COVID-19 has had an impact on the world that none of us could have foreseen. Here we are several months into the pandemic, and the business community is grappling with how we can pivot and survive these difficult economic times.
For the real estate industry, the coronavirus pandemic has presented some unique and challenging issues. From the reluctance of sellers to allow others into their homes and a decrease in buyers, to business closures and shelter-in-place orders — what has occurred in the past few months is unprecedented.
As the rate of new COVID-19 cases now begins to slow, it’s time for real estate brokers and professionals to start planning what your post-coronavirus real estate business will look like. It’s time to put measures in place to ensure that both you and your team are protected now and in the future. Here’s how…
Ensure You Comply With Your State’s Regulations
The pandemic has brought uncertainty and constant change to the world over the past few months. As case numbers fluctuate, so does the government response in an attempt to contain the virus. There’s never been a more difficult time to navigate changing government policy, and brokers need to keep updated about government orders and regulations.
While the reopening of the United States economy has begun, some states are still in relative lockdown. California was the first state to issue a stay at home order and many restrictions still remain today. The situation is similar in Washington, Wisconsin, Illinois and some other states.
Other states, such as Colorado, have begun the process of relaxing restrictions, with real estate showings resuming. But, while residents are no longer ordered to stay at home, they are still being strongly advised to stay at home.
The New York Times is continually updating information about the staged reopening of states, offering an easy-to-access resource for Americans. You should also directly monitor the requirements of your own municipality to ensure you comply.
Avoid Fair Housing Act Violations
Many real estate professionals are being reminded to avoid Fair Housing Act violations at this time. You can’t discriminate against certain groups due to the pandemic, in the same way it’s illegal to do so at any other time. This extends to your advertising of properties — it’s important not to indicate any preference towards one group or another.
But, in this era of coronavirus, what does this actually mean?
- You can’t exclude anyone from a property simply because they live in a community where there’s a higher rate of coronavirus.
- Nor can you exclude someone because they’re of a demographic you may think is more susceptible to the virus.
What you can do to keep yourself and your team safe is:
- Ask clients/prospects if they have travelled recently
- Ask clients to complete a COVID-19 screening questionnaire before showing properties
The key is to be consistent and ask everyone exactly the same questions, ensuring you don’t discriminate in any way.
Making Your Office COVID-19 Safe
Social distancing is an important preventative measure against COVID-19. This means your office may require some reconfigurations. Ensure your agents are aware of social distancing requirements as well, so they can keep this in mind when dealing with clients and prospects. (And if your municipality requires facial coverings, be sure agents and prospects adhere to that requirement when viewing properties.)
Regular and deep cleaning is required now more than ever before. As the coronavirus can survive on surfaces for some time, sanitizing of switches, doors, door handles, benches and other frequently touched surfaces can greatly reduce the chance of infection.
Having hand sanitizer on hand for use by your team and clients upon entering and leaving your office (or home opens) is another way to minimize the risk.
For more information about preventing the spread of COVID-19, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website.
Educate Your Team
It’s essential to keep your team updated on changes and compliance issues regarding COVID-19. They need to be aware of your company policies for hygiene and strategies to prevent the spread of the virus.
This is also an ideal time to ramp up team training generally. The coronavirus is changing the industry (and the world) in more ways than one. Regular team training can boost your team’s skills, so they’re better equipped for the future of the real estate industry.
- Hot topics such as digital closings, virtual tour tools, interactive floor plans, and closing transactions during challenging times, can all help your team to become more resilient and effective.
Keep Updated on Support Available
There is some Federal support available for small businesses affected by COVID-19. The United States Small Business Administration offers Economic Injury Disaster Loans, which are low-interest loans. Tax deferrals are also available for eligible small businesses.
Additionally, several cities have launched loan programs directed at small businesses, including:
- Los Angeles Small Business Emergency Microloan Program
- San Diego Small Business Relief Package
- San Francisco: Various loans and grants are available
Protecting Yourself and Your Real Estate Business
For extensive real estate E&O coverage, and an insurance partner who can help you to minimize risks in your real estate business, look no further than CRES. With CRES Real Estate E&O + ClaimPrevent®, you’ll even have access to a legal advisory service 7 days a week, so you can tackle liability issues before they become claims. Our real estate company E&O includes Team Coverage to ensure your entire team is protected. Contact CRES at 800-880-2747 for a confidential discussion today.