When we think of essential businesses, the first thing that likely comes to our mind is law enforcement, medical workers, and supermarkets. However, according to the California Association of Realtors (CAR), real estate is also considered an “essential business” by the federal government.
The Covid-19 crisis has forced realtors to showcase homes virtually, but some cities in the Bay Area are starting to loosen restrictions in their respective jurisdiction.
According to Lotus Lou, a spokesperson for CAR, agents are being instructed to abide by the most restrictive measures in place and are not allowed to showcase open houses. She also stated to Curbed SF that most brokerages are doing a bulk of their work, if not all of it, virtually.
Because when taking into consideration the Center for Disease Control [CDC] guidelines for disinfecting a house, which include obtaining hard to get cleaning agents such as rubbing alcohol and bleach, it’s easy to understand why most realtors are choosing the easier virtual route to selling homes.
Recently, Curbed SF spoke to Vanessa Bergmark, CEO of Red Oak Realty in the East Bay, to get more insight on how the market is being affected the pandemic. “The practice of selling real estate has been deemed essential, however, many ancillary services—staging, prep including landscaping, painting, tiling, floors—is not.”
Being unable to properly repair or maintain a property before a sale can directly affect the pricing of a home, making it harder for agents to sell home at their market values.
Aside from the challenges associated with selling SF Bay Area homes near Contra Costa county to home buyers, Brothers Buy Homes the inconsistencies across counties that causes obstacles for realtors. For example, Alameda County and some of Contra Costa County allow photographers to take pictures of homes for sale but Berkeley doesn’t.
In our interview, she refers to the maze of different standards as “muddled.”
Other brokerages are applying their own rules to better protect themselves and make the selling process safer. Marco Caravel from Vanguard Realtor gave us insight into one out-of-the-box approach his practice is implementing, “I’ve had agents offer to allow in-person access to my buyers after signing forms, releasing the owners from legal liability.”
The Dos and Don’ts of Brokering
To better understand how San Francisco is managing the rules of selling during a pandemic, Joseph Sweiss, spokesperson for the SF Department of Emergency Management, emphasized some key aspects to properly brokering until things get back to normal.
- In almost all cases, in-person tours are strictly forbidden.
- When local and state rules conflict, always comply with the stricter of two orders.
- If a situation arises where a virtual tour is not possible, a physical tour can be allowed if it is limited to one agent and two visitors. This does not apply to occupied units.
- San Francisco natives are only allowed to move into new homes if the moving plans began before the shelter-in-place order and cannot be avoided. For example, if not moving would result in the occupant living in unsanitary conditions (such as mold or mildew), homelessness, or physical danger, then it is deemed appropriate for them to move.
If you want more details on how real estate has been affecting by Covid-19 in your region, Redfin created a real-estate map of the U.S. that goes over all the different guidelines for selling homes in each respective city and county.