HOW COVID-19 IS AFFECTING THE REAL ESTATE PROCESS
Disclaimer: The following information is based on the CDC’s recommendations and OSHA’s guide for preparing at the workplace. Some information is also referenced from the National Association of Realtors and specifically based in Indiana. Provided quotes are from vendors that serve in the La Porte County area. Other locations in the state or country may have different procedures, policies, and advice. Other companies may also have different procedures, policies, and advice than provided in this article. It is important to contact your personal agents and vendors to meet your specific real estate needs. MTM Realty Group has temporarily changed procedures and office hours in correspondence to COVID-19 until further notice. The procedures and protocols below are not permanent and may be subject to change upon new information presented. MTM Realty Group does business in accordance with the Federal Fair Housing Act and Equal Credit Opportunity Act.
Here at MTM Realty Group, we are determined to help make this process as easy as we can for our clients. Please note the hyperlinks below for accurate further information on news, advice and procedures.
What is Coronavirus?
What are the latest updates?
for the latest updates from the World Health Organization.
What is the correct terminology?
for the official definitions and resources from the EEOC.
The Indiana State Department of Health also has a page of Frequently Asked Questions and Answers if you have further concerns. Click here
to access those FAQs.
What is the risk of coronavirus?
to view the current cases of the outbreak.
How does the Coronavirus spread?
for more information on the Coronavirus and how it spreads.
What are some preventative measures to be taken in the real estate process to reduce the risk of spreading coronavirus?
MTM Realty Group is currently practicing OSHA’s recommendations on preparing our offices and work spaces for COVID-19. Click here
to view OSHA's guidance on preparing the workplace for COVID-19 to see how MTM is handling office locations and work spaces. MTM Realty Group and agents are taking the CDC's recommendations
on protecting themselves and trying to take precautions to prevent getting sick at this time. All physical locations are temporarily closed until further notice, but agents can be contacted by phone. Click here
for an agent contact list.
Are realtors considered essential workers?
Yes, realtors are considered essential workers in Indiana
and are considered a low exposure risk according to OSHA.
Realtors do not require contact with people to be known or suspected of being infected with the virus. Realtors have minimal occupational contact with the public and other coworkers at this time. Financial and insurance institutions involved in the home buying process are also under the Indiana Essential Businesses and Operations List.
What is the Fair Housing Act and does that affect business?
Please click here
to learn more about the Fair Housing Act. MTM Realty Group realtors are mindful of our obligations under the Fair Housing Act (FHA) and continue to not discriminate against any segment of the population. MTM Realty Group is making the same business decisions with all clients. According to the Housing and Urban Development (HUD)
guidelines and National Association of Realtors (NAR)
website, realtors are entitled to ask all their clients or others about their recent travel. Under the Fair Housing Act (FHA), realtors are obligated to ask all clients the same questions in regards to recent travel.
What are some questions my realtor may ask me if I am in the middle or beginning of a transaction during this pandemic?
MTM Realty Group agents are encouraged but not required to ask questions in regards to travel for their protection and safety. Our individual agents can choose what set of questions they will ask to all of their clients. Questions are based on the current information from public health authorities. Here are some questions that may be asked:
Have you traveled out of the country since January 30, 2020?
- Have you traveled out of the state since January 30, 2020?
- Where have you traveled to?
- How many people did you travel with?
- Have you been in large groups since January 30, 2020?
- What activities did you participate in while traveling?
- Are you currently sick?
- Have you been sick recently?
What are some alternative ways MTM Realty group will market my property during this time?
With the current services and technology available, MTM Realty Group agents can conduct a virtual tour on all properties to be showcased online and on social media at no cost to the seller. MTM will also offer drone pictures and/or videos for your property at no cost to the seller. You can check back on our website
and social media pages (@MTMRealty) if you are a curious buyer or have virtual meetings with your MTM agent. Because many of our real estate agents are currently in self-isolation, they have plenty of time and resources to give you a thorough Comparative Market Analysis (CMA)
. Please contact one of our agents for personalized plans on your home if you are interested in listing it soon.
Is it a good time to buy a home?
As of March 30th, interest rates on homes are low in La Porte County, and people are still purchasing homes on a frequent basis. Many banks are tightening their credit guidelines, so make sure your pre-approval letter is current, especially if there has been a change in credit or work hours. You may need to speak to your loan officer and realtor on your specific circumstances in conjunction with keeping an eye on what is going on with COVID-19.
Is it a good time to sell my home?
Because of social distancing, agents have a lot more time to give a Comparative Marketing Analysis (CMA). As of March 30th, homes have still been flying off the market in La Porte County. In order to give you an accurate answer, please give your MTM agent full details on your home for an accurate CMA. Agents also have ample time to work with you in getting your home sold. If you would like to prepare your home to sell, please click here
for more information.
What is MTM’s current policy?
MTM Realty Group agents are currently practicing social distancing and avoiding group gatherings as well as maintaining a safe six feet distance from others when possible. The National Association of Realtors (NAR) encourages brokers to formulate a plan, in which MTM Realty Group has done. As a company, MTM Realty Group has implemented a maximum flexibility remote work policy for agents. As of March 16th, 2020, MTM Realty Group has canceled all upcoming in-person meetings and events until further notice.
Will there be in-person showings?
The seller ultimately can decide if they will allow showings on their property or not. Showings are also dependent on the individual agent and what they are comfortable with. MTM Realty Group agents are encouraged to stay six feet away from other individuals and to bring sanitary products such as wipes and sanitizer.
“Vacant homes are a little more safe than occupied homes due to the lack of items and people in the home. Buyers are encouraged to not open doors, cabinets or closets unless wearing gloves or using sanitary wipes while touring the home,” says MTM Realty Group owner/ broker Lisa Moore.
Extra precautions are encouraged for the protection for the future agents, buyers and sellers entering a home. “Our agents are provided the resources for virtual home tours. We ask that buyers look at photos or ask for videos before deciding on home visits to limit exposure to others,” says Lisa Moore.
Can my realtor drive me to showings?
Because there is no way to maintain the six feet distance in a vehicle, we currently do not encourage our agents to drive clients to showings due to the social distancing.
Will there be open houses for my property when it is listed with MTM Realty Group during this time?
MTM Realty Group is not currently practicing open houses until further notice for the safety of our clients and agents. According to Indiana’s Shelter in Place orders, an open house would go against the recommendations in place. MTM Realty Group is currently offering to provide virtual/ video tours for all current listings (as of March 20th, 2020) if the seller requests or allows until further notice.
What will happen if my real estate agent gets sick?
As an office at MTM Realty Group, we are currently practicing social distancing until further notice. We are encouraging agents to stay home if they have any illness symptoms and to practice sanitary measures. If your real estate agent gets sick during the process, we are implementing further isolation with clients and other agents in order to prevent the spread. Every step in the home buying process in regards to communication with your real estate agent can be done virtually other than showings. If you are interested in a property or need face-to-face contact, another agent at the office will be able to be present for showings. Again, social distancing will be practiced at showings and we recommend buyers, sellers and agents stay a distance of six feet away from each other. MTM Realty Group has put policies and procedures in place internally for employees if they reportedly become sick or experiencing symptoms during this time or in the future.
Have the office hours changed?
While all office locations are currently closed until further notice, we still have agents ready to answer your questions during normal business hours when you call, email, or text. Virtual meetings and showings are available as well as phone call conversations and e-mailing. MTM Realty Group has made ZOOM available to all of their agents. Please talk with your agent about the best way to communicate. We are allowing agents to work at home through telecommunication as recommended by the EEOC.
Are agents in the office?
We have discouraged all agents from using their work phones, desks, offices, and other tools based off of OSHA’s recommendations
. It is mandatory for agents to stay home if they are exhibiting signs of illness. We have imposed flexible procedures for remote work to keep our agents safe and healthy. When you call our phone system, you will be prompted to reach the agent you are specifically looking for. We also have a list of our agents and their contact information here.
Loan Officer Policies
Every mortgage company has different policies. Courtney Coulter is speaking on behalf of Ruoff Mortgage to answer some of your most pressing questions.
What happens if I'm unable to make my next mortgage payment due to COVID-19?
Contact your loan officer directly so they can forward your request to our help desk. Borrowers will need to continue making their payments until they have confirmation the deferment has been approved.
What factors go into the preapproval of a loan? Does the current situation change those factors?
There are many factors that go into a pre-approval. One of the biggest changes we’ve seen is our new minimum credit score for FHA, VA, and USDA is 640. However, we are not alone in this. Other lenders have increased their minimums to 650/660 and some aren’t even doing FHA loans.
If I am currently laid off due to COVID-19, does that affect my current loan?
If you already have a loan, continue to make your payments if possible. However, contact your loan officer to find out about deferment if you are not able. If you are in the process of applying for a loan and become laid off, unfortunately that will change your circumstances and you will no longer qualify. Make sure to contact your loan officer as soon as you start working again!
I have a loan in process and am wondering if it will be affected.
You will notice the industry as a whole is working on social distancing to keep everyone safe! Title companies have implemented curbside closings, realtors are conducting virtual tours of homes currently on the market, and Ruoff has encouraged our clients and loan officers to work virtually to limit foot traffic.
What are the next steps if I am interested in a new loan? Are you still pre-approving people?
Absolutely! The easiest way to apply is www.ruoff.com/courtneycoulter
Can I virtually sign documents without face-to-face contact?
Ruoff offers digital closings, which means you will be able to complete most of your closing documents digitally, saving you time at the closing table aka the curbside!
If you have further questions about COVID-19, the pre-approval process, or about your future loans, contact Courtney Coulter by calling 219-575-0689 or emailing email@example.com. If you have questions about your current loan or are in the middle of the pre-approval process, please contact your personal loan officer.
Title Company Policies:
Every title company has different procedures, but Dawn Zigler from Meridian Title gave us some insight as to how things go as far as closings. Meridian Title is still proceeding with all transactions, but they are currently being conducted “curbside” from office locations.
“We are monitoring our health and practicing social distancing internally. As employees, we are staying out of crowded places, avoiding group gatherings, washing hands, and wearing gloves while dispersing documents and maintaining distance (approximately 6 feet) from others when possible,” said Dawn Zigler.
Meridian Title is able to still conduct all real estate transactions from the security of your own vehicle. The procedure begins by being greeted from one of the employees in the parking lot. From there, you will be guided through the transaction via telephone in order to minimize contact with others.
“When I went to the La Porte office location, I was greeted in the parking lot. The employee sanitized the pen and was wearing gloves. I was able to sign documents in the comfort of my car,” said MTM Realty Group’s owner/ broker, Lisa Moore.
If you have further questions, please contact Dawn Zigler, Senior Account Manager: 219-362-3228 ext 4241 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit https://www.meridiantitle.com/ for more information. Or, please contact the title company you are using for more information on their procedures.
In order to keep track of operating status
in regards to title companies around the country, American Land Title Association (ALTA)
is providing reports from industry contributors.
Typically sellers are not at the home inspection and buyers are not required to be there. If you are a buyer that would like to send questions or requests before the home inspection, be sure to call, email or text the inspector.
Matthew Schnick from MAC Inspections gave us some insight on how inspections are currently being handled as of April 2, 2020. Here are some precautionary measures being taken currently during home inspections at MAC Inspections:
- Washing hands multiple times during every inspection- especially after touching things like faucets and door handles
- Bringing hand towels or paper towels for drying hands.
- If available, they'll keep hand sanitizer nearby and use it when needed.
- If available, inspectors will use disinfectant wipes or the equivalent on faucets and door handles.
- They will not shake hands or bump fists.
- The inspector will avoid touching their faces.
- They will wear a mask during the inspection.
- If the inspector has a fever or cough, they will not conduct the inspection.
- If the inspector has been exposed to COVID-19, they will not conduct the inspection.
Owner, Matthew Schnick goes over some commonly asked questions in regards to home inspections during this time.
Should the buyer attend the home inspection?
“I ask that the buyers limit the number of family members that attend the inspection and if all possible, only attend the last 30 minutes to limit face to face contact. When and if clients are present for the inspection, social distancing is practiced.”
Is the report detailed enough to ease the minds of buyers who can’t be present?
“Our inspection reports are very detailed and easy to read. If clients cannot attend the inspection, a follow-up call is done to go over the report.”
Are videos provided with the home inspection report?
“Videos can be provided, but usually only used when needed.”
Can home inspections be rescheduled?
“Yes. If any of the buyers or sellers have tested positive for the COVID-19 in the past 21 days, have come in contact with someone who has, or is experiencing any symptoms such as fever, coughing, or shortness of breath, we ask that the inspection be rescheduled for a later date.”
What areas of the home should be sanitized most before an inspection?
“Any handles, faucets, switches, etc. The inspector disinfects all items he touches during the inspection.”
Can communication and contracts all be done virtually? Is there any need for face-to-face contact?
“All contracts are done online prior to the inspection. With the severity of the COVID-19, there really isn’t a need for face-to-face contact at this time. All review and communication can be done before and after the inspection takes place.”
Please contact Matthew Schnick for more information: 888-548-0851 or email@example.com. Because every home inspection company is different, they may have different procedures at other companies. Please contact your home inspector provider for further details.
Real Estate Procedures
Do brokers and/ or clients need to attend closings at this time?
Normally, brokers are required to attend closings according to the Indiana license law, but at the moment, there is an exception. According to the Indiana Association of Realtors, if the client does not attend, the broker does not have to attend. Communication between the broker and client is important in order for the personal circumstances between the parties to be known. Disclosures should all be documented between the client and broker. If you are able to communicate virtually, that is an acceptable means of communication.
If I am a real estate client, can I conduct the activities necessary to buy or sell real estate?
According to Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb, as of March 24, 2020, clients may still conduct the required activities necessary to buy or sell real estate in Indiana. It is required to comply with the social distancing requirements in the order.