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PAR Officers: Follow Governor’s Order

By: McGee, Michael on in  | 

The ongoing debate amid the COVID-19 pandemic is whether real estate should be classified as life sustaining. Under the order by Gov. Tom Wolf, all non-life sustaining businesses in Pennsylvania were asked to close their physical locations as of 8 p.m. on March 19 to slow the spread of COVID-19. Hospitals, pharmacies, grocery stores, medical facilities, government services and banking/financial services were deemed life sustaining in this crisis and are able to continue to operate. Real estate services were not categorized as life sustaining.

“During this crisis, the governor’s order is clear that Realtors® can only do business if they can conduct it from their home. That means you shouldn’t be leaving your house to do any type of business activities. You can, however, contact clients via telephone or electronically. You could still take listings and offers, but you can’t go through a house –even if it’s vacant– to take photos or a video,” said PAR President William Festa. “If you’ve got someone who wants to tour homes you cannot do that as that’s not life sustaining in today’s pandemic environment per the governor’s order.”

“We’re fielding an incredible number of calls, emails and texts from Realtors® across the commonwealth, looking for guidance,” Festa added. “And the association continues to request further clarification from Gov. Wolf’s office, the Department of Community and Economic Development and our legislators.”

The governor’s office has received more than 15,000 requests for waivers and has reviewed less than half of them. And without a public database of waiver requests and responses, there are no specifics available on why one company may have been granted a waiver and one has not.

In the meantime, PAR leaders are telling Realtors® to follow the governor’s orders to cease doing in-person business.

“That means you can’t be going on in-person showings, going through people’s homes or taking clients through homes,” said Chris Raad, PAR’s president-elect. “The governor’s order asks people to be responsible and avoid person-to-person contact unless it’s for your daily life-sustaining needs, like groceries or medications.”

Realtors® frustrated that they are following the governor’s restrictions, only to find other brokers are trying to usurp their clients, continue to contact PAR and vent the issues on social media. “This type of behavior could be a violation of Article 16 of NAR’s Code of Ethics, which prohibits Realtors® from interfering with existing, exclusive relationships with another Realtors®’ clients to get their business,” said PAR First Vice President Chris Beadling. “You can’t decide not to follow the Code of Ethics because this situation seems like an opportunity for you to gain some more business. Realtors® need to follow the Code in every situation.”

“These are unprecedented times,” said PAR Treasurer Al Perry. “We’ve heard from a great many Realtors®, who are acting in the best interests of their community by staying home and trying to avoid personal contact, only to see others boasting that they’re continuing to operate their business as usual. We’re explaining that the governor’s order requires all Pennsylvania Realtors® to stay at home and do the business they can virtually.”

“There are some agents that have tried many ‘creative ways’ to work around the clear language of the governor’s order and still attempt to do business as usual. Don’t. Consider what would happen if your client or someone else involved would become ill. This is certainly not acting in the best interests of your client,” said Bill McFalls Jr., PAR’s 2019 president.

Enforcement of the order began at 8 a.m. Monday, March 23 and will be handled by the Pennsylvania State Police along with other state and local authorities.

For the most up-to-date information, be sure to continue to visit PARealtors.org/coronavirus for answers to the most pressing questions.

Is the Pandemic Driving More People to the Suburbs?

“We see lingering effects of the coronavirus on shopping behavior and preferences. In the Northeast, especially, people are now as likely as before the pandemic to be looking for a home in a market that’s not where they currently live. However, those looking elsewhere are much more likely to be looking in smaller, nearby markets,” said realtor.com® Chief Economist Danielle Hale.

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Comments (31)

Comments

  • Joseph D’Alonzo   March 26, 2020 at 7:25 am

    Make it easy and clear by taking the MLS off-line for a couple of weeks!

    Reply to Joseph D’Alonzo
  • Liz   March 26, 2020 at 7:40 am

    If a Seller is fearful of this contagious disease and does not want movers in their home which they occupy, touching all their possessions, putting the possessions in a truck, and moving them to a new location, is that seller still obligated to close on the date originally agreed to in the contract? The Buyer is unwilling to give an extension.

    Reply to Liz
    • Hank Lerner, Esq.   March 27, 2020 at 11:31 am

      Sorry for the delayed response, Liz. Short answer is that there’s nothing about this situation that would give the seller (or buyer) a simple automatic unilateral right to terminate or postpone closing with no penalty. (Before anyone comments about the COVID form, remember that both parties need to agree to use the form before either can exercise the extension it allows for.) If the parties here can’t reach agreement on an extension the seller could certainly breach the contract and refuse to close – as they could in any other transaction – but absolutely needs to consult counsel about what damages a buyer might seek. To the extent that there are legal theories that might be used as a defense to excuse performance that’s not something PAR can advise on.

      Reply to Hank Lerner, Esq.
  • Janice Kavounas   March 26, 2020 at 7:42 am

    Thank you so much for this article! It has been very frustrating for us she tell our agents that they are not permitted to do in person business when other Brokers continue to do showings. This article is very much appreciated. Thank you for the great work and support.

    Reply to Janice Kavounas
  • Kenneth Enochs Jr.   March 26, 2020 at 7:55 am

    To PAR Leadership and Staff – Thank you for your responsive and diligent guidance! Stay safe and be well! We will get through this!

    Reply to Kenneth Enochs Jr.
  • Wendy Knorr   March 26, 2020 at 8:04 am

    Thank you so much for this clear and concise article! There shouldn’t be any more questions as to what we can do and what not to do! I am so happy this was published. My company has been following these rules all along, but others have not.

    Reply to Wendy Knorr
  • Fred Amendola   March 26, 2020 at 8:13 am

    The main issue most of us realtors have is for our clients who are under contract set to close in the next 1-3 weeks. Some will become homeless as some closings are occurring and others are not due to lenders/closing companies interpretation of what can be or cannot be done. Buyers temporarily laid off are concerned about getting to closing while the sellers may be ready to close on their next home but cannot due to these issues. I find it ridiculous that we cannot make it easier for the transactions in process to get closed but the beer distributors are open??? I understand ceasing any activities that cannot be done from home for new business but let’s take care of these folks in limbo.

    Reply to Fred Amendola
  • Erica Ramus   March 26, 2020 at 8:27 am

    Liz you should talk to your broker. This is not a question that PAR or anyone on here should answer. Broker first, and if they cannot guide you then the seller should call an attorney.

    Reply to Erica Ramus
  • MJ Dimartino   March 26, 2020 at 8:39 am

    Thank you! Finally clear decisive direction regarding not showing!!!

    Reply to MJ Dimartino
  • Stephanie Burg-Brown, Ph.D   March 26, 2020 at 8:49 am

    Thank you for clarity. We have been following the rules. This is a great time to retool, learn something new, and reconnect with your SOI via phone, text, Social media.

    Reply to Stephanie Burg-Brown, Ph.D
  • Bette McTamney   March 26, 2020 at 8:52 am

    It’s a tough order to live with but when you think of the consequences of jeopardizing the health of your loved ones, the family you live with every day because you thought that one moment of touching a door handle wouldn’t hurt, think again. Our clients understand and do not want to take a chance either. Settlements can go on and as said it is easy to do paperwork electronically and be ready to go when it’s all clear. Thanks to our volunteer Leadership who have taken hours and hours of their time to daily stay on top of these issues and have to continue to do so for those who are not following the rules. Thank you, PAR Leaders and staff !

    Reply to Bette McTamney
  • Lee Ann Salerno   March 26, 2020 at 8:57 am

    Thank you so very much for this concise guidance! Is there a way that MLS can create a new status “Pause” that would allow all active listings to be advertised on all of the syndicates, however, would not allow for showings? I believe the “coming soon” and the “temporarily off the market” status does not allow the active listings to show on all of the syndicates. I think it is in the best interest of the seller/consumers that their homes are able to be advertised during this time. Thank you for all that you are doing for all of us! Take good care and stay well!

    Reply to Lee Ann Salerno
  • SCOTT D GELLER   March 26, 2020 at 9:03 am

    You ALL ROCK! Thank you for stating what should be the obvious, but needed to be heard from you! STAY HOME & STAY SAFE!

    Reply to SCOTT D GELLER
  • Don Warner   March 26, 2020 at 9:08 am

    Finally a very helpful and clear directive. Thank you!

    Reply to Don Warner
  • Shannon Diiorio   March 26, 2020 at 9:18 am

    Thank you for this article!!! Very clear, no room for interpretation.

    Reply to Shannon Diiorio
  • David M. Tkacik   March 26, 2020 at 10:04 am

    Thanks to the PAR leadership for doing this article to clarify this.

    Reply to David M. Tkacik
  • Holly   March 26, 2020 at 10:08 am

    For those agents/brokers who chose to work against the Governor’s policy in our field…what is the penalty against them? If there is no consequence and we lose clients to dishonest agents/brokers, it seems little for them to face.

    Reply to Holly
  • Rick Smith   March 26, 2020 at 10:09 am

    So let me see if I understand this. You can go into convenient stores, grocery stores, lumber yards and so on but you can’t show a vacant house even if you keep a distance of 6 foot or more. As independent contractors we are not entitled to any government handouts such as unemployment, so tell me who’s going to pay our bills when they become due ? I see Governor Wolf has no problem signing bills for government workers to continue to get a paid to be on vacation and big businesses are being bailed out but the most that I see is if a small business such as us Realtors applied to the State we can get a low interest loan. Like we need another loan when we are already to be under crushing debt. Let’s face it if this thing last more than a month or so the real estate industry is going to be in dire straits. I can’t fault people from trying to work and pay their bills. I think some of the people that have responded to this article probably have spouses that have good jobs and this is just more or less a hobby for them.

    Reply to Rick Smith
  • Colleen Scollon   March 26, 2020 at 10:42 am

    Thanks you for making this extremely clear for all. I don’t agree with not allowing access to our BRIGHT MLS. I am working on entering listing information in draft mode for several listings so that when the time comes I am not scrambling. Plus buyers who may have just begun their search can still get somewhat of an idea of what type of properties and price points exist in different areas. #slowthespread 😉

    Reply to Colleen Scollon
  • Lori   March 26, 2020 at 10:49 am

    I’d like to actually see PAR enforcing it. So far all talk and it’s very frustrating seeing some realtor showing their listings and even posting on Facebook that it’s business as usual that they are still showing their listings while we are following PAR instructions.

    Reply to Lori
  • John R   March 26, 2020 at 10:59 am

    Common Sense People. I know it’s difficult but maintain your ethical bearing and follow the rules. Plenty you can still do both online, via phone and email, as well video conferencing. Maintain your bearing and your composure and we will all get through this together.

    Reply to John R
  • Michael Bennett   March 26, 2020 at 11:28 am

    WOW! Thank you for the amazing amount of increased clarity. “During this crisis, the governor’s order is clear that Realtors® can only do business if they can conduct it from their home. That means you shouldn’t be leaving your house to do any type of business activities. You can, however, contact clients via telephone or electronically. You could still take listings and offers, but you can’t go through a house –even if it’s vacant– to take photos or a video,” said PAR President William Festa. “If you’ve got someone who wants to tour homes you cannot do that as that’s not life sustaining in today’s pandemic environment per the governor’s order.” CRYSTAL CLEAR! Thanks for that, but Guv Wolfs March 24, 2020 2:30PM shutdown list clearly states: 1) “Lessors of Real Estate”=”NO”; 2) “Offices of Real Estate Agents and Brokers”=”NO” 3) “Activities related to Real Estate” = “NO” . I completely understand Stay Home and Stay Safe, but what exactly constitutes “activities related to real estate”??? Phone calls? Data entry??? I did not see where the GUV stated or indicated, “orders to cease doing in-person business.” That is the obvious and logical conclusion under the circumstances, but, as you stated, that leaves a lot of unanswered questions. So developing in conjunction with the legislature, guv and our association, perhaps a LIST of approved “real estate activities” would certainly be helpful. Example: Phone calls-YES; Walk thru inspections-NO; Texts -YES; could help eliminate the uncertainty that remains. PLEASE do not shut down MLS as we depend on that to be able to “work from home”. I missed where the GUV said, “that Realtors® can only do business if they can conduct it from their home”. Thanks again for staying on the situation and for keeping us current things unfold.

    Reply to Michael Bennett
  • Alex   March 26, 2020 at 11:56 am

    Is PAR lobbying to get the “status” of the real estate business changed to get more in line with the Federal Guidance from the Department of the Treasury regarding the banking, lending and insurance industries. The Federal Guidance from the Treasury on March 22nd letter from Steve Mnuchin states that workers in these industries have a “special responsibility” to keep working, even if outside the home. This would include lenders and the third party providers of core services that support lending like appraisers. The real estate sales business is connected to this in that they provide the start of that process. Kill the spark, and you kill the fire. Is PAR advocating for the state to re categorize the status so we can get back to work with safe protocols, as others are doing now. In the meantime and until this happens we must all play fair … and follow the rules unless and until the rules are changed.

    Reply to Alex
  • Jayne   March 26, 2020 at 1:51 pm

    Does this order apply to Agents that are “Builders Agents” only? I see a lot of activity regarding new construction, building and selling. How can that be when most have been ordered to stop under Gov Wolf order?
    This is what makes it so hard, agent still selling and writing contracts when we are supposed to obey the order. Everyone knows buyers aren’t going to just write a contract without walking a house! It just doesn’t happen & if it does, it usually due to an out of state buyer or some unusual circumstances.
    We all need business, sales and money in our pockets, too.
    If this order is suppose to be Implemented it should be across the board, period.
    It’s very frustrating when most of us are trying to do the right thing while others are getting by with working and still making money.
    I just don’t understand how housing is not
    Essential?
    This could go on for months, yet most of us will not qualify for the Stimulus payout which is ridiculous.
    I’m sorry, my rant is over! Carry on! lol

    Reply to Jayne
  • Gina Wherry   March 26, 2020 at 2:40 pm

    I appreciate that there has been more detail, but there is still some confusion. I don’t understand why the category Other Services on the last page lists “private households” as a “yes”. Isn’t each home a private household? Does this mean a cleaning or maid service can go into a home and do their work but realtors cannot go into even a vacant home taking every precaution to be safe and sanitary?

    Reply to Gina Wherry
  • CHRIS OPFER   March 26, 2020 at 3:53 pm

    Some of the reasons of mine that I believe the MLS should NOT shut down are….I have a listing that is a vacant lot and we Realtors can sell this virtually without physically meeting people in person. Owners have agreed to allow Buyers and their representatives to view the property without a licensed agent and at separate times. If we Realtors cannot list during these weeks (owners can supply their own photos, videos and documents can be completed and signed online) then wouldn’t those people just sell their properties themselves who are not banned from any real estate activity, like showing people their homes, hold open houses etc? We have sellers and buyers who have to move. If they are willing to accept the risk of having people come into their homes (unoccupied by licenses agents) then shouldn’t we come up with a plan for them and to provide consumers our expertise and guidance? One of my sellers and I have coined the phrase ‘window showings’ which is when the owner would open their blinds and doors in order for potential buyers to see as much as they can without exposing anyone to covid19 unnecessarily. (Of course no one is showing symptoms, came in contact or diagnosed with covid19). There are procedures in place such as potential buyer has to view the video first, show preapproval of list price or higher and anticipated closing date, signed buyer agency and copies of photo ID (co-broke agent can have these which could be released to police if anything criminal happens). Then after the window showing goes well and motivated, willing & able buyers are still willing to expose themselves by going inside then that showing is scheduled (still without an agent or owner physically showing the property). Actually my sellers and I began this when the virus first hit the USA. I never held any in-person meetings after the governor’s announcement and now the properties are under agreement. Isn’t this something that could work and to prevent owners from becoming FSBOs and to come into contact with less people?

    Reply to CHRIS OPFER
  • Tom Blefko   March 26, 2020 at 4:33 pm

    The most common scenario that I see happening is that listing and selling agents don’t leave their home but facilitate a showing between a buyer and a seller either via phone or email with no agent present. After the showing is completed, the respective agent(s) then contact their client(s) and ask, “How did the showing go?” PLEASE – – – address this scenario with a black and white answer for all to see. Permissible or not? I appreciate the dialogue and thank you in advance for your answer.

    Reply to Tom Blefko
  • Chris Reid   March 26, 2020 at 5:04 pm

    Showingtimes should be blacked out. If they can’t log an appointment, they can’t show. Level the playing field, please.

    Reply to Chris Reid
  • Curvin Horning   March 26, 2020 at 5:37 pm

    Buyers will buy, Sellers will sell with or without us, What a great time for For Sale by Owners and Zillow! Talk to your local representatives to get roofs over our client’s heads. Food and Shelter are not essential??? That list can be changed, yesterday they put woodworking on as essential. Stay safe. Stay well.

    Reply to Curvin Horning
  • Marlen Sabella   March 27, 2020 at 7:39 am

    I see property listed every day. Do these realtors have contracts that have been signed digitally? Who can oversee this? Seems like a really hard thing to enforce. Meanwhile the Gov. list of who can do business is being revised daily. Think the beer distributor or construction worker can socially distance better than a realtor showing a vacant house?

    Reply to Marlen Sabella
  • louise dalessandro   March 27, 2020 at 1:23 pm

    An er doc explained that we should think about the covid 19 molecule as glitter.
    Even with social distancing buyers in a house, vacant or otherwise, WILL be leaving covid molecules (glitter) scattered about and even if another buyer goes through with social distancing, 1 hour later, they are picking up glitter and leaving some of their own glitter. Carriers may never get it. Their immune system fights it successfully. But we need to assume we all are carrying it. I hate the position realtors are in. But the short term gains will be virtually wiped out if this isnt nipped asap. so stay focused on the long term gains by UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCE ALLOW A SHOWING.
    keep it virtual. But: people need shelter.
    Buy the house virtually…sterilize before inspections and tour, then sterilize after so seller can come home.
    Who can start a sterilization of homes business? Cover all furniture with plastic? all people wear sterile gear, mask…booties…gloves…appraiser also comes in…the whole process gets done in 1 day. we can figure this out!!!
    Keep bright going. we need all the data.
    sterile showing permitted after pending

    Reply to louise dalessandro

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