocation, social and relational circumstances that create the need for a home to be purchased or sold. Here are some things were are doing to protect customers at this time:
•We have added a new addendum to the purchase and sales agreement. Form 22FM “Force Majeure and Closing Addendum to Purchase and Sale Agreement” was just published as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. This form forces an automatic 10-day extension to the close date in the event of acts of God, war, riots, strikes, fire, flood, epidemics or other similar occurrences. I have already used this addendum and saved a transaction plus the buyer’s earnest
•New showing protocol has evolved as well. Brokers are setting appointments rather than just giving a time then showing up to see the home. Showings should be restricted to groups of less than four people and with strong social distancing. Shoes are being removed prior to entering the home and hand
sanitizer is used by everyone. Buyers are instructed not to touch anything in the home. Buyer brokers will open doors using a sanitized wipe and all other doors and closets. •No individual with a cough or a sniffle will be shown a home – allergy season or not.
•Open houses are temporarily restricted. Brokers are utilizing live video showings to start the search for their buyers as well.
•Title and escrow companies are now doing drive-up signings for the closing documents and have developed mobile apps for earnest money deposits. •Video negotiations with customers and other brokers is becoming a normal practice as well as buyer and seller consultations are almost all conducted via online video conferencing.
This is quickly becoming the new normal.
Finally, do not panic, stay informed and use your best judgment. Please consult your local professional real estate broker if you have any further concerns.
Todd Fahlman writes a monthly real estate column for this newspaper.