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By: Hank Lerner, Esq. on in  |   |   | 

Updates on COVID-19 and Real Estate in Pennsylvania

Editor’s Note: As the impact of COVID-19 (coronavirus) is fluid, information in this article was correct at the time of posting and may be out of date at the time you are reading it. For the most up-to-date guidance on coronavirus, please visit PARealtors.org/coronavirus.

You’ve got questions. Lots of questions.

At this point, things are changing day by day – sometimes even hour by hour. And since real estate transactions are dependent on so many third-party service providers, the complexity of each individual question is complicated by many orders of magnitude. To be perfectly honest, right now we have just as many questions as you do, and very few firm answers.

But we’re working on it. Even if you can’t see the results just yet, PAR is working hard to get information and answers to help our members and their clients in these difficult times. Here’s a snapshot of the things we’ve been doing, and some tips on the sorts of questions you should be asking about your transactions to assess how to move forward the best that you can.

 

License Renewal/Continuing Education

 

The current license renewal cycle ends on May 31, so licensees ordinarily would need to complete continuing education and complete their renewals through the Department of State’s Pennsylvania Licensing System (PALS) by that date. Many members have asked if these deadlines will be extended now that the relevant state offices are closed or cut back and most real estate schools have canceled in-person classes.

PAR has been in constant contact with the State Real Estate Commission and the Bureau of Professional and Occupational Affairs to express our concerns and ask for extensions. They are currently working through their options and we hope to have a response shortly.

IN THE MEANTIME: There are various sources for online education, and many local associations have partnerships with these providers. Members who still need continuing education credits can certainly look to these resources if they don’t want to wait to see when in-person classes may be available again.

 

Government Offices

 

Successfully closing a transaction involves lots of contact with various county and municipal governments for things like property inspections, tax payments and deed recording. Unfortunately, each government office is operating under its own policies at the moment, so it’s unclear just what services are available in each area. Some government offices are still operating under their regular policies, some have shut down completely and many are somewhere in the middle.

PAR has been in touch with many statewide organizations including the Pennsylvania Recorder of Deeds Association, Pennsylvania Land Title Association and Pennsylvania State Association of Township Supervisors, among others, to explain how this patchwork approach is making real estate transactions extremely difficult and to try to work towards a common solution. This will be an ongoing discussion with many facets, and we’re working to provide member resources as we’re able to collate that information.

IN THE MEANTIME: Information about the county recorders of deeds has been compiled by the Pennsylvania Land Title Association. Limited information about state and county court operations are available through the Unified Judicial System of Pennsylvania. This information may change frequently, so members should call county courthouses or municipal offices regularly to assess their functionality.

 

Title Companies and Closings

 

Reports from across the state indicate that the actual physical closing process is being handled differently. Some title companies are doing business as usual with in-person closings – though often with additional distancing between the parties (e.g., buyer and seller in separate rooms with separate paperwork and pens). Some are handling things remotely as much as they can (parties signing and notarizing separately off-site). And unfortunately, some are closing down for business altogether. In some cases, even if the title companies are willing to close the transaction their inability to perform certain ancillary items (such as an inability to file the deed if a recorder is shut, or an inability to get tax certificates and utility payoffs from a shuttered municipality) is forcing delays.

Part of our discussions with the Land Title Association is focused on ensuring that title services are available as widely as possible, and we will continue to work with them to provide additional information to members.

IN THE MEANTIME: Call the title companies that are scheduled to handle your closings and ask them what limitations they’re experiencing. If one company can’t accommodate a closing, it may be necessary to seek out another provider that can handle the transaction.

 

Forms and Extensions

 

There are a lot of transactions hitting speedbumps of various sorts because of the unavailability of resources and/or service providers. Many members have been drafting some sort of contract extension language and have been asking PAR for a state standard form.

Staff and counsel have reviewed various forms options and have been hard at work drafting possible language. Without getting into all the detail, let’s just say that there’s a delicate balance between speed and comprehensiveness, and we want to make sure we’re not going to write something that actually adds confusion to the market. More information will be made available in the next several days.

IN THE MEANTIME: If your transaction needs extended time frames, there’s already a form for that – the Change in Terms Addendum (Form CTA) allows the parties to change any deadline in the Agreement by mutual agreement.

 

Jobs

 

Given that the bulk of Realtors® are independent contractors, there’s been a great deal of concern over whether and how any governmental aid would impact members. NAR has been pushing for independent contractors to be included in federal legislation, and there are some helpful provisions in the bill that was just passed. More information is available through NAR, and we expect further clarification will be made available.

The Pennsylvania Association of Realtors® is posting new information on its coronavirus webpage at PARealtors.org/Coronavirus to help Realtors® navigate the challenges posed by the pandemic.

37 Responses
  • March 19, 2020 at 7:31 am Wally Fairman says

    Helpful

    Reply
  • March 19, 2020 at 7:58 am Kari Dawson says

    Thank you for keeping me up to date! Thanks for all you do

    Reply
  • March 19, 2020 at 8:05 am Merlin says

    A huge THANK YOU to all PAR leadership and staff for all the hard work and overtime that is being done behind the scenes for all the members during this critical time! #grateful

    Reply
  • March 19, 2020 at 8:13 am Angela Young says

    Thank you getting this information out and keeping us informed!

    Reply
  • March 19, 2020 at 8:26 am Lynn Knapko says

    Thank you, this information is helpful. I’ll forward this on.

    Reply
  • March 19, 2020 at 8:43 am Mark Krystyniak says

    Thank You for the update…. Anything to assist is appreciated.

    Reply
  • March 19, 2020 at 8:53 am Nicole Horton says

    Thank you

    Reply
  • March 19, 2020 at 9:06 am Pat Cerviello says

    Thank you for this information. Please keep us updated.

    Reply
  • March 19, 2020 at 9:30 am Randy Myer says

    Thank you for being so proactive and getting us the answers before we even have the questions. We’re lucky to have all of you working for us

    Reply
  • March 19, 2020 at 9:37 am Heather says

    Thanks for the update and continued effort to keep us informed!!

    Reply
  • March 19, 2020 at 9:46 am Len Ferber says

    We are thankful for our PAR association keeping our members informed

    Reply
  • March 19, 2020 at 9:53 am Kenneth Enochs Jr. says

    Thank you for the comprehensive update!

    Reply
  • March 19, 2020 at 10:03 am Adriene Price says

    Thank you for the updates and keeping keeping us informed it’s very much appreciated especially during these very tough times.

    Reply
  • March 19, 2020 at 10:24 am Pat Crawford says

    Thank you for this thorough information.

    Reply
  • March 19, 2020 at 10:45 am Rick Foley says

    Thank you for keeping us well informed.

    Reply
  • March 19, 2020 at 11:10 am Janeen C says

    This information and guidance is greatly appreciated

    Reply
  • March 19, 2020 at 11:18 am Doug says

    Very informative. Thanks for the constant updates.

    Reply
  • March 19, 2020 at 11:20 am Sharon Kehres says

    Thank you PAR staff. As always, you there to keep us informed. Really appreciate all of you.

    Reply
  • March 19, 2020 at 11:20 am Dawn Parasolick, RAMP Education Director says

    Is the PALS system taking renewals yet?

    Reply
    • March 19, 2020 at 11:54 am Kelly Leighton says

      Not as far as PAR is aware.

      Reply
  • March 19, 2020 at 11:49 am SCOTT D GELLER says

    On behalf of the Bucks County Association of REALTORS, and myself personally, thank you for your efforts! There’s a lot more work to be done and I am here to help – just ask.

    Reply
  • March 19, 2020 at 12:18 pm Rick Opperman says

    Thank you for working on handling all of our questions and situations as quickly as you.can. We all appreciate your service.

    Reply
  • March 19, 2020 at 12:21 pm Smoky Panepinto says

    Thank you; much appreciated. God bless.

    Reply
  • March 19, 2020 at 2:17 pm Brian Slater says

    Great information to pass on to our agents.. Thank you..

    Reply
  • March 19, 2020 at 5:58 pm Linda Kotzen says

    Great help for us to explain to buyers and sellers the reason for delays.

    Reply
  • March 19, 2020 at 6:45 pm Angie Miller says

    Thank you.

    Reply
  • March 19, 2020 at 9:37 pm Elizabeth Masich says

    Thanks for keeping us informed!

    Reply
  • March 19, 2020 at 11:07 pm THOMAS PAUL says

    Thank you for the information. It was very helpful. Please continue.

    Reply
  • March 19, 2020 at 11:48 pm Michelle Bradley says

    Hank, why does PAR consider appraisers part of “real estate services“ and not part of “credit intermediation”, which is permitted to be open. If people are not able to refinance their debt, it could worsen the housing scenario and financial landscape.

    Reply
  • March 20, 2020 at 1:53 am Kathleen McQuilkin says

    Thank you PAR for all that you are doing for our members so that we can best help our consumers!

    Reply
  • March 20, 2020 at 8:37 am Ken Krauter says

    Thanks to PAR for their efforts on our behalf…!

    Reply
  • March 20, 2020 at 8:37 am Lisa Linn says

    Thanks for acting fast. Helping our clients get into their new home right now is life sustaining and essential! You are doing a good job keeping us up to date and taking action!

    Reply
  • March 20, 2020 at 9:21 am Susan Bender says

    Thank you so much for keeping us informed!

    Reply
  • March 22, 2020 at 7:53 am Joanne Meikle says

    We still need a firm answer from the Pa. real estate commission on whether we can show houses or not. With half of our membership continuing to list and show houses and half being told not to, it just isn’t working. I would think to comply with the purpose of the Governor’s message, we should stop in person real estate now.

    Reply
    • March 22, 2020 at 9:13 am Kevin Juliano says

      Hi Joanne – In our FAQs on PARealtors.org/coronavirus, we do have a specific question and answer about showing homes to clients. Additionally, as noted again here in the comments by Hank Lerner, Esq., PAR continues state that Realtors® should not be conducting in-person, physical activities. We are not suggesting that Realtors® continue in-person showings with minimal contact, but that they consider offering virtual services to avoid personal contact or that they stop that particular activity altogether.

      Reply
  • March 27, 2020 at 4:12 pm Bob Bustamante says

    Will PAR be coming out with guidance for Realtors who may be considering applying for the unemployment that will be authorized as soon as President Trump signs the authorization? Many Realtors in my Office are wondering?

    Reply
    • March 27, 2020 at 4:51 pm Kevin Juliano says

      Bob – Once the processes are updated with the state, we will be sharing information with members.

      Reply

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