Conducting Business as a REALTOR® in San Mateo and Santa Clara Counties

Coronavirus/COVID-19, Real Estate Contracts & Transactions, and Real Estate Law by Ashlee D. Gonzales, Esq.

The current Shelter in Place orders in San Mateo and Santa Clara County, along with the current MLSListings guidelines and rules, have changed the way REALTORS® conduct business during the COVID-19 pandemic. While helping people buy and sell arguably the most valuable asset one could obtain, most aspects of the business have been moved to being done virtually to help slow the spread of COVID-19. With these new rules and regulations comes frustration and challenges, and we have provided some information to help clarify what can and can’t be done while the orders and guidelines are in place.

With the help of technology, the buying and selling of real estate in these counties can continue on. While it may not be ‘business as usual’ currently, the current regulations in place have provided some alternatives to agents who otherwise would be prevented from conducting business. The aftermath of utilizing these alternatives are yet to be seen, and we will monitor them closely.

MLS Guidelines and Rules Changes Stemming from COVID-19

  • Additional 3D, Drone and Virtual Tour fields have been added
  • Accrual of Days on Market (“DOM”) have been suspended, and active listings have stopped accruing as of March 17, 2020. Any DOM accrued before March 17, 2020 will remain with the property. Any listings withdrawn after March 1, 2020, will be marked as ‘New’ when returned to Active.
  • URLs are now allowed in the public remarks section so agents can conduct virtual tours and events.
  • The 1-day photo requirement is relaxed.
  • No showing requirements while listing is Active.
  • Fines for curable violations are relaxed. However, harmful or egregious violations will still be enforced. This includes offensive or inappropriate language/images and copyright.
  • Marketing in Withdrawn status is relaxed.

Showing and Marketing Properties

  • Agents typically can’t show properties in person. All appointments and viewings must happen virtually (via livestream or video). If these options are not possible, in-person showings can occur by appointment with only 1 agent and no more than 2 visitors at a time from the same household.  Important to note: in-person showings are not allowed when the occupant is still living in the residence.
    • There is a lot of confusion going around regarding what makes a property ‘vacant’. Our general advice is that the property is considered vacant only when the Seller(s) relinquish possession of the property, i.e. hand over the keys, officially move-out, etc. This frustrates the buying and selling of property quite a bit, especially since most residential sales occur while the seller is still in the property.
  • Only Santa Clara County has designated photography and videography as “essential” services. Per the current Shelter in Place order for Santa Clara County, if a virtual viewing is not possible, then a single photographer or videographer can visit the property once to take pictures and/or video. This should be done when seller is not home.
  • Currently, stagers are not defined as “essential” to enable residential real estate transactions.

Properties Under Contract

  • Appraisals
    • Appraisers have been deemed an “essential” part of the real estate transaction and are permitted to conduct business within certain regulations. In order for an appraisal to occur, the following need to be established: 1) property needs to be vacant; 2) inspector must follow social distancing/sanitary guidelines; and 3) appraisal limited to 2 visitors at a time, with 1 person showing the unit.
  • Inspections
    • Like appraisers, inspectors have been deemed essential. Further, the inspection should occur when the seller(s) is not home.
  • Agent Visual Inspection Disclosure (“AVID”)
    • The same rules as appraisers apply to an agent’s visual inspection of the property. In order for the inspection to occur, the following need to be established: 1) property needs to be vacant; 2) inspector must follow social distancing/sanitary guidelines; and 3) appraisal limited to 2 visitors at a time, with 1 person showing the unit.
  • Title Companies and Notaries
    • These vendors are considered “essential” and are permitted to operate during the Shelter in Place orders.

Remodeling/Construction at Properties

  • New Construction
    • For construction scheduled to begin, homeowners must defer the project unless it’s necessary to restore the home to a safe, sanitary, and habitable space and cannot reasonably be delayed.
  • Ongoing Construction
    • For residential projects that are partly completed can continue if delaying would pose a safety, security, or sanitation risk to residents or impact the habitability of the residence. If these circumstances don’t apply, the construction must be deferred.
  • Point-of-Sale Inspections and Upgrades
    • Service providers such as hardware stores, plumbers, electricians, etc. have been deemed “essential”. Their services are permitted wherein it is necessary to maintain the safety and sanitation of the property.

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