For most of us, the past few weeks have been quite a whirlwind. The news on COVID-19 seems to be changing daily, while we all scramble to figure out our new normal, even if temporary. Many small businesses and employees have been left to worry about the long-term impact this pandemic will have on their futures. At the end of this article, we have included some federal and local resources for small businesses and families in need.
The real estate industry is not immune to the effects of this global pandemic. Coronavirus continues to impact the real estate industry in many ways. When the initial shelter-in-place orders came down from Governor Gavin Newsom on March 19th, real estate was not listed as an essential industry. This nearly put a complete halt on all things real estate. Counties and individual brokerages across the state of California scrambled to ensure their own agents and clients were complying with this mandate for their own protection and the protection of the general public. Open houses, broker tours, and even in-person showings were halted in most areas. For the next 9 days, many were questioning how homes would now be sold, and even if deals awaiting closing could be completed.
What is Essential?
On Friday, March 27th, the California Association of Realtors said that commercial and residential real estate services were newly included on the list of essential businesses for the state of California. Real estate agents and their support staff were no longer on the list requiring them to limit or stop operations and "stay at home". However, there are many counties in California with stricter guidelines than this change at the state level. For example, the county shelter-in-place guidelines for Santa Cruz, and our surrounding counties - Monterey and Santa Clara, are stricter than the state guidelines and hadn't been updated to include real estate as an essential business as recent as yesterday. As of April 1st, Santa Cruz County joined the State of California in changing real estate to an essential industry on the approved list of businesses permitted to operate.
Reactions to this change at the state and county level have been mixed, with some questioning if real estate is truly "essential" during this time. However, what we know from our years of experience in the real estate industry is that there are a plethora of reasons why someone needs to sell or purchase a home. These reasons range anywhere from a death in the family or divorce to a necessary job relocation or an exciting addition to the family. The reasons are often known to only a few, but most would agree that no matter the timing - life events continue one. Helping people find shelter and a place to call home has always been essential to us. On the other hand, we are also painfully aware of the devastation this virus is causing across the world and we agree that the safety of our clients, colleagues, friends, families and ourselves is of the utmost importance.
It Is Not Just Back To Business As Usual
Entering the sector of essential business does not mean that the world of real estate is merely business as usual. Regardless of your individual county guidelines, even areas that will increase operations still must exercise extreme caution. Until further notice, no open houses will be held and no broker's tours will occur. Most brokerages have closed their offices with all agents and support staff working from home. Home showings should be done virtually whenever possible. Homes that are vacant should have specific showing instructions that comply with all protocols that help protect against the spread of COVID-19, as deemed necessary by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. We are not aware of any counties that are recommending in-person showings of occupied homes.
In fact, here is an excerpt from the county order itself, specifically about property showings at this time: Service providers that enable residential transactions (including rentals, leases, and home sales), including, but not limited to, real estate agents, escrow agents, notaries, and title companies, provided that appointments and other residential viewings must only occur virtually or, if a virtual viewing is not feasible, by appointment with no more than two visitors at a time who reside within the same household or living unit and one individual showing the unit (except that in-person visits are not allowed when the occupant is still residing in the residence)
Each and every real estate licensee must take careful action to protect the health and safety of their clients, their fellow licensees, and themselves. Furthermore, the Association also made it clear that if the health safeguards and protocols set forth by the governing bodies in our state and individual counties are not followed, the rules regarding real estate throughout this pandemic may be changed to stop or heavily restrict all real estate activity.
Here at The Mower Group, we are doing our best to continue with necessary operations to aid our clients, while still complying with our local county mandates and state and federal guidelines. We appreciate the efforts our elected representatives, licensing bodies, and brokerage are taking to protect our health and the health of our fellow Santa Cruz County residents. We are still fielding phone calls, working on pending transactions, and providing our clients with A+ service, while navigating this new work-from-home culture we've all been thrust in. Property showings are permitted in a limited and vital capacity. However, this only applies to homes that are currently vacant. Occupied properties on the market are limited to virtual tours only at this time.
There are many individuals and families in need of support and resources during this time. Here are a few resources we thought may be helpful for you or someone you know.
Most small businesses are struggling through this shelter-in-place. Even the businesses still operating are taking a hit due to the large decrease in public traffic. The Small Business Administration is offering low-interest loans to most small businesses and non-profits that have been adversely affected by the pandemic.
If you are a realtor and are unsure of how to proceed, the National Association of Realtors has put together a guide regarding coronavirus. This guide covers open-house guidance, transaction advice, and updated shelter-in-place information.
The Internal Revenue Service has added a page to its website strictly dedicated to coronavirus tax relief and federal stimulus information. Here you can find updated information on extended tax deadlines, stimulus payment checks, and other frequently asked questions and answers.
Santa Cruz County Bank is taking pre-applications for small business loans that are soon to be available under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act. This can help you get a head-start on utilizing the federal stimulus package that was just passed to aid families and small business owners across the country.
Contact Us - We are Here to Help!
The Mower Group! Please consider us as one of your resources. We will be providing you all regular updates regarding real estate news and developments in Santa Cruz County. We are here to answer any of your questions about the market, the COVID-19 guidelines and changes that are continuously coming out, or anything else you may be wondering about.
Please do not hesitate to reach out to us during this time of transition and uncertainty. We are closely following our county guidelines for the shelter-in-place and are happy to share our knowledge of developments at the county and state levels. Whether you have questions about whether it's a good time to refinance your home, want to discuss the market in your area, or merely want to chat about life in general, you can reach out to us. The Mower Group is here to help our clients, our friends and anyone in need in our community, and hope that you will also use us as one of your resources.