Home Buying and Selling in Time of Covid-19

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Real estate activities are permissible at this time under Utah state law. Attached are questions that we have received from clients and customers with the best answers we have as of May, 2020. We will attempt to up-date/supplement these FAQs as we hear from our local and national REALTOR® associations and our government.

1) QUESTION: Can REALTORS® conduct in-person listing appointments and property showings?

2) QUESTION: What requirements must be followed at any listing appointment or showing?
ANSWER: a) All real estate activity conducted at a property must be by appointment unless the MLS listing specifically states ‘Go and show and or /keyboxed and vacant, no appointment necessary’; b) No more than four peo-ple may be in attendance whenever possible apart from those persons living in the home; c) All persons visiting a property must wear a mask and maintain a six-foot social distance at all times.

3) QUESTION: Does a rental unit need to be vacant before I can schedule an appointment?
ANSWER: State law requires that tenants in a leased property be given a 24 hour notice to show the property. However a listing brokerage may have made specific arrangements with that tenant during the listing period to ac-commodate safe showing practices. We will abide by the listing brokerage’s instructions to enter any leased property.

4) QUESTION: Is a seller required to allow in-person showings?
ANSWER: No. A seller has the right to elect not to permit an in-person showing or to set up conditions on such showings such as the wearing of masks, gloves, booties and/or the existence of a pre-approval letter from the buyer’s lender.

5) QUESTION: Do we have to apply for a mortgage in person? And will the mortgage person attend the closing of escrow?
ANSWER: All lenders have on-line applications and websites. Have your real estate professional suggest a great lender to help you through the loan process. A good lender will meet buyers at the close of escrow to go over the final paperwork and answer questions.

6) QUESTION: Will my REALTOR® attend the closing of escrow?
ANSWER: Yes. By law, your REALTOR® or a representative from the brokerage must attend the closing. In this day and age, under this pandemic, it is completely allowable to have lenders attend via a live-stream.

7) QUESTION: What protections do title companies have for clients at the final escrow table?
ANSWER: Each title company has a different in-house safety policy. Once the title company is chosen then they can be contacted to see what they will require (masks) 6-ft. distance, gloves, etc. All monies in a sales transac-tion are handled by bank wires so checks are very unusual, which eliminates the need to pick up and deposit monies by sellers or buyers to close escrow. They have adopted their own mitigation measures for the protection of their Employees and patron (i.e. buyers and sellers). Assuming that the title company allows you to attend the closing then you will need to make a determination as to whether you should attend the closing in-person or remotely, keeping in mind the requirement that businesses promote remote work to the fullest extend possible. The level of complexity of particular transaction may dictate whether attendance in person at a particular closing is required.

8) QUESTION: My buyers want out of their purchase agreement because of their overall uncertainty about the effect of the coronavirus pandemic. My buyers have decided they don’t want o make a large purchase now, even though they can afford it. Given the circumstances, can my buyers unilaterally terminate the purchase agreement.
ANSWER: As a general legal matter, there is no right to unilaterally terminate a contract due to a change in circumstances-even a really significant change in circumstances unless all parties have signed a ‘COVID-19 RELEASE FORM’ found through the Wasatch Front MLS.

9) QUESTION: The signed purchase agreement states that my buyers will pay cash for the home. They have now produced a document signed by their financial advisor stating that due to market conditions, they no longer have sufficient funds to buy the home. Can my buyers terminate the purchase agreement?
ANSWER: If a purchase agreement calls for a cash purchase, it is not contingent upon the purchasers having availa-ble cash. Rather, by agreeing to a cash purchase, the purchasers are representing that they have the available funds. Purchasers are not excused from performing under the contract if, due to market conditions, they no longer have enough money to close. Rather, under these circumstances, the purchasers would be in breach of contract.

10) QUESTION: If I own two residences in different parts of the state can I travel to visit and live at them whenever I want?

11) QUESTION: Since real estate activities are permitted during the pandemic, can a seller hire someone to conduct an estate sale?
ANSWER: Estate sale/liquidators are allowed to sell the personal property of the estate/deceased. They will each have their own protocols for viewing and purchasing items at a property so it is wise to call in advance to go over their rules prior to hiring such a firm or shopping at an estate sale.

12) QUESTION: Buyers found a few items on the home inspection that was conducted after the home went ‘under contract/sale pending’ that needed to be addressed, such as a broken picture window and a water heater on it’s last leg. The buyers will go forward with the sale if the seller agrees to repairs/replacements. If the sellers are will-ing to do so, can they have this work done so that the closing can proceed?
ANSWER: Yes. Like workers in the real estate industry, work in the construction and building trades are allowed to make repairs and or upgrades to properties (Plumbers, roofers, electricians, painters, carpeters and flooring vendors, etc. )

13) QUESTION: Can the agent hire professional photographers to shoot my property or do I have to provide them my-self?
ANSWER: Yes, professional photographers practicing safe practices are allowed inside properties.

14) QUESTION: May local government (like Utah, Davis or Salt Lake County) preempt the Governor’s Executive Order to be more restrictive than the county where I want to see properties, what rules take precedent? Who do I listen to?
ANSWER: Local health departments, cities and townships may be more restrictive than State rules and regulations. As professionals we attempt to keep up on any changes in those restrictions in practicing real estate sales. We will share any updates with our clients as customers as we learn of them.

15) QUESTION: How has the pandemic changed how YOU as REALTORS® conduct business?
ANSWER: We are still listing homes and selling them, and working with buyers. The market hasn’t changed that much: there is still low inventory and buyers often find themselves in a multiple offer situation. Some sellers are mov-ing out of their homes to not deal with the hassle of showing their home and sanitizing it before and after showings. Some buyers are making offers after only virtually showing homes that their agent/broker has live streamed to them. Inspections continue once a home is under contract without problems as vendors who offer home inspections, sewer scopes, radon and meth tests. If any pre-emptive or post inspection repairs or upgrades are needed, these vendors also have had no problems working safely in properties.
We will continue to operate under national and state restrictions and morph as the climate changes in every pos-sible POSITIVE way for our clients and customers.