With the outbreak of the COVID 19 virus and the Governor's recent proclamation forcing the closure of all non-essential retail business, the way we currently practice real estate in New Jersey has seen some radical changes to our practices and procedures. The environment continues to change every day, sometimes twice a day. We are having video conferences daily to keep updated on the changes Here is what is going on as of right now
1) REAL ESTATE IS CONSIDERED AN ESSENTIAL BUSINESS SERVICE. Our office will remain open but out of an abundance of caution, we have temporarily closed our retail store front. We continue to operate remotely and are practicing social distancing in all our field activities. Fortunately, our business platform was over built with plenty of options to allow us to continue operations in these difficult times. Our preferred business affiliates, Guaranteed Rate Mortgage and Real Safe Title, have modified their operations to meet the needs of our clients. Your safety is paramount in all our business decisions.
2) TRANSACTIONS IN PROCESS WILL CONTINUE AS SCHEDULED. Escrow checks will no longer be accepted for earnest deposits. Going forward they will be wired to either our brokerage's account or directly to the title company. Lender appraisals will be done virtually or as "drive bys" for most homes. The federal government will now buy back mortgage backed securities allowing lenders, especially small mortgage brokers to stay in operation. Closing will be done similar to the "California style" escrow closing meaning that there will no need need to have all the parties in the same room at the same time to complete the sale. E-signing or "Flash Closings" will allow the buyer to sign about 80% of the loan documents electronically. Bank drive thrus are available for buyers to get a certified check for closing costs or the funds can be wired directly to the closing agent, this is the preferred method.
3) CHANGES TO SHOWING PROPERTIES AND PROCESSING NEW SALES WILL BE COMING. The New Jersey Association of Realtors (NJAR) is seeking clarification from the Governor's office regarding the physical showing of homes for sale. The proclamation was unclear and we want to ensure we are using the best and safest practices while conducting new business. For right now, we have suspended all physical showings on our listings until further notice, this includes vacant or unoccupied homes. In a few days, this policy may change once we have more clarity on the health concerns of this practice. Until then, virtual tours will be made available to prospective buyers. If the property owner allows, FaceTime or Skype tours can be arranged. NJAR has also introduced a COVID 19 addendum to the contract of sale which will be used in all contracts going forward. Inspection services and repair services such as plumbing or electrical will be allowed to continue. It is at the sole discretion of the contractor whether or not they wish to do the job.
Shelter, like food and clothing, is a basic need for us all. Despite the current conditions, households are still being formed, people are still being relocated and estates still need to be settled. We will continue to serve those needs but we will be extremely mindful of the health concerns caused by our actions. We will make every effort to put the public's safety first while we work through this unprecedented and extraordinary crisis. Stay safe, be positive and practice social distancing. Working together we will get through this.