Updated: May 27, 2020
Like many real estate agents these days, my friend “D” has been awaiting her next deal. The email had arrived one morning via StreetEasy; a potential buyer coming from upstate, who fell in love with a four-story house on the Upper East Side and wanted to view it while she was in town. My friend was eager to do her best to make it happen while respecting the rules of social distancing.
She told her client, “Meet me at the address—but stay in your car. I’m going to be there beforehand. I have a lockbox where I keep the key to the house. I’ll unlock the door and go sit in my car while you look at the house.”
The two of them met the following day at an agreed time. As my friend had indicated, she unlocked the house and went to sit in her car as her client parked her own vehicle a healthy twenty yards away. My friend texted her client that it was okay to proceed. The client, a woman in her forties, got out of her car and walked towards the car of my friend. She was holding a folder as she leaned towards my friend’s car and announced, “I’m not a customer. I’m a spotter for the Department of State… and I’m so sorry, but I’m going to have to report this as a violation of the stay-at-home order.”
Despite a drastic decrease in deaths, New York City is still under the shadow of the coronavirus. Governor Cuomo’s Executive Order states that real estate licensees are expected to work from home:
“Real estate services shall be conducted remotely for all transactions, including but not limited to title searches, appraisals, permitting, inspections, and the recordation, legal, financial and other services necessary to complete a transfer of real property; provided, however, that any services and parts therein may be conducted in-person only to the extent legally necessary and in accordance with appropriate social distancing and cleaning/disinfecting protocols; and nothing within this provision should be construed to allow brokerage and branch offices to remain open to the general public (i.e. not clients).”
The Real Estate Board of New York’s interpretation of this is that any activity that an agent engages in which requires them to leave their home, and have in-person contact with others (whether direct or indirect), is not permitted.
Right now, customers should not be encouraged to visit properties. If you’re interested in purchasing a property, keep in touch with your broker. Brokers can send you photos or videos made by the sellers. They can facilitate many things from the comfort of their own home without violating current state orders. Also, home inspectors, appraisers and movers are considered essential services. There are plenty of activities that can still be accomplished in the purchase of a home. Nobody means to be negligent, but we need to stay vigilant. A lot can get done before the lifting of the executive order (hopefully this Thursday, but not guaranteed). Until then, we must do more than our best.