According to the amendment, “real estate professionals, appraisers, notaries, title companies, settlement service providers, escrow officers, home inspectors, mortgage loan originators, processors, and underwriters, and other necessary office personnel including IT professionals, and back-office staff necessary to maintain office operations, are permitted to conduct in-person operations for properties located in counties which have designated as being in the Red and Yellow phases, so long as they strictly adhere to the requirements of this guidance.”
The supplemental guidance applicable to businesses in the real estate industry requires the following:
- Continued adherence to the “Guidance for Businesses Permitted to Operate During the COVID-19 Disaster Emergency to Ensure the Safety and Health of Employees and the Public” previously published on May 4, 2020 and updated on May 6, 2020. This prior guidance requires, among other things, the wearing of face/mask coverings and maintaining protocols in the event a business has been exposed to a person who may have or has COVID-19.
- The utilization of separate transportation to property showings and all other in-person activities.
- Schedule in-person office visits, showings, appraisals, inspections, walk-throughs and title insurance activities by appointment and maintain records of such appointments.
- Limit in-person activities to no more than the real estate professional and two people in a property at a time, while maintaining social distancing.
- Conduct settlements/closings via remote notaries, powers of attorney or exchange documents electronically or by mail wherever possible. When it is not possible to conduct settlements/closings remotely, in-person attendance must be limited to required signatories and their legal counsel or real estate professional only, and steps to preserve social distancing must be followed.
- Where real estate businesses can conduct operations, including office functions by telework, they must do so.
The supplemental guidance also suggests, but does not mandate, the following:
- Minimize in-person activities and minimize attendance to the most critical individuals, while maintaining social distancing.
- Provide sellers with up-to-date safety information and protocols to clean and sanitize the properties.
- Utilize electronic marketing as much as possible, including virtual showings.
- Provide all individuals engaging in in-person activities with a verbal health screening.
- Stagger showings of properties by thirty minutes or more.
- Avoid physical contact with the property by staging doors, drapes, blinds, etcetera where possible. Where physical contact with the property is necessary, ensure such surfaces are sanitized prior to the next showing.
- Minimize the time spent in the property by having discussions away from the property or via remote means.
All businesses and employees in the real estate industry authorized to conduct in-person activities are prohibited from:
- Providing food during in-person activities.
- Conducting in-person group showings, open houses, or office tours.
As the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania progresses through its phased re-opening, this supplemental guidance for the real estate industry may be equally instructive for other business sectors as well.