We are now entering Stage 2 of California’s plan to reopen the economy, during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. There are two more stages to go, before we reach the end of all stay-at-home orders and closure restrictions.
But what does all of this mean for home sales in California? How are real estate transactions to be conducted during the Stage 2 reopening plan?
We took a deep dive into the state’s guidelines and recommendations for real estate professionals, to get a better understanding of what these changes mean.
The takeaway: Real estate transactions / home sales are permitted during California’s Stage 2 reopening. But certain practices and protocols should be followed to ensure the safety of all parties involved. See next section for details.
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Stage-2 Reopening: Home Sales and Real Estate
This week, California’s COVID-19 information website offered some new guidelines for business across the state, as we move into the second stage of a broader reopening strategy.
As of May 2020, the California “Resilience Roadmap” stated the following:
“Californians have been staying home and saving lives since the start of our statewide stay-at-home order issued on March 19, 2020 … We are now in early Stage 2, where retail (curbside and delivery only), related logistics and manufacturing and essential businesses can open. The state is issuing guidance to help these workplaces reopen safely.”
The workplace guidance mentioned above is broken down by industry sector. There are Stage-2 reopening guidelines for hotels, retail, manufacturing, real estate and more.
Regarding the real estate industry, the state has issued two guidance documents:
- COVID-19 Industry Guidance: Real Estate Transactions
- COVID-19 General Checklist for Real Estate Transactions
You can find both of these documents on the California.gov website, or with a quick Google search.
These documents contain a lot of information and guidance we’ve heard before. They stress the importance of social distancing, face coverings in public spaces, frequent hand washing, etc.
They also provide specific guidelines and recommendations for the showing of homes, during Stage 2 of the COVID reopening plan. So let’s talk about those next.
Guidelines for the Showing of Properties
Here’s a summary of key points from the state’s latest guidelines for home showings:
- Cleaning surfaces: California real estate agents are encouraged to “thoroughly clean shown properties” and to disinfect commonly used surfaces like counters, cabinet and door handles, lock boxes, light switches, etc. California’s Stage-2 real estate guidelines stress that such “surfaces must be cleaned and disinfected before and after each showing.”
- Doors: To further reduce the risk of transmission, agents should open all doors inside the home (including closets). This allows potential buyers to view the property without touching knobs or handles.
- Fresh air: The Stage-2 guidelines advise real estate agents to “introduce fresh outside air” when showing properties to potential home buyers. This can be done simply by opening doors and windows, and by operating installed ventilation systems.
- Sanitizer: California’s Stage-2 guidelines encourage real estate professionals to make sanitizing products available during all home tours and showings. This includes hand sanitizer and sanitizing wipes, when applicable. Ideally, sanitizer should be placed by the front door. (This is something most agents have been doing for a while now.)
- Masks: Regarding face masks and coverings, state officials are directing real estate companies to “provide and strongly recommend clients, real estate licensees, and inspectors to use face coverings.” The Stage-2 guidelines recommend placing these items at the home’s entrance, so people can put them on before entering. Disposable masks should be discarded after use.
- Scheduling: California real estate agents are also encouraged to allow time in between property showings, for cleaning and sanitizing. If the home for sale is currently occupied, agents should “ensure adequate time to disinfect after occupants leave for showings and before and after clients view the property.”
- Open houses: California COVID guidelines for the real estate industry discourage the use of open houses. By their nature, open houses bring strangers together in a confined space, increasing the risk of transmission. The Stage-2 guidelines say to “use appointment systems” to spread out showings, instead of holding walk-in open houses.
- Handouts: Agents should provide property information electronically (email, text, website, etc.). State guidelines advise agents to discontinue the use of physical handouts such as property flyers or brochures.
It’s worth noting that many of these practices have been in place for the past month or so. The state’s latest guidelines serve to clarify and standardize those practices across the real estate industry.
This article is not meant to take the place of official state guidance or documentation. We are sharing this information as a way of getting the word out to as many people as possible. We’ve included some of the key points that home buyers and agents should know, while leaving some items out for the sake of brevity.
Learn more: This is a partial summary of California’s Stage-2 reopening guidelines for real estate transactions, showings and home sales. If you’d like to learn more, seek out the two documents mentioned earlier. They’re both available in PDF format. Or visit the California “Resilience Roadmap” (https://covid19.ca.gov/roadmap/).