Another positive sign that the coronavirus pandemic is loosening its grip on Pennsylvania occurred Tuesday with authorization from Gov. Tom Wolf for real estate industry professionals to resume limited business-related activities statewide immediately.
Previously, businesses and employees in the industry were permitted to conduct limited in-person activities only in counties that have moved to the yellow phase of the commonwealth’s phased reopening plan. Tuesday’s change means realtors even in red counties such as Northampton can also get back to business, albeit in a way that is quite a bit different from how things were before the pandemic began.
“This industry impacts numerous types of businesses and Pennsylvania homebuyers who are in the process of, or considering, purchasing a home,” Wolf said in a news release about the real estate reboot. “It’s critical that these businesses, regardless of whether they are in red phase or yellow phase counties, strictly adhere to all appropriate guidelines and guidance.”
The real estate guidance requires businesses and employees to follow all applicable provisions of the Guidance for Businesses Permitted to Operate During the COVID-19 Disaster Emergency to Ensure the Safety and Health of Employees and the Public.
Among the requirements of that document is one that every person present at a work site, business location or property offered for sale wear a face mask or face covering.
The guidance also requires establishment of protocols which must be executed when a business learns of an exposure involving a probable or confirmed case of COVID-19.
Other regulations under which the real estate industry must now operate include:
- Utilize separate transportation to property showings and all other in-person activities.
- Schedule in-person office visits, property showings, appraisals, inspections, final walk-throughs and
title insurance activities by appointment and maintain records of all appointments, including contact
information for all participants. Where possible, utilize unoccupied model homes for in-person
- Limit in-person activities to no more than the real estate professional and two people inside a property
at any time, exercising appropriate social distancing all of the time.
- When conducting settlements and closings utilize remote notary, powers of attorney (POA) or the exchange of contract documents electronically or by mail wherever possible. Where it is not possible to
conduct settlement or closing remotely attendance in-person must be limited to required signatories and their legal counsel or real estate professional only, and steps to preserve social distancing must be followed to the maximum extent possible.
- Real estate businesses must conduct operations including office functions whenever possible.
- Provide all individuals who will be present for in-person real estate activities with a verbal health screening prior to every in-person activity and not allow in-person access to properties in cases where their responses indicate actual or likely exposure.
- Stagger property showings by 30 minutes or more.
- Avoid physical contact within the property by staging it in advance to prevent the need for subsequent interaction with items such as light switches, interior doors, drapes and blinds. Where physical contact is necessary, ensure that surfaces such as doorknobs, light switches, etc. are sanitized prior to the next showing or the return of sellers.
- Minimize the time spent in the property by having discussions, including contract negotiations, via remote means (email, video conference, telephone, etc.) if possible. Model homes (and offices in model homes) may be open, but appointments with clients must be made in advance and all safety orders must be observed including the wearing of face masks on site.
Food may no longer be provided at real estate open houses all in-person group showings are prohibited under the updated guidance.
In his news release, Wolf noted that he had vetoed House Bill 2412, because he said it did “not provide enough safety protocols for the COVID-19 public health crisis. Further, the legislation would have placed restrictions on municipalities related to property transfers; specifically, it would have eliminated a municipality’s ability to issue use and occupancy permits and conduct safety inspections, which are conditions of a property transfer.”
To view the complete guidance issued by the state Tuesday, click here.