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Working To Help Consumers During The Pandemic

By: Bill Festa on in  | 

Each day during this COVID-19 pandemic brings more updates and changes.

Over the weekend, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Agency updated the Essential Critical Infrastructure Workforce advisory list. At that time, PAR learned the advisory list now includes residential and commercial real estate services. These federal guidelines are considered by the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED) when making their decisions on waivers. PAR reached out to Gov. Wolf’s office to immediately request that real estate services be re-classified as life-sustaining in Pennsylvania, and several legislators have reached out requesting the same. To be clear, our request is not for a return to business as usual. The world has changed, and our industry will need to change as well.

If this request is granted, PAR is committed to working with the administration and other related industries to develop a comprehensive safety and risk-mitigation strategy for moving the industry forward in a manner that protects the community and those involved in providing and receiving real estate services. Our goal is to minimize in-person services wherever possible and implement appropriate sanitation and social distancing practices where such in-person services are necessary.

At this time, we haven’t heard from the governor’s office, so real estate remains classified as a non-life-sustaining business in Pennsylvania and Realtors® should not be conducting business outside of their homes. From the beginning, PAR has urged members to follow the governor’s order. While some states have allowed certain in-person real estate activities to continue with strict guidelines and limited services, Pennsylvania has not. PAR is working to find a comprehensive solution that is safe for consumers and members, while recognizing that the need for housing is essential to many.

We’ve heard from hundreds of members, many of whom have conflicting ideas of how the industry should move forward. Some believe the industry should continue operating as if nothing has changed, some believe that the responsible thing to do is to stay at home, and others believe there is an option somewhere in between.

As leaders of the association, we are asked to advance the organization in a manner that is consistent with our mission statement and organizational values. PAR’s mission is to protect private property rights, facilitate a consistent and reliable marketplace and promote the professional, ethical and successful practice of real estate.

Unfortunately, the real estate market in the commonwealth is hardly consistent or reliable given the current situation we find ourselves in. Our goal in submitting our letter to the governor is to have a seat at the table and begin the dialogue on how we can best protect consumers, our members and everyone’s family as they address their housing needs. As always, we will do our best to provide you with the most up-to date information we have.

On another topic, we’re pleased that the National Association of Realtors® was successful in having independent contractors included in The CARES Act. NAR published a comprehensive guide to the $2 trillion, 880-page bill to explain the many benefits secured in this package.

We have received many questions about how real estate licensees can apply for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance. Though the program was established through federal legislation, it must be implemented at the state level and Pennsylvania does not yet have its program up and running. PAR will provide guidance to members via email, PAR’s website and social media channels.

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

Supreme Court Ends CDC’s Eviction Moratorium

The Supreme Court’s decision means landlords are now able to evict tenants based on non-payment of rent, unless there is a local eviction moratorium in place. Landlords should consult with an attorney to determine any local restrictions on evictions.

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Comments (26)

Comments

  • Karen Wolf   April 1, 2020 at 7:48 am

    I certainly see both sides of this issue, however, I do believe face to face contact is , or could be, dangerous and especially to those 60+, both Realtors and Homeowners. There are too many unknowns about virus and we need to error on the side of greatest protectionlfor all. It also needs to be brought to the attention of the Governor’s office that his Directive regarding Real Estate Services applies to “For Sale by Owners”! They are conducting Open Houses on weekends. The Governor’s Office needs to have this message to FISBO’s on TV and as headlines in our newspapers!

    Reply to Karen Wolf
  • Joanna Bellinger   April 1, 2020 at 7:54 am

    Since the revision by Gov. Wolf To Align with CISA Happened on Monday, how long will it take to get clarity? NJ had officially listed realtor as essential with limited in-person meetings by 4:00 Monday. Why is it taking PAR so long to figure this out? Either he aligned with CISA or he didnt. ere

    Reply to Joanna Bellinger
    • Kevin Juliano, CAE, RCE   April 1, 2020 at 8:00 am

      Joanna – As soon as the Federal change was announced, PAR leadership and staff started working to find clarity. PAR sent its letter on Monday to the governor’s team. We are awaiting his reply. Unlike other states, Pennsylvania has not taken the CISA list “wholesale”. So we must wait for the governor to expressly add real estate services to the list.

      Reply to Kevin Juliano, CAE, RCE
  • Ellen Biesecker   April 1, 2020 at 8:03 am

    You are doing an amazing job for us. Thank you. Realtor for 44 years

    Reply to Ellen Biesecker
  • Carol Lehman   April 1, 2020 at 8:50 am

    PAR, thank you for your persistence. I too agree that there is a balance moving forward. Every day is revealing new challenges for our clients. I support continuing with a “new normal” and appreciate that real estate sales have been recommended as life sustaining on a federal level.

    Reply to Carol Lehman
  • Douglas K. Oakley   April 1, 2020 at 8:52 am

    I strongly believe a compromise needs to be reached with Wolf’s office.Those with common sense can exercise this attribute if and when we are allowed to practice in our professional field.He has crippled the housing and related industries. Other states allow limited real estate services. PAR needs to continue with pressure on his office. And, our unemployment compensation package needs some definition as soon as possible to ensure the financial stability for the hard working individuals in the real estate industry.Your continued efforts are appreciated.

    Reply to Douglas K. Oakley
  • SCOTT D GELLER   April 1, 2020 at 8:58 am

    Thanks for all of your efforts and unprecedented dedication. Please keep in mind the ADA and our agents and clients who are immunocompromised and/or have underlying conditions that would make any in-person contact much more dangerous. Only open up for business when we can do so safely for all. I think we can deal with the current situation as it is for another month to help save lives.

    Reply to SCOTT D GELLER
  • Joanna Bellinger   April 1, 2020 at 9:01 am

    Thank You Kevin Juliano. I understand the issue is with the Governor’s office. His website & statements said he Aligned. If that is not what he did, he shouldnt have stated it. It has created a hole other level of questions and anxiety. I believe as a whole realtors want to do the right thing. We have Savvy clients who are asking us what is up, they have looked at CISA the list. Thank you for all you are doing.

    Reply to Joanna Bellinger
  • Marian Rutt   April 1, 2020 at 9:16 am

    Thank you hearing our voices. I believe we will need to implement a new normal for conducting real estate servies.

    Reply to Marian Rutt
  • Mike B   April 1, 2020 at 9:23 am

    Thank you PAR for all that you are doing. These are uncharted waters, and I believe the hardest decisions are yet to come — even if the LAW allows for some degree of Real Estate business to occur not just from our own living rooms, the question is – is THAT the ethical thing to do? Is putting our clients, buyers, sellers, and their families in jeopardy of becoming ill (from an asymptomatic individual) worth it? How would you feel if YOU were the one who infected someone? Again, I am grateful for all you are doing. Stay Healthy!

    Reply to Mike B
  • Anthony Cimino   April 1, 2020 at 9:48 am

    Thank you. Excellent. Is PAR recommending our members write to their senators and house representatives?

    Reply to Anthony Cimino
    • Kevin Juliano, CAE, RCE   April 1, 2020 at 10:42 am

      Anthony – At this time, we are not advocating for that outreach method.

      Reply to Kevin Juliano, CAE, RCE
  • Rick Gisondi   April 1, 2020 at 9:49 am

    Thank you PAR. We as a collective group can make changes and operate safely. I believe in what we do as Realtors, we are essential and our work is life sustaining. I also believe in US as a group. Wolf needs to wake up

    Reply to Rick Gisondi
  • Frank Jacovini   April 1, 2020 at 10:46 am

    Unfortunately until the time when we have a vaccine for Corvid-19, life and our industry will not be the same even if we are deemed “essential” . Even with all the technology we have at our disposal, the simple truth is that almost no one will make a major purchase of a home unless they get to “kick the tires” so to speak. We are going to have develop a course of action moving forward to be able to safely show homes. What that looks like and how it is implemented will need to be discussed. The stay at home order may lift in June but the virus will remain around for some time, possible till summer of 2021. We have to have a plan on how to carry out our duties and responsibilities. It’s one thing to say “I would like to buy a home” or “I would like to sell my home” but there are many situations where someone HAS to buy a home or sell a property and we have to be able to assist or the PUBLIC will start to think WE are NOT essential.

    Reply to Frank Jacovini
  • Kenneth Enochs Jr.   April 1, 2020 at 10:50 am

    Great article! Thank you again for all of your hard work and support! As challenging as this situation is for all of us across our diverse state, we all need to remain focused on the communities that we serve and place the health and safety of every citizen of the Commonwealth above our personal economic needs and goals. After all, demographics drive our business not economic downturns and disasters. There is no doubt there will be an impact on all business, but we need to remember that this situation is temporary, not permanent. This too shall pass. We need to recognize that while it is painful currently that many more positive outcomes will come out of all of this. We will learn and grow as individuals and as an industry. And yes while many other surrounding states may have deemed real estate an “essential“ business they also have a “shelter in place” so effectively no one can leave their home to do business anyway. Wishing everyone good health and peace! Stay home and stay safe!

    Reply to Kenneth Enochs Jr.
  • Holly N   April 1, 2020 at 11:00 am

    There has to be a happy medium somewhere for the R.E. industry. If not, the long term results will be devastating.

    Reply to Holly N
  • Kim D   April 1, 2020 at 11:14 am

    Thank you PAR for all that you are doing! I believe that residents in our Commonwealth have the right to shelter and that we should be considered essential. Certainly precautions are needed but I have clients that need to find new homes for a variety of reasons. I understand the debate on Covid-19 is large and we all have our opinions.
    Wishing all health in these trying times.

    Reply to Kim D
  • Matt   April 1, 2020 at 12:46 pm

    This is an impossible scenario for anyone in a position of leadership right now…that I understand. That being said, I think that we have to take into account the absolute NEED for people to sell real estate, now. There are some consumers that are in a really tough spot right now because they can not sell their home, nor rent it. Vacant homes especially. I am dealing with 3 sellers who purchased a new home, were working on prepping the old home to sell and now can’t. 2 of them have since been laid off and now their equity that they could be living off of is trapped in the vacant property that no one is allowed to enter. This doesn’t seem like a protection of private property rights for the consumer. A lot of consumers are losing their patience with us and they are going to start trying to buy and selling homes on their own out of necessity, not savings, without our guidance or assistance. We have sellers listing FSBO right now because we can’t allow them to show their own homes.

    It’s very easy to just say shut up and stay home until you don’t have a home to move into or can’t get the money out of your home you need to sell. I don’t think anyone expects that we’ll be conducting business as usual. Open houses, occupied properties, especially those at risk should not happen. There has to be a way for us to help some of those that are hurting financially via the sale of real estate. The general consumer who needs to get into a home or needs to sell their property are not going to wait for us to figure out how to conduct business like professionals in a different environment. The longer we are considered “non-essential” to the sale of real estate, the more the general public is going to agree with it.

    Reply to Matt
  • Christine Sable   April 1, 2020 at 1:32 pm

    Please don’t forget the commercial real estate brokers. While we are not selling homes, we do provide a vital service to businesses seeking to buy, sell or lease space. Right now I have several totally vacant listings (office, warehouse, etc.) that pose no hazard to anyone as no one has been in them for months. I can disinfect door handles and light switches and stay outside in my car while a prospect walks through, or use a lockbox, thus having no contact, not even within 6 feet. However current rules do not allow me to even do that. Seems like a real disservice to commercial clients and it is crippling to businesses in the PA economy. I also have two unoccupied new listings ready to be signed which cannot be listed as we can’t take interior photos or allow anyone in. Some realistic guidelines should be established which protects everyone’s safety but allows some reasonable commerce to continue. I also sympathize with my residential Realtor friends, some of their clients really are in an urgent situation and must sell or buy. Please get us all a common sense resolution to this situation asap!

    Reply to Christine Sable
  • Sheila Kent   April 1, 2020 at 2:12 pm

    Thank you for your efforts!

    Reply to Sheila Kent
  • Gary L Cassel   April 1, 2020 at 3:11 pm

    It’s interesting how NJ Governor recently approved one-on-one interaction with showings in a state that is #2 on the list for virus infections. In addition, if I have a listing and Seller insists on allowing showings because the house is vacant and an Agent from another office shows, I am equally as guilty as the Agent that showed the house? And am I in violation of my Fiduciary responsibility to my Seller if I do not follow their direction? (I realize I could release this Seller from their contract with me). I know the Seller cannot require me to commit an illegal or unethical act for their benefit. And what would prevent the Consumer from jumping from one agent to another until the Consumer finds an Agent that will snub their nose at Governor Wolf’s directives and show the house anyway? I could go on and on with scenarios. I certainly appreciate all the hard work the individuals at NAR, PAR and the local Associations are offering. Keep up the good work! Stay safe.

    Reply to Gary L Cassel
  • Preston Moore   April 1, 2020 at 5:07 pm

    I believe that real estate is an essential life activity because humans need a place to sleep. All animals need a safe place to sleep in order to survive through the night and so do we.
    In cities that have large homeless populations, big discussions are being held to house the homeless. What we are talking about is not necessary to house the homeless, but we have contingent and under agreement deals that need to close.
    It appears that the extension of our stay at home policy to April 30th means that maybe we can close those deals in May as long as the policy is not extended. It is not my call to extend or not to extend. I just sell real estate.
    I believe the Governor should allow realtors to complete contingent and under agreement deals NOW. PAR should work with all stakeholders to develop procedures that are SAFE for all parties.
    The fact that we are experiencing our First Pandemic, if we have agreed upon procedures, we can always use them in the future if another event occurs.
    As for new listings and sales, we have to make sure that all realtors are playing with the same set of rules. PAR is not an enforcement entity so someone has to be the referee.

    Reply to Preston Moore
  • Irene Richmond   April 1, 2020 at 5:27 pm

    Thank you for keeping us informed on this topic. Is there any way PAR can send out a Call to Action email to be sent to the Governor from Realtors? I understand all sides of this debate. It’s just tough feeling so helpless, in this situation.

    Reply to Irene Richmond
  • Dian Colletti   April 1, 2020 at 5:49 pm

    Many business’s are adversely affected by the severity of this virus. Do those of you advocating for opening realtors and the general public up to exposure really want the responsibility and possible liability that goes along with this type of decision? With educated medical professionals leaning toward shutting down the entire country for a period of time, I am shocked that PAR is advocating to have real estate exempted , putting me and my clients at risk. It is easy to say “do what makes you feel comfortable” but older individuals and those with health risks will be in a position to be forced to make life threatening decisions. Do any of you really want that on your conscience? The potential of bringing this illness to your client or family? We all need to do our part to keep not only ourselves and our own family safe but also the volunerable. I am disappointed that PAR is bowing to pressure to get an exception, and the realtors putting financial interests above the safety of everyone involved. We are no different than the majority of businesses servicing the public and suffering hardship right now. Do you realize the choice you will be forcing me and agents like me who have health volunerabilities, to make if we are deemed an essential business? It is time to stop being so selfish, do your part and understand you will lose business. The only reason this has become an issue is because of the unethical agents who have continued to work, as seen by the number of MLS new listings and contingent/ under contract listings. When consumers see this , their question is, well if you can’t show me the home someone else can. there is no “clarity” needed from Wolfs directive. It is clear. What you are hoping for is an exception and one that will cause loss of life.

    Reply to Dian Colletti
  • Thomas L Toole   April 1, 2020 at 9:08 pm

    I appreciate the information and the diversity of our organization. We are a group of individuals that are the most part Independent contractors. We are responsible and undertand the social consience of our profession and we
    follow the rules of our government. Our request is to be treated as such to operate our business even in this crisis. We feel that this can be done in a reasonable method of social distancing and responsible representation
    to our clients and most of all to the citizens of Pennsylvania and citizens of the World. I feel all of us understand the severity of the situation and the caution that is necessary to operate our business, I also feel the responsibility we have to our clients and feel we can do both carefully and within the confines of social distancing.

    Reply to Thomas L Toole
  • Ryan Thomas   April 1, 2020 at 10:59 pm

    I have a client that is moving here from out of state to fill a position in a hospital. Obviously his starting the job is arguably important. But he his family has no place to live here. So at the moment we are talking about finding a short term rental because I can’t show him houses. There are certainly many things I can abstain from for a time in this business, but these restrictions have broad ramifications and complications. So he’s looking at rentals instead of houses to buy, cause he has to live somewhere. Housing is crucial.

    Reply to Ryan Thomas

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