New York City, the epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic, has seen some tough days over the past few months. There have been, and continue to be, many tragic deaths from the virus. Many people are out of work, and the economy has suffered terribly from the lockdown. But despite all this, the city has once again shown just how strong it is. Every New Yorker has persevered through this ordeal, and now, finally, it looks like there is light on the horizon.
On Thursday, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that Phase Two of reopening would begin on Monday. The falling numbers of people admitted to ICU and rising testing rates are enough to be optimistic that the worst may be behind us. Still, we have to remain cautious. Already, several states that moved swiftly to reopen have seen a spike in new infections. If we’re to avoid seeing that happen in New York City, then we have to take things slowly.
With that in mind, the Real Estate Board of New York (REBNY) has recently published a list of guidelines for real estate brokers on how to conduct real estate transactions at this time safely. There is much to worry about at this time, but navigating the home buying process shouldn’t be one of them. Those who are eager to get back into the real estate game will be happy to see that real estate brokers everywhere are taking both staff, agent, and client safety very seriously. Below are new guidelines established, as well as what to expect as we move through Phase Two of reopening the city for business.
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The New York Moving Forward Plan – Phase TwoThe New York Moving Forward Plan – Phase Two
On June 8th, New York City began Phase one of the Moving Forward Plan. The resumption of non-essential construction, manufacturing, and some retail businesses. As per the plan, a region must operate for at least two weeks in any given phase before moving on to the next one. With those two weeks about to expire, we’re now ready to start Phase Two. As many as 300,000 people expected to return to work shortly as outdoor dining, in-store shopping, and office work resume business.
Real estate companies and offices are among the business that will be allowed to reopen on Monday. It also means that physical home showings can (mostly) restart. But hold your horses—a few caveats (more on that below). To help brokers prepare for the reopening and reassure clients proper safety precautions have been taken, REBNY has recently issued a comprehensive set of guidelines. These precautions meant to serve as a roadmap to restarting business and ensuring the health and safety of everyone involved. Buyers and sellers should familiarize themselves with these important guidelines.
REBNY GuidelinesREBNY Guidelines
- Maintain Regular Public Health Guidelines
- Social-distancing and health measures still have to be followed. Until there’s a vaccine, this will remain the case, so remember:
- Maintain social-distancing of at least six feet during all in-person interactions
- Clean and disinfect all frequently touched surfaces and objects.
- H frequently with soap and water or hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.
- Wear a facemask during all in-person interactions.
- Stay at home if you are sick
Use Virtual Tools Wherever PossibleUse Virtual Tools Wherever Possible
Initial meetings between brokers and clients should be done over the phone or via videoconferencing first. Recommended for every step of the transaction process, if available online, then best to do.
Safety Measures for Conducting In-Person MeetingsSafety Measures for Conducting In-Person Meetings
When not possible to do something online, take every precaution before arranging any physical meeting. Brokers advised making use of REBNY’s Limitation of Liability Form and a Health Screening Questionnaire Form.
Health Screening Questionnaire FormHealth Screening Questionnaire Form
Limitation of Liability FormLimitation of Liability Form
The liability form is intending to notify all parties of the risks associated with conducting an in-person meeting or a showing. Anyone who’s a part of the meeting should sign this form, including the broker/agent.
Regulate Showings and EventsRegulate Showings and Events
All in-person showings or events should be by appointment only. In the case of a property showing, only one party should be inside the property at a time. Showing arrangements can only take place if the property is unoccupied or vacant. There may also be additional safety protocols to implement building.
Perform all Due Diligence DigitallyPerform all Due Diligence Digitally
Use electronic means to send proposals, share information, and sign contracts—such measures implemented for all areas of due diligence. New methods and protocols have recently devised to make this possible. For instance, a law now exists that allows notaries to notarize documents via videoconferencing apps.
Use “Escrow” ClosingsUse “Escrow” Closings
All real estate closings should now proceed through an “Escrow” closing. In this way, both parties sign their documents before the closing date then sent to a third-party, usually an attorney or escrow agent. If any physical meeting does have to take place, then it should be limited to only essential parties—all cash transfers to expedited through wire transfers.
Please note that these guidelines may change over time as we move through Phase Two of reopening. For more information, be sure to visit REBNY’s Coronavirus Resources.