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Article Courtesy of: Inman News
By: Nicole Solari
  
Buying a property without seeing it in person is hardly ideal. But, in the new world created by COVID-19, virtual touring is becoming increasingly common.

Here are 10 ways to help your buyers land a property they’ll love — whenever they see it live for the first time — while keeping yourself from being the person they blame for selling them a property they hate.

1. Be specific and realistic about wants/needs and expectations

We all try to establish upfront what buyers want and need from their next property before they begin their home search. That’s even more crucial if they’re only seeing properties online. As agents, we rely on visual cues when we’re viewing  properties with our clients to give us our bone-deep understanding of what buyers hope to find (and what they wouldn’t have if you gave it to them).

Without your buyers beside you, discovering that information is going to take in-depth conversation — and a lot of it. Even then, you can only see the things that jump out at you, smell the scents you notice and hear the sounds that annoy you. There is no guarantee your reactions will mirror theirs, and they need to know that.

2. Measure furniture before it’s packed

Instead of buying furniture to fit their new home, most clients try to buy homes that fit their furniture. So, buyers need to provide you the measurements of their must-have pieces so you can tell whether they’ll fit through the door and into their prospective new home.

Advise them to keep those measurements with them instead of packing them away in a box. They’ll need them at the other end of their move.

3. Buyers need to master online search tools

Whichever listing site your clients use, encourage them to look beyond the property photos. On realtor.com, for example, the map feature offers various views of the property along with overlays providing additional information on schools, crime rates, distance to services and so on.

Google Earth enables buyers to view the neighborhood from varied levels. Buyers may try to pass on the job of exploring the neighborhood to you. Don’t let them.

4. Use phones for interactive visual tours

We’re all getting a bit more accustomed to this new way of “showing” property, but it’s crucial to use virtual tours as buyers zero in on properties they may decide to purchase. The pre-purchase “tour” (which you may need to do several of) is aimed first at giving them insight into the way the home’s rooms relate to each other.

At the end, your clients should be able to sketch a rough floor plan. After that, your visual tours should focus on details such as how well-lit various spaces are, whether there are cracks in ceilings or walls that don’t show up in photographs, finishes in kitchen and bath, and so on.

5. Bring in the surrogates — with tape measures

Ideally, your clients have friends or family members who can view properties on their behalf and take the measurements your buyers need most. You want to bend over backwards to accommodate these folks, even if they need to measure a single window. These folks are gold — for your clients and you.

6. Write contingent offers

Sellers, naturally, are wary of accepting offers from people who have never seen the property. So, you may not want to make an offer contingent on your buyers seeing it. But the standard inspection contingency (and loan approval) periods provide opportunity for an on-site visit by the buyers or their surrogates.

Even buyers who have toured properties in person need to revisit them during the inspection period. So, urge your absentee buyers to visit, if at all possible, personally or through surrogates during the inspection period.

7. Talk to the inspectors

Home, pest and other inspectors make great surrogates. And buyers almost never use them that way, despite every inspector welcoming questions. You’ll do yourself and your buyers a favor if you press absentee buyers to talk one-on-one with the authors of the inspection reports you need them to read and understand thoroughly.

8. Prepare buyers to walk into a smaller, uglier reality

Not seeing a property firsthand before closing just about guarantees reality won’t compare with the mental image homebuyers have created of it. The property will look smaller and emptier. It will look shabbier, as virtually all pre-owned homes do. It will smell like someone else’s home.

And the neighbor’s house will be a disturbing shade of school-bus yellow, which appeared much lighter on Google Maps. They will feel like they paid too much. You can’t change those feelings, but you can assure buyers they’re normal — preferably in advance.

9. Grid paper rules

Despite your best efforts, your buyers may still feel let down when they walk into their new empty house. Help them cope by stocking the entry with a pad of grid paper, a tape measure, a ruler and several brand new sharp pencils. Let them know their first job is to measure the rooms and create a scale drawing of each room on the grid paper. Their second job is to haul out their furniture measurements and start arranging furniture on paper before their moving truck pulls up.

If you have a handyman you rely on, share contact information with your buyers. In other words, give them the tools to see that the house they just bought can be the home they love sooner rather than later.

10. A great agent is the key to success

Representing buyers purchasing properties sight-unseen is one of the most difficult challenges any agent faces, because so much can go wrong. Plus, you can easily get sucked into viewing endless numbers of properties, sketching multiple floor plans to email your buyers, and getting mired in the search without ever approaching the finish line.

In general, you don’t want to take on absentee buyers unless they face a near-term purchase deadline, and they understand what you can do and what you can’t.

Agents, for the most part, are can-do people. We’re not accustomed much to focusing on what we can’t do. But in the case of absentee buyers, that’s a crucial step in defining your role upfront. You can only do you; you can’t be them. And everybody needs to accept that.

Nicole Solari is owner and managing broker of The Solari Group in Solano and Napa Counties in Northern California. Nicole runs one of the highest producing brokerages in all of Northern California.
10 Tips For Buyers Putting in Offers Sight Unseen Amid Coronavirus
GBREB NEWS

MEMBER RESOURCES

Information is rapidly changing.  GBREB will update this post as new information becomes available. There's a lot of information about government's response to COVID-19, however we have narrowed the focus of this page to issues impacting the real estate industry to serve as a resource for our members. 

Additional information, including legal advisories are available to members here .

MASSACHUSETTS EXECUTIVE ORDERS AND ADVISORIES
Reopening in Massachusetts 5/18/19
Phase 1 Re-Opening Safety Standards For Workplaces , EOHED, 5/12/20
Re-opening: Four Phase Approach, EOHED, 5/12/20
Advisory on Residential Evictions , Massachusetts Attorney General, 5/8/20
Short-term residential rentals, Department of Public Health, 3/31/20
Mortgage Loan Borrowing , Division of Banks, 3/25/20
Constuction Letter With Guidance  3/25/20
COVID-19 ESSENTIAL SERVICES  Order of  the Governor Assuring Continued Operation Of Essential Services  
Essential Services FAQ
SMOKE ORDER Smoke Alarm and Carbon Monoxide Inspections for One and Two-Family Dwellings and Three to Five-family Apartment Buildings
Standing Order Housing Court
DHCD Resources For Renters and Homeowners

BOSTON EXECUTIVE ORDERS AND ADVISORIES
Rental Relief Fund
Guidelines For Open House and Apartment Showing Policy
Construction Update 5.6.20
Construction Notice 3/25/20
Construction Permitting 3/16/20

DIVISION AND AFFILIATE RESOURCE PAGES

Building Owners and Managers, BOMA Boston, BOMA International
Multifamily Apartments, Massachusetts Apartment Association, National Apartment Association   
REALTORS, Greater Boston Association of REALTORS, Massachusetts Association of REALTORS, National Association of REALTORS
Commercial Brokers Association
Real Estate Finance Association






COVID-19

 

Article Courtesy of: Inman News
By: Erica Ramus

Adjust to the situation, be conservative in your planning, and prepare for a slow recovery

In challenging times, it’s a smart idea to revisit the fundamentals of good business. This April, go Back to Basics with Inman.

It’s April, and while we should be in the midst of our hot spring real estate market, we’re instead in one hell of a storm. It’s worse than just the mid-winter blues or holiday slowdown.

Here in Pennsylvania, we are in a deep freeze. Our governor shut non-life essential businesses down a month ago. We can’t show houses in person, and we have been ordered not to move forward with appraisals, inspections or closings if a contract was signed after March 18. We’ve been told not to even put signs up or lockboxes on houses.

Although it might not be that bad in most other states, with limited business allowed to move forward here, we are at a full stop. As current contracts move slowly to closing, the pipeline is getting thinner and thinner.

Last year, I wrote that a downturn was likely in the near future. I didn’t have a crystal ball, and I damn sure didn’t see a global pandemic coming. But real estate is cyclical, so all business owners in general (including brokers and individual agents too) should have a plan for when business hits a bump. For more on increasing your income as the market turns, read “5 tips for boosting your bottom line in a down market.”

The article identifies basic ways to help you get through a downturn. It’s a good start. But this isn’t a bump. We are now in a recession and maybe a full-blown economic crisis as the year goes on.

Recovery is unlikely to be swift for the real estate industry. After the changes we’ve been through in the past two months, we are probably not going to open our doors at the beginning of May or June and see a flood of new contracts to replace the spring buyers who are sidelined.

Buyers and sellers might still be nervous and might shy away from viewing houses. Many have lost their jobs and might not even qualify for a loan after we are cleared to do business again.

Brokers need to take a look at the budget created at the end of 2019 and probably consider it useless at this point. I have looked at the budgets of several other brokers plus mine, and based on the numbers I am seeing, I am preparing for a potential 40 percent drop in commission income this year. Expenses must be adjusted accordingly to balance the income loss. Here’s how to adjust your budget for this unprecedented year.

1. Evaluate recurring charges

Look at your monthly credit card statements to see what you are paying for automatically. You’d be surprised at how much you won’t even miss. If you really cannot make decisions here, call your business credit card in as lost or misplaced, and get a new one.
You’ll be forced to re-enter your new card number on each and every platform again, which sometimes brings a new light to those fees. Even small monthly fees add up — and a few dozen $10 a month (or more) services add up at the end of the year.

2. Bid out insurances

Insurance tends to creep up slowly and without you noticing, especially if you’re on automatic payment. I have a folder for each insurance type, and on the front, as I pay the bill each year, I write down the premium so it’s easy to compare year over year. I do this with both personal and business insurances.

Last year, I saw a 25 percent increase in my homeowner’s policy for no explainable reason. I switched carriers and actually cut my bill by 10 percent. Watch your errors and omissions insurance rates, business owners policy, auto and other insurances carefully for increases.

3. Review contractors

I moved our office in January, and it was the perfect time to review all contractors — the cleaning service, HVAC provider, office supply vendor, etc. I cut the cleaning bill while increasing the visit frequency by using a service that already cleans for other tenants in the new building.

I found a local office supply vendor that beat the prices for the big office supply store we used before we moved. You might be able to shave 10 percent off these line items by negotiating with vendors.

4. Negotiate rent

Commercial real estate is in for a crunch. When this crisis is over, a lot of businesses will realize just how expensive space is. Some who work from home now might not return to the office. You might find that some of your staff can still work remotely (admins or transaction coordinators). Some agents who previously used office space might decide to work from home.

Rent is a huge expense. If you’re having a problem paying it, look at cutting your office space down or renegotiating the lease. Tenants across many industries are doing this right now. Your landlord might be willing to work with you just to keep a good tenant in the space.

If they cannot or will not let you cut your rent or space size, consider moving. I moved across town earlier this year and got a larger space with a better parking situation for less money. The move was a hassle, but in the end, it was perfectly timed for this crisis situation.

5. Cut staffing

Next to rent, many brokers’ biggest expense is support staff. If your office is closed, you’ve probably laid off or terminated admins. Fewer deals in the pipeline mean you’ll need fewer hands on the files.

You simply cannot afford to keep people on payroll when there is less work to do. It’s inevitable, even if it is unpleasant to let people go. As things ramp up, you can bring people back on staff as needed.

6. Outsource

You might find that as you let staff go, some tasks can be better handled by outsourcing as they are needed. Do you need a bookkeeper on staff, or can you hire a contractor for 10-15 hours a week to do your books?

Some marketing or transaction coordinator tasks could be done more efficiently and less expensively by outsourcing as needed rather than keeping someone on payroll. Look into online platforms where contractors specialize in the service you need.

7. Watch supplies

Sometimes, it pays to buy in bulk — buy several cases of copy paper when they are on sale, for example. When cash flow is tight, pay attention to supplies. Although it might be more expensive to order a few reams of paper at a time, as small broker with limited cash flow, it might be smarter to do that than tie up too much money in bulk ordering. The few dollars saved on cases of paper might not be worth it when the rent is due.

8. Market smart

This is one of the five recommendations from the article I wrote last year, but it bears repeating. Do not cut marketing out completely. Instead, make sure you are spending your dollars in a smart way. Cut advertising — meaning print ads, billboards, radio ads, etc., if you cannot directly track it back to a solid ROI (return on investment).

Do not cut marketing in general — pivot.

For example, I have one online marketing source that brings me a 4-5 ROI. So for every $1 I spend on this venue, I get $4 to $5 back that I can directly track to a closed sale. I am not cutting that source out right now. As long as I see a positive ROI, I will keep it.

I have seen my competitors cut this same tool. I watch it carefully and see them dropping off the platform. I am holding firm, and our leads from it were up 27 percent the first two weeks of April.

If you do cut things out, don’t just hibernate. Practice guerrilla marketing — marketing with your labor and time, not money.

Increase your networking. Although in-person meetings aren’t really possible right now, you can always pick up your phone. Call past clients and referral sources just to ask how they are doing.

Our local chamber of commerce has moved its mixers to a Zoom format. Attend events online. Find ways to still network with your community and show you are still in business and still helping people buy and sell, but remotely.

9. Be careful with debt

If you must take on debt, do so carefully and after speaking to a good accountant. Yes, there are new emergency loans through the Small Business Administration (SBA) due to the crisis. The Payroll Protection Program is actually a loan that turns into a grant if you follow the rules and use it for payroll and allowed expenses. Most loans out there are not forgivable and will need to be repaid eventually. Not all have favorable terms, and some are outright predatory.

Business owners want to think that a loan can save us from drowning or at least buy time until the market rebounds. Some are smart moves, while others will just sink your business eventually no matter what you do. Don’t just sign for a loan without getting advice first.

10. Cut travel

I’m a conference junkie. I love to travel to conferences and learn from brokers all over the country. I come back from industry gatherings pumped up with ideas on how to better serve our clients. COVID-19 has killed that for the foreseeable future.

Even without travel restrictions and social distancing rules, in downturns, travel is still a luxury. If you’re not being paid to travel or reimbursed your expenses by a third party, travel needs to be severely limited. Instead, take advantage of conferences that can be “attended” online, such as Inman’s Connect Now June event.

After this crisis passes, perhaps this is the future of many conferences and learning events. As I type that, I hope it is not completely true, as the friendships and lobbycon meetups can be just as valuable as the conference sessions, if not more sometimes. Agents as a group are social people, and the in-person hugs and late-night lobby discussions make some of the best memories.

If you are a broker who has been in business pre-2008, you are well-versed in preparing for a downturn. I opened my office in 2007 and made it through by cutting my teeth on the mortgage crisis. This is a very different crisis — but with similar tactics. We will survive it. In January, with the move, I began cutting expenses. That was more luck than foresight, honestly.

Nobody could have foreseen what March and April would bring to the real estate business. Now that we are in the thick of it, all we can do is adjust to the situation. Be conservative in your planning, and prepare for a slow recovery. Things might never go back to pre-2020 “normal,” but all we can do is adjust the sails and weather this storm.

Erica Ramus, MRE, is the broker/owner of RAMUS Real Estate. You can follow her on Twitter or LinkedIn.
10 Steps For Cutting Your Brokerage's Budget Now
Article Courtesy of: Inman News
By: John Giffen

How do agents effectively operate their businesses moving into this summer and fall? The answer is simple: Know your value

Our national and global economies are in the process of reopening after an unprecedented period of self-quarantining, devastating business, school and institutional closures, record unemployment, and restricted air travel as a result of the ongoing COVID-19 crisis.

Throughout the country, people are eager to get back to work and make a living. Our economy cannot sustain itself if people are not working, including real estate professionals.

As we move into the next “chapter” in this pandemic, agents and brokers must be prepared to work smarter and harder than ever before. Real estate markets throughout the United States and Canada are seeing fluctuations in consumer demand and dealing with home inventories that remain tight.

So, how do agents effectively operate their businesses moving into the summer and fall? The answer is simple: Know your value and your worth.

One essential component of your real estate practice is your unique value proposition. Your value proposition is what sets you apart from the competition. It is probably the most critical element of selling real estate, especially as the market continues to evolve and adapt to the impact of the COVID-19.

You must be crystal clear when conveying the benefits to a prospective client who is considering working with you or your team in meeting their real estate needs.

During several recent Zoom meetings with agents in my company’s seven offices in Middle Tennessee, I spoke about how an agent can “stand out in the crowd” when discussing his or her value proposition to potential clients. The following are some of the ideas I shared in those meetings:

1. Recognize the changing economy will impact our industry


I believe we are experiencing (or soon will be) a paradigm shift in how agents and brokers will be marketing and selling homes, overseeing transactions, and working with prospects and clients.
Since the recovery after the Great Recession, we experienced more than 10-plus years of what I like to call “low-hanging fruit selling” in residential real estate. National, state and local economies, for the most part, were healthy, and jobs were plentiful before the coronavirus hit.

The demand for single-family residential homes and other types of real estate was strong for those moving across town or to another part of the country. As a result of this prosperous time, the real estate industry experienced tremendous growth year after year. The coronavirus is slowing this growth, and we are now living in a new reality of an economy in — or soon to be in — a recession.

There is good news and bad news. Let me start with the bad news first. The current economic environment is one that none of us could have forecasted three months ago. State unemployment claims are at record highs, and small businesses, the backbone of our economy, are struggling — if not closing — as a result of little to no revenue. Large corporations are laying off workers, cutting stock dividends and suspending contributions to employee retirement accounts. For many Americans, it is a very difficult time.

The COVID-19 epidemic is now affecting consumer confidence to its core. Even with the country emerging from home quarantine and assimilating back to somewhat regular routines, it could be several months before our confidence to eat out, shop in stores and gather at sporting events returns to levels similar to what it was before the outbreak. Businesses create jobs, which, in turn, create income leading to a consumer’s confidence in their ability to purchase or sell a home.

Real estate is a foundational component of our economy, and it’s dependent on consumer confidence. Until buyers and sellers feel secure in their employment and know the economy has stabilized, the real estate industry in many parts of the country will be impacted by buyers and sellers waiting to “pull the trigger” to purchase or sell a home.

Now, the good news. A large number of buyers and sellers will need to relocate due to a job change or upsizing or downsizing as they enter a new season of their lives. We will continue to see new property listings and buyers purchasing available property listings, but probably not at the pre-COVID-19 level until a vaccine for this disease is discovered and mass distributed to the population.

All of us will have to understand and adapt to this new situation in which we find ourselves. There still is business out there for those of us are willing to work hard and know how to hunt for it. Even during previous recessionary times, properties were bought and sold by those who needed a roof over their head. That will continue.

2. Be a valued and trusted real estate consultant

As a real estate professional, you are a consultant, not a salesperson. I believe showing your ability to provide guidance and direction for the real estate consumer is more important now than ever before.

In your efforts to procure a new listing or a new buyer in the next few months, you need to represent yourself as someone a prospective client can value and trust and provide them with advice and wise counsel through the entire real estate transaction process.

You are the expert who can find solutions in the current market and guide clients from start to finish in the real estate transaction experience. You have the know-how to address most situations that arise in a transaction.

In addition, you should always come across as non-threatening and easy-going. Be natural in how you relate to the prospect, but be professional in your presentation. Your knowledge and skill can serve you well in sustaining your business for the remainder of 2020.

3. Know your market data

There has never been a more critical time to know your local real estate market statistics and trends. I cannot over stress the importance of agents’ familiarity with what is selling and what is not in their local real estate market amid the fallout from COVID-19 and the economic slowdown in which we find ourselves.

Clients will turn to you for information on how the current housing market is performing. You should be well versed in areas of your city, county and region that are selling well right now, as well as the other areas that are underperforming. Be well informed on sold property trends during the last couple of months compared to the previous year and the direction the market is heading.

A good agent will know absorption rates, current property tax rates and impact fees, and the latest new construction projects and proposed residential developments that are still on track or delayed as a result of the pandemic.

4. Keep the needs of your client first

The National Association of Realtor Code of Ethics and Standards of Practice underlying foundation comes from the golden rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

I know money is tight right now for a large number of agents and brokers and bills need to be paid. There may be times in the days ahead when you might want to focus more on the commission check at the end of a transaction than taking care of the needs of the client.

However, always remember to put your client first in everything you do. You must continue to provide wise and accurate counsel to your clients and make decisions based on how it will assist them instead of benefiting you financially. You have a fiduciary responsibility to your client and they are expecting you to give your best to advocate, negotiate and mediate for them in a transaction.

5. Leverage your professional expertise

I wrote in previous Inman columns and also in my book, Do You Have a Minute? An Award-Winning Real Estate Managing Broker Reveals Keys for Industry Success, about how the most successful real estate professionals are those who know the real estate market up, down, backward and forward. They know their communities, current market statistics, and trends and they are outstanding negotiators

Also, these pros are excellent at managing their clients and transactions as well as working with cooperating agents. Agents making six-figure incomes are those who can provide valuable advice and insight to their prospects and clients. They can guide their clients with ease through the confusing and ever-changing world of real estate.

Every real estate agent’s aspiration should be to possess a character rooted in professionalism and integrity with a commitment to expertise in their industry. This has never been truer now as we sell real estate with the coronavirus hovering around us. We know more about how to market a property, seek out the right home for buyers and manage the “contract to close” process better than anyone else. We are the experts, and we should never forget it!

6. Communicate, communicate, communicate!

The absence of good and clear communication with a buyer or seller client has always been the No. 1 complaint consumers have relating to their homebuying or homeselling experience. One of the most critical expectations you need to set with your clients at the beginning of the relationship is explaining how you will communicate with them.

The coronavirus is making everyone a little more anxious than normal. For sellers, you can help ease their angst by keeping them informed of showing activity, feedback from prospective buyers, market conditions, sales of comparable properties, etc.

Buyers will want their agents to clearly explain how you plan on showing them prospective homes as well as informing them on how inspections, appraisals and closing a transaction are handled during social distancing restrictions that may still be in place.

Communicate more now that you have in the past. Over-communication is something that should not be considered a negative for a real estate agent — particularly now.

7. Defend your compensation

To be successful in this industry, you have to believe in two things: yourself and the value of the services you provide a buyer or seller.

Real estate transactions are complex and require a tremendous amount of time, energy and money on the part of the professional agent. Discounting broker commission impacts the bottom-line of your business and can cause irreparable harm to your reputation. Do not become one of those “bottom-feeder” agents who gives their time and services away while other competing agents in the market are working hard to maintain a reputation of integrity and professionalism.

Remind the client you earn your living selling real estate, and your real estate practice operates as a small business. There are expenses in every business — including a real estate practice. You are not on a salary, but are paid at the end of the transaction for all of your hard work. The value you bring to the client/agent relationship is worth every penny you charge — if not more!

Trust me, working in a changing real estate market will require more effort on your part. And, that effort has a cost associated with it. Prospecting, managing listings and sales contracts, and taking care of client needs will require additional time and attention.

8. Be willing to go the extra mile

Real estate is a relationship business. It always has been, and in my opinion, it always will be. Let me give you a couple of examples for you to consider.

Over the past six weeks, I have encouraged agents and brokers in our company to make themselves available to clients by assisting them with any particular need they might have during self-quarantine. Delivery groceries, picking up prescriptions, assisting with errands, lawn care, child care and other acts of kindness are ways to show we are willing to help — no matter what!

That “extra mile” effort needs to continue as you manage your business this summer and beyond. There might still be folks who are not willing to be ready to get “back to normal” or are recovering from COVID-19. Just make sure you are there for them now so they can remember you down the road when a real estate need arises or when they come across someone they know who needs your services.

You might not need to deliver groceries or prescriptions as the economy opens back up, but you do need to be willing to work with clients in ways you never imagined until now. For example, if a seller is concerned about buyers and their agents possibly carrying COVID-19, you should be willing to do whatever it takes to keep your client feeling comfortable about showings.

You will want to implement virtual showings or in-person showings where you are present to ensure only one or two people with PPE (personal protective equipment) masks, gloves and booties are allowed inside the property.

You should also be willing to sanitize any surface a buyer or their agent touches while touring the house or provide buyer’s agents with instructions on sanitizing surfaces prior to exiting the home.

Continue this protection throughout the listing, “contract-to-close” period and at the closing table. Your client will remember how well you looked out for their health and their interests.

Part of your value proposition should include your willingness to do whatever it takes to keep your client happy and satisfied. Going the “extra mile” does pay off in the end.

9. Don’t give up!

Perseverance is something we all need to have as we deal with the coronavirus. General George Patton, who my late father served under in Germany during World War II, once said, “In case of doubt, push on just a little further and then keep on pushing.” Our success from this point forward will be dependent on our motivation to press on in the face of an unknown economy and a virus that might be around longer than we think.

No matter what lies ahead, we must not give up, but charge forward and build on the successes of our past. As I previously noted, there is business for those who persevere and work hard to help those who need our experience and expertise.

Real estate is a vital part of our nation’s economy. Real estate professionals will continue to serve as the “stewards of the land and all that is on it.” We have faced adversity before in this business. We can face it again.

John Giffen is Director of Broker Operations for Benchmark Realty, LLC in Franklin, Tennessee.  He is the author of “Do You Have a Minute? An Award-Winning Real Estate Managing Broker Reveals Keys for Industry Success.”
9 Tips for Navigating Your Business in a Changing Economy

Over the past two weeks, two new laws impacting homebuyers, homeowners and real estate professionals were recently signed into law by Governor Baker.

The first new law which both GBREB and MAR strongly supported, allows for remote online notarization.  GBREB first began working with our colleagues in the real estate industry to try and find a solution to this issue in March,

Under the new law, notaries public in Massachusetts will be permitted to perform "an acknowledgement, affirmation or other notarial act" through real-time video conference rather than an in-person transaction for the duration of the COVID-19 crisis.  The legislation outlines a specific process through which remote notarizations must occur, as follows:

All parties and the notary must be located in Massachusetts;
All principal parties must provide proof of identity either during the video conference or by sending a copy of identification materials to the notary;
The notary must observe execution of the document by all parties through real time electronic video conferencing;
All executed documents must be sent to the notary for their stamp and signature following the video conference. Mortgage closings require a second video conference to confirm that the documents received by the notary are the same ones that were executed. 
  The law’s provisions, which are aimed at allowing for key business transactions to continue without violating social-distancing practices, would last until three days after Gov. Charlie Baker repeals his state of emergency declaration.  For additional guidance and to learn more about the new law, read our member advisory.  
  
  The second new law enacted is an eviction and foreclosure moratorium bill.   For several weeks, GBREB worked tirelessly to push for a fair and balanced bill for property owners.   GBREB was successful in clarifying the definition of small business. However, lawmakers were reluctant to consider further modifications, including a prohibition on the so-called notice to quit efforts, and a call to limit the scope of the legislation to residential evictions, as commercial evictions should be conducted separately.  Key provisions of the new law include:

1) Prohibits landlords of residential dwelling units, for non-essential eviction actions, from terminating tenancies or sending notices to quit;
2) Prohibits landlords from imposing a late fee for non-payment of rent or furnishing data to a consumer reporting agency if, within 30 days, the tenant provides notice and documentation to the landlord that the non-payment was due to a financial impact form COVID-19;
3) Allows landlords to utilize last month’s rent to pay for expenses if the landlord notifies the tenant in writing. However, landlords still must provide tenants with the same interest that would have accrued if the landlord had not utilized last month’s rent and prohibits landlords from deducting money from the last month’s rent for any non-payment of rent.
  
  Notably, however, there also are a couple of important protections for property owners.  These include:

▪  A moratorium on foreclosures for the sooner of 120 days from enactment or 45 days after the end of the state of emergency, and
▪  180 days of mortgage forbearance for homeowners experiencing a financial impact from COVID-19.

   The law’s provisions will remain in effect for 120 days or 45 days after the emergency declaration has been lifted, whichever is sooner. The Governor may postpone the expiration for a period of time, which cannot go past 45 days after the emergency declaration is lifted.  To learn more about the law’s restrictions and its implications, read our legal advisory for members.

  The Massachusetts Executive Office of Housing & Economic Development has issued corresponding regulations forms and guidance  which include the following:
Sample forms for documentation of a financial hardship leading to non-payment of rent (residential form, small business form)
Sample forms for providing notice to tenants of the use of advance rent payments
Guidance for tenants on the eviction moratorium
A “language access document,” encouraging tenants in several languages to have the forms translated.

  In addition, the Massachusetts Division of Banks has released guidance on the new law’s foreclosure moratorium and forbearance provisions.  

Gov. Baker Signs Remote Notarization & Eviction/Foreclosure Protection Laws

Please click the image for a message from NAR President Vince Malta regarding REALTORS®  special responsibility to follow federal, state, and local COVID guidance to help keep their clients and communities safe.

With recent escalation of the coronavirus health crisis, GBAR & GBREB have begun compiling information and materials that may be of assistance to REALTORS®. 

Additionally, the Massachusetts Association of REALTORS® COVID-19 website features useful resources and guidance for REALTORS® on business practices, licensing, employment and government assistance, and more in the COVID-19 environment, and NAR has issued general guidance , including this Transactional Guidance FAQ, on the issue which we encourage you to review. Upon review of these documents, should you have additional questions, please don't hesitate to reach out the MAR Legal Hotline at 800-370-5342.
 
Importantly, as of March 31, the Baker Administration has issued new guidance for REALTORS® during the COVID-19 State of Emergency.  Residential and commercial real estate has been deemed an essential business, which means real estate brokerage brick and mortar offices can be open to the public. However, it is strongly recommended that offices remain closed to protect the health and safety of agents and brokers, employees, and the public. Additionally, the following guidance is intended to help clarify which real estate activities may continue virtually or under parameters set forth below.
 
Showings and open houses are permitted, but are subject to Governor Baker’s order limiting gatherings to ten or fewer people. If open houses are held, they must be limited to ten people at a time and social distancing must be enforced. Additionally, the Massachusetts Association of REALTORS® recommends the use of hand sanitizer and thorough and frequent cleanings.  Notably, although allowed, REALTORS® are strongly encouraged NOT to host open houses in order to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.
 
Real estate closings may continue, with social distancing for any in-person transactions.   Meetings with clients and prospective clients can take place at a real estate brokerages’ physical offices, but should adhere to social distancing protocols.  Additionally, remote online notarization legislation was signed into law by Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker on April 27 which should help to facilitate completion of transactional documents and closings while helping to protect the health and safety of REALTORS® and their clients. We also recommend following the legal guidance on fair housing law compliance prepared by NAR.

Office Re-opening Guidance and Mandatory Safety Protocols for Massachusetts Businesses

MA Registry of Deeds Office Status

  • View Here (Courtesy of GBAR Affiliates: Ligris & Associates PC)

Local Government Orders for Open Houses, Showings & Other Real Estate Activities

Sample Extension Language for Contracts

For agents and brokers seeking guidance to address timing of a closing and extensions that may occur as a result the COVID-19 pandemic, GBAR shares the following useful language which you may consider incorporating into Offer and P&S contracts following consultation with and approval from your attorney.   
 
SAMPLE CONTRACT LANGUAGE: The parties agree and acknowledge that in the event either the Buyer, Buyer’s lender, Seller, any of their respective attorneys, or the Registry of Deeds becomes the subject of a mandatory COVID-19 virus quarantine or closure order from any governmental agency, prior to or at the time for performance hereunder, or the Buyer’s financial institution is shut down for any reason related to the global COVID-19 pandemic or unable to send Buyer’s funds for the closing, the closing shall be automatically extended for a reasonable period of time after such quarantine or closure order is lifted or after such time as Buyer’s financial institution confirms that it can send Buyer’s funds for the closing.

Mortgage Requirement Revisions and Foreclosure/Eviction Relief

Small Business Assistance 

COVID-19 Update & Preventative Safety Measures and Resources

REALTORS® Guide to Coronavirus Concerns
 

Education & Events

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Rentals The Right Way! (Live Webinar)
Jun 08, 2020 - Jun 10, 2020
Webinar
YPN-The Reality Of Realty: Striving & Still Thriving
Jun 09, 2020
Webinar
Brunch & Learn: Closing And Settlement Course (Live Webinar)
Jun 11, 2020
Webinar
CE Webinar: Selling Historic Homes
Jun 15, 2020
Webinar
Seller Representative Specialist® Designation Live Webinar
Jun 22, 2020 - Jun 30, 2020
Webinar
RealTour Member Meeting (Live Webinar)
Jun 24, 2020
Webinar
Brunch & Learn: 1031 Tax Exchange (Live Webinar)
Jun 25, 2020
Webinar
CE Webinar: Offers
Jul 13, 2020
Webinar
Green Designation (Live Webinar)
Jul 14, 2020 - Jul 22, 2020
Webinar
 

Calendar

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Rentals The Right Way! (Live Webinar)
Webinar
9:00am
 
YPN-The Reality Of Realty: Striving & Still Thriving
Webinar
10:30am
 
Brunch & Learn: Closing And Settlement Course (Live Webinar)
Webinar
9:00am
 

GBAR IN THE NEWS

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