Q. Do sellers have to allow buyers access to their property?
Under the Residential Sales Contract, a seller’s refusal to provide access is only a breach of the contract if the refusal is unreasonable. Manage your buyer client’s expectations and encourage them to be patient and understanding of the seller’s concerns.
Q. What about allowing access to appraisers and inspectors?
Appraisers and inspectors still have a job to do that requires their being present at the property. It is possible that they might request special accommodations. An appraiser may be practicing social distancing and request that they be allowed to work without a buyer’s agent nearby. Under the Code of Ethics and Regional Rules & Regulations for the SentriLock Lockbox System, buyer’s agents should secure permission from the listing agent before providing such access. Most importantly, be flexible and do what you can to accommodate all parties’ reasonable concerns.
Q. What are the rules for virtual showings?
Bright MLS has launched some temporary rules changes, which include relaxed showings requirements and updates to virtual tours. In-person or onsite showings are not required and homeowners reserve the right to prevent people from physically entering the property. Active properties must be available through either listing photos, virtual tours, virtual showings, or to otherwise be available for a walk-through before closing. Click here
to read more.
Q. Does the seller need to grant permission to show the property virtually?
Yes. When Realtors® are showing properties, one of the key realities is that everything you do requires the seller’s permission and authorization. Realtors® are faced with many challenges on an ordinary day, but even with the new challenges brought on by COVID-19, your duties under the Code of Ethics remain.
For agents working on behalf of the buyer, do not take photos and/or videos of the property unless you have received the seller’s permission through the listing agent. This includes video showings. If you will be using FaceTime or Skype to show your client a property, you should receive seller authorization to do so. It is also important for buyer’s agents to have an honest conversation with their clients. Explain to them what permissions are being given, and what options are available to them.
Q. What guidelines should Realtors® be following in order to comply with the Governor’s order?
Executive Order 53 says that while business operations offering professional, rather than retail services, like the real estate industry, may remain open, they should utilize teleworking as much as possible. When telework is not feasible, professional service businesses must adhere to social distancing recommendations, enhanced sanitizing practices on common surfaces, and apply the relevant workplace guidance from state and federal authorities.
Open houses have the potential to violate the Governor’s 10-person guideline and could pose an unnecessary risk to the public. Individual showings are allowed, while reducing potential exposure as much as possible. You are also able to show your property virtually under current relaxed guidelines (see question above).
Q. Will a health questionnaire, acknowledgement or liability waiver protect my brokerage and my clients when providing access to a property that results in someone contracting COVID-19?
Realtors® should consult their broker regarding firm policy. However, the use of such forms might provide a false sense of security to the parties. The sellers and/or buyers (or the agents) could be asymptomatic or not yet sick. A questionnaire, acknowledgement or waiver will not address situations where the parties may not know if they are sick. If a party later exhibits symptoms or deliberately misrepresents their health status, it is not clear whether a questionnaire or acknowledgement would provide a remedy or create a cause of action.
The NVAR listing agreements already provide some protection to the listing broker. Per the listing agreements, sellers hold the listing broker harmless for personal injury and property damage related to access to the property during the listing period. However, none of these forms would provide protection to the sellers or buyers if either party contracts COVID-19 and passes it to the other as a result of a showing.
The most important thing you can do is to have a conversation with your clients regarding the risks associated with permitting showings or visiting a property. Encourage the use of alternative methods to “show” the property that does not increase the risk of exposure to sellers or buyers.