Due to public health concerns in Washington State and Snohomish County related to the COVID-19 outbreak, also referred to as the Coronavirus, the Snohomish County Camano Association of REALTORS® encourages brokers to review all recommended practices to reduce spread of the virus.
SCCAR has been working to ensure continuity in our operations. However, the safety and well-being of members and our staff is our top priority. With that in mind, we are closing the SCCAR office and store until June 15th. There will be no in-person classes, meetings, committees, and events between now until Phase 3. We will host our regularly monthly committee meetings and some classes virtually. We will revisit this situation weekly and make any adjustments as warranted. SCCAR staff will be available by email. The SCCAR voicemail will be checked about once a week, with your calls being returned in the order they were received. For a more immediate response, please email staff:
- For inquiries regarding dues, classes, education, Code of Ethics, or other general membership questions, please contact our Membership Director, Jordyn Nickolson, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- For information regarding government affairs, events, communications, or committee meetings please contact our Director of Government & Public Affairs, Cami Morrill, at email@example.com.
- For all financial or tax related matters please contact our Finance Director, Anne Coley, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- For inquiries regarding the Board of Directors or the general operation of SCCAR please contact our Executive Director, Matthew Wahlquist, at email@example.com.
- For all other questions, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
In addition, the National Association of REALTORS® has issued a guide for brokers to consider when interacting with clients and customers. The guide includes recommendations regarding open houses, showing clients listed properties and special considerations to comply with the Fair Housing Act.
Review the guide below:
CORONAVIRUS: A GUIDE FOR REALTORS®
Released March 4, 2020
Why is NAR issuing this guidance?
In response to the growing concerns about COVID-19, commonly referred to as coronavirus, NAR is providing this guidance to help REALTORS® respond to the coronavirus’s potential impact on the real estate industry. As of March 4, 2020, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued Level 3 Travel Warnings for all of China, South Korea, Italy, and Iran, and a Level 2 Travel Warning for Japan. However, the situation is rapidly evolving. Be sure to refer to the CDC’s website for up-to-date information about travel warnings (https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/travelers/index.html), as well as information about the coronavirus’s current impact in the United States (https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/cases-in-us.html). Daily updates about the coronavirus are also available from the World Health Organization (https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019).
What is Coronavirus?
The CDC is responding to an outbreak of a respiratory illness caused by a novel coronavirus outbreak. While the outbreak started in Wuhan, China, a growing number of cases have been identified in several other countries, including the United States.
What is the risk of exposure to coronavirus?
The CDC reports that most people in the United States do not have an immediate risk of exposure to the virus. However, the situation is rapidly evolving, and the CDC will update its risk assessment as needed. For the CDC’s latest updates, visit: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/.
What preventative measures may be taken to reduce the risk of contracting and spreading coronavirus?
The same preventative measures recommended to prevent influenza are also effective in reducing the risk of contracting or spreading coronavirus. These measures include:
• Staying home if you have a fever, cough, shortness of breath or any other cold or flu-like symptom.
• Washing your hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water aren’t available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
• Avoiding touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
• Avoiding close contact with anyone who is sick.
• Cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched objects and surfaces.
• Covering your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze, or cough or sneeze into your sleeve
What unique issues does coronavirus present to the real estate industry?
When an infectious disease, such as coronavirus, is associated with a specific population or nationality, fear and anxiety may lead to social stigma and potential discrimination. REALTORS® must be mindful of their obligations under the Fair Housing Act, and be sure not to discriminate against any particular segment of the population. While the coronavirus outbreak began in Wuhan, China, that does not provide a basis for treating Chinese persons or persons of Asian descent differently.
May I ask clients or others I interact with in my real estate business if they have traveled recently, or have any signs of respiratory illness?
Yes, you may ask clients or others about their recent travel, particularly to areas identified as having an increased risk of coronavirus. To avoid potential fair housing issues, be sure to ask all clients the same screening questions based on current, factual information from public health authorities.
I typically drive my clients to showings. May I refuse to drive potential clients to see homes?
Yes. However, be sure that any change to your business practices is applied equally to all clients. You may refuse to drive clients who show signs of illness or reveal recent travel to areas of increased risk of coronavirus, or you may instead decide to stop driving clients in your car altogether, and simply arrange to meet clients at a property. If you do continue to drive clients in your car, it is a good idea to frequently clean and disinfect surfaces like door handles and seat belt latches, and to ask clients to use hand sanitizer when getting in and out of the car.
Should I still conduct open houses on my listed properties?
Currently, the NWMLS has banned open houses indefinitely.
When the situation changes, speak openly and honestly with your seller about the pros and cons of holding an open house. Assess the risk based on your specific location and direct your clients to local and state health authorities for specific information about the severity of the risk in your area. You could also propose alternative marketing opportunities for your seller’s consideration, such as video tours and other methods to virtually tour a property. If you do hold an open house, consider requiring all visitors to disinfect their hands upon entering the home, and provide alcohol-based hand sanitizers at the entryway, as well as soap and disposable towels in bathrooms. If you decide to do any cleaning at your client’s home, be sure to check with your client in advance about any products you plan to use. After the open house, recommend that your client clean and disinfect their home, especially commonly touched areas like doorknobs and faucet handles
What precautions should brokers consider taking in their offices?
Brokers should use their best judgment when formulating a plan. First, brokers should implement a mandatory “stay home” policy for any staff member or agent exhibiting any sign of illness, and depending on where the broker is geographically located, a broker may want to consider imposing a mandatory remote work policy for employees and instructing agents to stay out of the office. In addition, taking measures such as holding virtual meetings or potentially postponing or cancelling in-person meetings or events may be good measures to take to limit close contact between individuals. Be sure to monitor updates from the CDC, as well as your state and local health authorities for additional information and guidance on holding meetings or events. For travel considerations, review NAR’s “Coronavirus: A Guide for REALTOR® Associations”.
As COVID-19 is currently being handled uniquely per state, Washington REALTORS® has also developed a resource page.
Washington REALTORS® have also written a letter to Governor Inslee suggesting various ways he could help REALTORS, their clients, and the real estate industry. Our goal is to make sure transactions can continue in a timely manner even in the event of a shelter in place order. The letter includes the following points. However, you can read the full letter here.
Washington REALTORS® would like to propose the following ideas to help homeowners, renters, small businesses, and the economy during this emergency:
1. Penalty-free delay on property taxes due April 30, 2020. A penalty-free delay will ease the burden on homeowners and small businesses, which will benefit renters as well.
2. Directing the Department of Financial Institutions to work with lenders to allow for delayed mortgage payments and implement other measures to prevent foreclosures.
3. RCW 42.45.280 allows remote (electronic) notarization of documents in real estate financing and transactions, but this law is not effective until October 1, 2020. Accelerating the effective date of this legislation would assist transactions, while increasing social distancing. We would ask that you by emergency rule put this legislation into effect immediately.
4. Directing the Department of Licensing (DOL) to extend real estate licenses for all licensees who have not completed the required number of continuing education clock hours. Many REALTORS rely on in-person learning which typically occurs in large groups. Those classes are currently banned under Executive Order, so the Real Estate Commission within DOL should address this situation.
5. While some local government functions can be delayed with minimal economic impacts, the role of counties in recording real estate transactions is critical to ensure economic activity and tax collection. The State should assist counties with necessary funding to ensure this essential economic and consumer function can continue.
Finally, do not panic, stay informed, and use your best judgment. The situation is rapidly changing, so focus on putting policies and procedures in place to keep your employees informed, safe, and to avoid business disruption in the event the situation worsens.