New Real Estate Guidelines for Covid-19 – Ojai (and Ventura County)
On April 9th, 2020, the Ventura County Public Health department (and Dr. Robert Levin) issued a press release that deemed real estate sales as “essential.” While this loosens some restrictions on how Realtors do business, it in no way allows Realtors to conduct business in a way they would have two months ago. The main loosening of restrictions involves the ability to physically show houses – and for peripheral services such as termite companies, home inspectors, and appraisers to conduct inspections and reviews so that properties under contract can close. Restrictions still in place include anything that could result in a gathering of more than 3 people at a time, namely open houses and broker previews/caravans.
These new guidelines are not simply rooted in financial gain for the real estate community. It is to help those clients that are in need and don’t have the opportunity to postpone their real estate needs until after this crisis is over. Case in point; we have a new client who recently fell behind on their house payments because they lost their job last month due to cutbacks. They currently have no income and don’t expect any in the foreseeable future. They may get some relief in the form of government subsidies, but it will not be enough. While they do have $300,000 equity in their home, they can’t access it or procure a HELOC (home equity line of credit) loan so that they have something to live on for the next 2 months (3 months…6 months?) – because they have no income.
Forbearance (in this case, delaying mortgage payments on their home) will not work for them, as their bank will require them – after the forbearance period – to repay the previous months’ mortgage payments in one lump sum. (Note: Not all banks will be handling forbearance in this manner.) After several of months of forbearance, you can imagine the problem these people could face. In addition the loan then becomes compromised, making refinancing out of the loan – perhaps to obtain a lower interest rate in the future – much more difficult. Their only chance to survive over the next six months to a year is to either find a new job immediately or to sell their home, giving them access to their equity.
The most harmful restrictions that affected home sales, prior to the 4/9/20 press release mentioned above, were those that restricted agents from showing listings in person. In addition, the inability of home inspectors, termite inspectors, or appraisers to be able to enter the property severely hindered the escrow process. In our view, these restrictions would have eventually shut down real estate transactions in Ventura County. With specific guidelines still to be followed, these restrictions have been lifted. I point you to the documents at the bottom of the page, which spell it out in detail.
This new stance on real estate being “essential” at least allows sellers and buyers to have a choice. And it certainly beats having Realtors or homeowners surreptitiously showing properties in the shadows. Many homeowners have pulled their homes off the market during this crisis, and we completely understand and support that. If an individual homeowner, buyer, or Realtor is uncomfortable with the real estate community doing business this way and chooses not to engage in business at this time, we respect and abide by each individual’s wishes. Finally (and this is our own personal “take”), if at any time it appears these guidelines are not helping in the fight against Covid-19 (especially if we see cases spike), we would urge the Ventura County Public Health department to reverse course immediately.
Our team, as well as all Keller Williams/West Ventura County offices, are committed to following these guidelines as responsible professionals: