Social Distancing & Real Estate
Note: this information about social distancing and real estate in Washington State is based upon current guidelines as of May 8, 2020 as provided by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), Washington State Department of Health, Washington State's "Stay Home, Stay Healthy Order" and related memos/orders, and the Northwest Multiple Listing Services. As the situation surrounding the pandemic changes quickly, please listen to state and local authorities for the most up-to-date information that may expand or reduce limitations for conducting real estate transactions. This post does not constitute legal or medical advice. If you need either, please contact an appropriate licensed professional.
I think it's safe to assume that you have heard the phrase "social distancing" by now. But something you might need to know more about is how buyers, sellers, and agents are navigating their way through social distancing and real estate transactions. Well, you're in the right place. Let's get to it!
What is Social Distancing?
In case you've been living off the grid, and you're not sure what social distancing is, here's a basic primer:
According to the CDC, when outside of our homes we need to keep space between ourselves and others. When we have to be out, some of the most common practices are to stay at least six feet from other people, and avoid gathering in groups.
In addition to minimizing in-person interactions, we are also encouraged to wash our hands frequently, not touch our faces, use face masks when out of the house, and disinfect hard surfaces frequently to reduce the spread of the coronavirus.
So, how do we do all of that and still get properties bought and sold? Here are some best practices.
Social Distancing & Sellers
The good news is that licensed real estate agents like us are still allowed to show your property in-person. But we can do so only by appointment, and no more than two people can be onsite at a time, including the broker.
Obviously, that makes things a little cumbersome for couples and families to see a place together. This means that it is more important than ever to capture flattering photos of your property, and to post walk-through videos and 3D virtual tours online. Make those first (and maybe only) online impressions count!
For properties that are owner-occupied, we can utilize the multiple listing services scheduling program, ShowingTime. The goal of using ShowingTime is to avoid scheduling multiple showings at the same property at the same time.
Other best practices for sellers to follow:
- Disinfect all surfaces when you leave the property before each showing, and again when you return.
- Make it easy for you to clean as you go by placing cleaning supplies around the property.
- Finally, place hand sanitizer at the entry for house-hunters and showing agents to use on their way in and out.
- If you or someone in your household is ill, please let us know so showings can be rescheduled.
Social Distancing & Buyers
Although in-person showings of no more than two people (including the broker) are permitted, we are strongly encouraged to share virtual tours of properties first. Additionally, the use of video calls during the showing is a great way to share the experience in real-time with others who cannot attend due to the two-person limit.
All in-person activities must be by appointment only, and the two people meeting must strictly follow social distancing guidelines provided by the CDC by remaining at least six feet apart at all times.
When viewing a home we need to touch as few surfaces as possible, use hand sanitizer and cloth face coverings, and always stay at least six feet apart. Finally, if you are not feeling well, please reschedule the showing or rely upon the virtual resources to make choices regarding your real estate purchase.
Social Distancing & Closing
Title and escrow companies provide settlement services that support financial services and banking, so they are deemed essential under the Governor's orders. Although some title and escrow branch facilities may have modified their hours or closed, for the time being they are still able to offer remote online services.
One silver lining to all of this is that we have so many tools and resources to handle almost every single transaction detail remotely now. If this were happening 30-40 years ago it would have been completely different. I think we'd be hoarding fax machine toner instead of toilet paper! (Kidding...please don't hoard toilet paper...or anything else...).
For further information, here are some links to the referenced agencies and decision makers:
- Northwest Multiple Listing Services Full List of COVID-19 FAQs and Informational Bulletin for Buyers & Sellers
- Latest information concerning COVID-19 from the CDC and the Washington State Department of Health
- March 27, 2020 Memo from Governor Jay Inslee regarding Real Estate and Mortgage Essential Business activity
If you have specific questions about health concerns related to COVID-19, you should consult with a health professional.
All the best,
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