Real estate is one of the non-life-sustaining industries that have been shut down in Pennsylvania for more than a month because of the ongoing novel coronavirus pandemic. That could soon change however, under a bill introduced by state Sen. Lisa Boscola (D-18).
Boscola Wednesday introduced legislation that would exempt real estate work from Pennsylvania’s business closure order if it complies with certain mitigation practices, including Centers for Disease Control (CDC) guidelines.
In a news release, Boscola said Senate Bill 1135 has bipartisan support among its co-prime sponsors.
“As long as real estate workers adhere to social distancing and other mitigation practices, we need to get them back to work,” she said. “Real estate is not only a critical component of our state’s economy, it is a basic necessity for Pennsylvanians.”
Boscola was critical of the fact that real estate sales have been on lockdown, noting in the news release that have continued in neighboring states, apparently without any problems.
“Pennsylvania is not on the cutting edge,” she said. “Every one of our neighboring states allowed realtors to operate with CDC recommendations throughout the crisis. Pennsylvania needs to get the industry open again.”
Under Boscola’s bill, real estate practices would be exempt from the governor’s closure dictate if the following conditions are met/precautions taken:
- Realtors fully comply with CDC guidelines
- Showings are only held after a buyer has viewed the property online and shows a serious interest in it
- The purchasers are the only people permitted to attend the showing
- Both the realtor and home buyer wear masks and stay six feet apart
- The realtor uses sanitary wipes for any doors or fixtures touched
- The seller is not home during the showing
- The documentation to facilitate the sale/lease is done electronically
- A home inspector may inspect the home alone, use Facetime or other video facilitation to communicate with the buyer, and must bring and use sanitary wipes for anything touched. The seller must vacate the property during the home inspection.
- An appraiser only goes into the home once it is under contract and must also use sanitary wipes for any door handles. The seller must vacate the property for the appraiser.
- Title companies must adhere to CDC guidelines with social distancing and use of masks. Sellers can have documents pre-signed and opt to not attend the closing.
- Open houses or other public gatherings are banned.
- Prior to showing a home, the realtor, seller and buyer must all electronically sign disclosure statements indicating that they are not aware of being exposed to COVID-19.
“My legislation would help get realtors and their important industry back up and running,” Boscola said. “This can be effectively achieved along with precautionary efforts to continue our state’s successful Covid-19 mitigation effort.”
Several industries are preparing to reopen in Pennsylvania under a plan for eventually easing restrictions that was recently announced by Gov. Tom Wolf.
Construction work will resume this Friday, May 1, which is also when golf courses, marinas and campgrounds will reopen with safety precautions and social distancing in place to help prevent further spread of the disease.
Some rural parts of the state that have been less impacted by the pandemic are expected to see a loosening of Wolf’s stay-at-home order beginning May 8, although it remains unclear to what degree life will return to normal in those areas.
Boscola’s district includes both Hellertown borough and Lower Saucon Township in Northampton County.