Where and how do we even begin? Our lives changed so dramatically and rapidly overnight with everything becoming a complete blur since mid-March. One day we were telling “coronavirus” jokes, and the next, the NCAA was announcing it would be playing their beloved “March Madness” tournament in empty stadiums amid growing COVID-19 fears. Later that same day, the NBA suspended their season indefinitely, which prompted the inevitable cancellation of the NCAA tournament altogether under mounting public pressure. At this point, it was clear this was no longer a joke, and although we may not have realized it at the time, our lives would unequivocally change entirely over the following days, weeks, and months to come.
Fast forward to mid-April, and much of the United States has been in lockdown mode for nearly four weeks at the time we sat down to write this column. Many industries have been decimated by massive job losses, substantial reductions in pay and/or available hours for those fortunate enough to keep their jobs, and a collective uncertainty for what the future has in store for many Americans. Who knew the terms “essential” and “nonessential” services would come to have such important meaning in our lives?
To be completely forthright, the real estate industry was initially filled with chaos and uncertainty when this all went down. The initial executive order issued by the state of California did not clearly include real estate on its list of “Essential Critical Infrastructure Workers.” Real estate services were eventually added to the state’s executive order and to the public order issued by the city of Los Angeles on April 1 but stated: “open houses and in-person showings of housing for lease and sales are prohibited.” The fact is that there are different restrictions to local orders for the city and county, which left many real estate offices, brokers and agents confused at how to assist and advise clients in need of their services. It also left risk management attorneys everywhere with varying interpretations of the local shelter-in-place orders and what was considered acceptable practices in the real estate industry.
On March 31, the California Association of Realtors® (C.A.R.) moved swiftly to create its Real Estate Best Practices Guidelines during COVID-19, which has become the primary set of operating procedures in the real estate industry for brokers, agents, buyers, sellers, and third-party services during the shelter-in-place orders. These guidelines were developed with the fundamental goal of guiding agents in fulfilling their fiduciary duties to clients while protecting the safety of the people and communities they work in. For a complete list of C.A.R. Best Practices Guidelines, visit carcovidupdates.org/best-practices-guidelines.
Through all this, it has become quite clear that people still need to buy and sell real estate during these unprecedented times in our lives. Although volume is down considerably, we have witnessed the real estate industry and the general public make the necessary adjustments to adapt to the best practices guidelines required for doing business in this new environment. Inspections, appraisals, and the loan process all have their challenges, so being patient, having solid communication amongst all parties involved, and working with experienced professionals will go a long way. We are experiencing much more of our business being conducted virtually and electronically, with an emphasis on being mindful of safety and the well-being of our clients and the communities we work in.
By the time you read this, we hope to be getting back to some semblance of normalcy in our lives, but only time will tell. One thing that has been refreshing throughout the COVID-19 emergency order is to witness our community coming together to support local businesses and one another. We have always been there for each other, and together we will get through this. Stay strong and safe. spt