Real Estate Guidance for Phase 2
As of 5/19/20, Island County is approved to apply for Phase 2. Though Snohomish County is currently in Phase 1, here are guidelines for the real estate industry when we open up to Phase 2.
Modifications for Phase 2 include:
- Real estate firms may open their offices in a limited fashion;
- Commercial brokers can engage in the same in-person services as residential brokers;
- Three persons (as opposed to two persons) are allowed on site for permitted in-person real estate activities for both residential and commercial brokerage (for both improved and unimproved property); and
- Sign installers may install real estate signs.
For both Phase 1 and Phase 2 in-person real estate activities, real estate brokers and industry partners (e.g. appraisers, inspectors, photographers, stagers, etc.) must wear cloth face coverings and should encourage clients and customers to do the same.
Public and broker open houses and similar invitations to view a property without an appointment are not permitted in Phase 1 or Phase 2. Only previews and showings by appointment are allowed.
Brokers must adhere to the “phase” protocols for the county where the property is located, regardless of the location of the broker’s office or home. Brokers conducting real estate activities in a Phase 1 county, must continue to abide by the Phase 1 protocols, which include only allowing two persons in a property, including the broker, at one time.
Applying for Unemployment
The Washington Employment Security Department (“ESD”) is currently in the process of establishing its online system to accept applications for unemployment benefits from independent contractors under the CARES Act, the federal law to provide economic stimulus in response to COVID-19. Under the CARES Act, independent contractors and the self-employed can receive Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (“PUA”), which will be administered by ESD in Washington State. ESD estimates that updates to its online application system will allow for applications from independent contractors and the self-employed by mid-April. ESD requests that those who may file for PUA benefits sign up on its website to be notified when the application process for independent contractors is ready. REALTORS® who may seek PUA should create a Secure Access Washington (SAW) account, and watch ESD’s new tutorial. The law requires everyone to apply for regular unemployment first, and be denied, before applying for PUA.
You can learn more by visiting ESD's website.
Small Business Loans
The Treasury Department released the application for the SBA 7(a) Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans, which you can access here. It also released a summary guide of the program for borrowers, here.
This is a new program created by the CARES Act to provide small businesses (500 employees or fewer), sole proprietors, and the self-employed/independent contracts who are impacted by COVID-19 with loans of 2.5x their average monthly payroll expenses (up to $10 million) to cover payroll, mortgage interest, rent, and utilities for an 8-week period during the crisis. Employers who maintain payroll levels of at least 75% of their average and the same number of employees are eligible for loan forgiveness. You can learn more about the loan program in NAR's CARES Act FAQ document and the CARES Act Summary.
There are still some questions as to if a small business should include independent contractors in its employee numbers and payroll costs; what we know for certain is that independent contractors can apply for their own 7(a) PPP loans. We are seeking clarity on that question from the Treasury and the SBA and will have the answer soon.
NAR will be posting a SBA-Program specific FAQ focusing on the 7(a) PPP loans and the Economic Injury Disaster Loans, which you can apply for here. (Businesses can apply for both, but the funds cannot be used for the same purposes, and the $10,000 advance grant is not forgiven if you also receive a forgivable PPP loan.)
Loan Processing Flexibilities
On March 31st, 2020, the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) today announced several loan processing flexibilities from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac (The Enterprises) designed to help their customers.
The flexibilities announced by the Enterprises include:
Allowing desktop appraisals on new construction loans;
Allowing flexibility on demonstrating construction has been completed (alternative to the Completion Report);
Allowing flexibility for borrowers to provide documentation (rather than requiring an inspection) to allow renovation disbursements (draws); and
Expanding the use of power of attorney and remote online notarizations.