COVID-19 has disrupted the traditional or customary process of business negotiation, agreement, and the closing of deals including real estate deals globally. Due to the global pandemic uncertainty, no one wants to buy, sell or even enter a home as the prices of homes are overheated, mortgage rates are rising, consumer confidence in the housing market is falling, and the supply and sale of real estate properties are anemic. That has changed over time, now the sales recovery is getting stronger, as the buyer is eager to purchase real estate properties that they have been admiring during the short lockdowns while others are eager to sell old properties to get a new one, this makes real estate agencies to be very busy.
Now the process of real estate transactions is different from what it used to be in the past before the COVID -19. The nature of measures and protocols that have been put in place to prevent the spread of COVID -19 has caused the closing of real estate deals to be done in a friendly manner and on different time frames has become a concern for both the sellers and the buyers of real estates.
Before the global pandemic real estate deal, were closed in the traditional way, the buyers, sellers, family, and friends with real state agents will fill conference rooms, seating around closing tables, where everyone was usually happy. Sellers could tell buyers of memories gathered from the home they are about to sell, any minor issues could be quickly resolved, deals usually end up with signatures, handshakes, hugs, pictures, and the handing over of keys to the new owners.
The presence of the measures and protocols for COVID-19 allows sellers and buyers to still close their real estate deals effectively and safely. However, they are few changes that have been done for real estate deals to be closed appropriately. These changes can be done adequately when the buyer, seller understand that they are in a pandemic and business is done differently, everyone is working towards the same goals, and being patient and flexible will make the process conclude quicker and efficient as possible. The changes are as follows:
- Home inspections
Despite the impact of the pandemic it is not advisable to get a home without inspection especially when buying a distressed property. Real estate property inspection have to be done by a licensed inspector, even with the pandemic, inspections cannot be done virtually. Realtors, sellers, and buyers can do virtual inspections with the use of video conferencing tools but the inspection is just to conclude with the inspections of the inspector. For safety, the inspector can wear PPE like a face mask and gloves during the inspection.
- Virtual Appraisals
Even with pandemic property appraisal is still required when getting a real estate property. For some time now the Federal Housing Finance Administration has enabled appraisal to be done remotely. Two types of remote appraisal exist.
Desktop appraisals: This means the appraisals can be done without the appraiser leaving his/her desk. Pull comp, market research, and property evaluation is done actually without the appraiser visiting the property. Tax and MLS records are used to inform the actors involved in their decisions.
Hybrid appraisals: In addition to the desktop appraisal approach some other resources are used to help better determine the value of the property, this includes a video chart tour around the property, photographs of the property, or by driving by the outside of the property.
- Contract clauses Covid -19 Addendums
Before the lockdown, a lot of people may have already started the buying and selling of properties process, which had to pause because the lockdown, with that in mind the realtors and lawyers are trying to manage the risk and uncertainties in the contracts they drew up posed by the COVID -19 pandemic. Many realtor agencies are offering standard COVID-19 addendums for sellers and buyers to compensate for the situation at hand. Even though the addendum doesn’t give a complete timeline relaxation; even with the addendum, there is still a need for an agreed deadline extension for both the buyer and the seller and financial penalties in case any of them do not obey the deadline.
- Virtual Signing Of Agreement Documents
Even with the state-wide lockdowns the negotiation, purchase, and agreement of real estate are still functioning, the realtors, buyers and sellers, and lenders are adapting to the new way of doing business which is through the virtual closing of deals. To avoid further spread of COVID-19, a lot of agreement documents signing could be done through video conferencing systems like zoom, signing and close could so be done through electronic mail systems where the buyer and sellers could scan signed documents and send through electronic mails, and other e-signing services like Docusign or Hellosign.
Closing can be done with the use of the internet(online) depending on the state’s stance of notarization due to the coronavirus pandemic many states have changed in their stance toward notary services done online. For this to be applicable all the participants involved in closing the real estate deals should ensure they have reliable internet connections and good computers to sign documents electronically needed, questions and answer sections are done with the real estate agents through video conferencing.
- Wire Transfer of funds
In some cases bring down certificates and disclosure requirements can be a problem for both borrowers and sellers. Sellers and borrowers are under obligations to notify their sellers and lenders of their files from tenants requesting a rent holiday or claiming rent abatement.
Instead of the delivery of funds using cheques and other physical payment methods, funds are transferred electronically. Where real estate agencies are added as a payee in most banks so that their clients can transfer funds to their trust accounts. Through this method of transfer, closing payment can also be easily sent to sellers’ clients.
- Title insurance
Title insurers are having challenges running security and searching up-to-date title information. Also due to the limitations, title issuers are having difficulties ensuring closing and ensuring the gap between the most recent commitment and the date of the recording of the insured mortgage to remedy the situation caused COVID -19 many recorder’s offices in many countries to reduce their number of working hours or to close completely, real estate transactions still occur in countries that allow recording. Some associations have responded to the lockdown by modifying the period between the most effective date of the most recent commitment for a property or the date the deed mortgage is recorded in the state records(gap coverage).
- The final close is done virtually
Before the global pandemic, seller lawyers deliver the keys of the homes to buyer’s law. Many companies have revised their closing procedures by incorporating social distancing policies put in place by the world health organization to reduce the spread of the coronavirus. Some companies encourage mail-in closing, where the buyer and seller execute documents in their homes in advance and have them delivered through the mail to the real estate agent for processing. While some companies ask lawyers to bring a permission document from their clients to enable them to execute documents on their behave Due to the social distancing measured to avoid the spread of COVID-19, realtors now leave keys on the property inboxes. Once the registration of the transfer is done for the buyer to avoid having to the lawyer to get the keys to the property, the buyers are provided with the lockbox code to access the property. The final closing is done virtually to enable the real estate industry to be in motion. The real estate industry is known to be behind in technology, but the coronavirus pandemic has helped in propelling the advancement of technology in the real estate industry more in the past few months more than the way it has been in the past.
Despite the lockdown due to COVID -19, and the implementations of the social distancing measure, the stay-at-home orders, real estate agencies are still helping individuals to sell and others to buy their dream homes. In the drafting of the purchase agreement, both parties need to consider how certain provisions can be impacted by COVID 19 and also agree on the measures that can be used to handle such issues upfront. Both parties have to consider the effect of COVID -19 of closing mechanics that is how documents will be executed, delivered, notarized, and recorded and address the issues before proceeding with the contract.