March 30, 2020
Ever since Governor Inslee issued his Memorandum on March 28 listing residential real estate as an “essential service” subject to strict limitations and protocols, we have received many questions about the meaning of the Governor’s Memo. We also have heard from members who disagree with it.
To be clear: it is the Governor’s intent, and it is the unwavering position of Washington REALTORS®, that public safety and stopping the spread of the virus is the paramount consideration and the top priority of everything we do as an organization and as an industry. This means that the overriding directive is that real estate brokers must limit personal interactions with and among the public to the greatest extent possible, engage personally only when necessary, and must do so within the strict protocols of the Governor’s residential real estate memo and his Stay Home Stay Healthy order.
Governor Inslee’s March 28 memo regarding residential real estate services is based on the importance of providing housing to the public, especially for the 17,000 pending transactions that if not completed, could result in critical housing problems. Getting those transactions closed is a priority. The Governor’s directive balances these housing needs with the importance of protecting public health through social distancing. Compared to other states, Washington now has far more detailed and specific public health restrictions on allowed residential real estate services.
The Governor’s memo does not establish that all real estate brokerage and related services are “essential.” Rather, the memo provides that only certain residential real estate services are essential and that those specific services are subject to strict and very specific social distancing protocols. These industry-specific social distancing requirements, such as the limit of having only 2 people at a property during showings or inspections, are more stringent and more protective of public health than the social distancing guidelines in effect for other industry sectors in Washington State, or in other state or federal guidelines.
Washington is not an outlier. The federal government, through the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, provides a list of “Essential Critical Infrastructure Workers,” and this list also includes residential real estate as essential. Many other states have issued “Stay at Home” or “Shelter in Place” orders to slow the spread of COVID-19. These orders include a list of governmental and business operations that are deemed “essential,” and so can continue to operate subject to social distancing requirements. Many states have deemed certain residential real estate services as an essential. But again, Washington’s restrictions and protocols are more stringent than most other states. Please follow them to the letter.
QUESTION: Am I allowed to provide property management services?
ANSWER: No. The March 28 guidance was directed at sales activity only. Washington REALTORS® continues to work with the Governor’s office on several remaining priority requests, with property management being at the top of the list. It seems apparent that the Governor recognizes the critical nature that housing plays in resolution of our health crisis and is attempting to craft orders that will allow the professionals to work toward meeting the needs of residents while operating safely in the midst of a pandemic. Although platitudes are not what a property manager wants to hear today, please know that Washington REALTORS® and the Governor’s office are both working as efficiently as possible to resolve the myriad of housing issues confronting members of Washington REALTORS® and the communities they serve.
CONFUSION SURROUNDING PHOTOGRAPHERS
QUESTION: With the WR update regarding the Governor’s March 28 memo, it specifies that we can’t hire professional photographers. Our firm has an employee who is in charge of marketing but also does our photos. Do you feel she would be considered a professional photographer under these rules? [The Legal Hotline also received numerous inquiries asking if another RE broker with photography skills (other than the listing broker) could enter seller’s property to take photos/virtual tour. The answer below applies to both scenarios.]
ANSWER: DB should recall that the Stay Home, Stay Healthy order, which is still in full force and effect, says that every person should stay home unless they fit into one of the narrow exceptions. On March 28, Governor Inslee further defined an exception regarding housing to allow the fewest in-person contacts as absolutely necessary to get those buyers and sellers desperate to make a move now, moving.
There is probably a way to manipulate the literal requirements of his March 28 order to fit the parameters of this question but putting a photographer in seller’s home during the Stay Home, Stay Healthy order violates the spirit and intent of both the Stay Home, Stay Healthy order and the Governor’s clarifying memo of March 28. This is true whether the photographer happens to have a RE license or not.
The purpose of the March 28 order was not to get a broker or firm employee with photography skills into seller’s home. The purpose was to get a listing broker, needed by the seller on an emergent basis, into seller’s home with minimal exposure between people and between broker and seller’s home … and to get a buyer, with buyer’s needed broker, into seller’s home with minimal exposure between people and within seller’s home. DB should not send an extra broker or firm employee into seller’s home, to take photos, until after the Stay Home, Stay Healthy order is lifted.
BREAKING NEWS FROM OLYMPIA
March 28, 2020
“Real estate activities along with mortgage lending activities have been approved as essential activities under the Proclamation.”
“Such activities shall only be permitted under the following restrictions and limitations:
a) In-person meetings with customers are prohibited except when necessary for a customer to view a property or sign necessary documents;
b) No real estate open houses shall be permitted;
c) Property viewings, inspections, appraisals, and final walk-troughs shall be arranged by appointment and limited to no more than two people on site at any one time, exercising social distancing at all times; and
d) Except for the llimited exceptions authorized above, all new real estate listings shall be facilitated remotely.
Read the governor’s memorandum (pictured above), online here.
Washington REALTORS® spent the morning going through the governor’s memorandum and creating “Updated: Frequently Asked Questions” to offer guidance to Members across the state.
Read this document (pictured above) online here.
SPECIAL FAQ AVAILABLE
LEGAL HOTLINE LAWYER ANNIE FITZSIMMONS
& NWMLS LEGAL COUNSEL JUSTIN HAAG
March 26, 2020
WR Legal Hotline Lawyer Annie Fitzsimmons and NWMLS Legal Counsel Justin Haag have put together this list of frequently asked questions to help us all understand how Governor Inslee’s “Stay Home, Stay Healthy” emergency order impacts real estate brokers and related professionals.
Contrary to rumors, real estate has not been “shut down” but is working in limited capacity for the next two weeks as mandated by Governor Inslee. Real estate professionals are working to facilitate the 17,000 transactions currently in the pipeline and some of these questions may clarify what REALTORS® can and cannot do, as well as address some of the related industries we all rely upon to close a transaction. Washington REALTORS® has been working with the cabinet-level staff within the Governor’s office but the Governor’s order remains very clear about certain things. Please review the list of FAQs below and if you have further questions, email email@example.com.
If you have a general question about operating your real estate business
under the “Stay Home, Stay Healthy” order, please ask it here.
We’ll share the answer in the next edition of this newsletter.
Dear SAR member:
It is the official position of the Spokane Association of REALTORS® that all Members must comply with the governor’s “Stay Home, Stay Healthy” order, beginning Wednesday, March 25th, at midnight and ending Wednesday, April 8th, at midnight (unless continued by the governor).
All in-person contact with your clients must cease: no meetings, no showings, no open houses.
Virtual/electronic activity may continue and is encouraged: video meetings, virtual tours/open houses, and electronic documents/signing.
It may be a violation of the REALTOR® Code of Ethics and possibly also a violation of law to conduct business as usual, in person, during this time.
Writing for the SAR Board of Directors
Tom Clark, 2020 SAR President
March 24, 2020
REALTORS® are often looked up to as thought and behavior leaders in our community. Be the REALTOR® your clients expect you to be for the next two weeks.
Your staying home right now is not so you can help protect 500,000 people in Spokane County; it’s how 500,000 people in Spokane County can help protect you and your loved ones. We’re all in this together.
When the “Stay Home, Stay Healthy” order expires, it will be important for you to keep good health habits in place at home as well as in your business as a REALTOR®.
2020 SAR President Tom Clark gets some advice for REALTORS® from Dr. Bob Lutz, Chief Medical Officer for Spokane Regional Health District, on how to conduct business under current COVID-19 conditions.
See the three-minute video online here:
Your Spokane Association of REALTORS® is open for business under new rules until further notice due to the governor’s emergency order from the COVID-19 global pandemic.
The doors to the office at 1924 North Ash Street are locked; all staff continues to work remotely.
It is our pleasure to continue to serve you as a valued member of the Association during this challenging time.
Your business continues so our business continues. Let’s stay in touch:
Telephone: (509) 326-9222
Regular business hours: weekdays, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
All Spokane Association of REALTORS® COVID-19 resources are online here.
Many national, state, and local governmental agencies are making resources available to businesses during the COVID-19 shutdown. Your Spokane Association of REALTORS® Governmental Affairs committee is picking the best of these to share with you online here.
Washington Governor Jay Inslee has issued a Stay Home – Stay Healthy Order (pictured above) effective throughout Washington State effective at midnight tonight (Wednesday, March 25th).
This order prohibits all people in Washington State from leaving their homes or participating in social, spiritual and recreational gatherings of any kind regardless of the number of participants, and all non-essential businesses in Washington State from conducting business.”
This prohibition shall remain in effect until midnight on Wednesday, April 8, 2020, unless extended beyond that date.
Real Estate activity must be conducted remotely for the next two weeks, starting this (Wednesday) evening.
In-person showings, physically touring houses with buyers, and holding open houses are not consistent with the Governor’s message. These activities must stop for the next two weeks.
Read Governor Inslee’s “Stay Home, Stay Healthy” order online here.
See the list of “Essential Critical Infrastructure Workers” online here.
Read “What the Governor’s Emergency Order Means for REALTORS®” online here.
Washington REALTORS® Legal Hotline attorney Annie Fitzsimmons puts it all together in this excellent video recorded in her Legal Hotline bunker and shared with you here.
Click on this image to see her nine-minute video:
Washington REALTORS® CEO Steve Francks and Governmental Affairs Director Nathan Gorton team up on a video to share an early view on where things are for real estate in Washington State as we go through the COVID-19 shutdown together.
See their 11-minute video online here:
2020 Washington REALTORS® President Kitty Wallace is working remotely from her Cle Elum home.
“I, too, am a REALTOR® just like you,” says Kitty. “I depend on selling houses. But, right now, we need to hunker down.”
See Kitty’s four-minute video online here:
NAR, last week, published “Coronavirus – A Guide for REALTORS®”
The document comes in response to the growing concerns about COVID-19, commonly referred to as Corona Virus.