Stark Operations During the Safer at Home Order
On March 24, Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers issued a Safer at Home order asking many businesses and organizations to suspend operations until April 24. A new Safer at Home order (Emergency Order #28) was issued on April 16 which has extended the period of coverage until May 26.
Real estate services continue to be exempt due to the fact that for some people, moving may be a necessity even in this stressful environment. Below are answers to the questions we have been receiving from you. As we remain available to those who need us, we are appreciative of your trust to operate safely and respectfully. We intend to do everything we can to live up to it. Read a statement from our President David Stark.
The State of Wisconsin’s Safer At Home order took effect Wednesday, March 25, 2020 at 8:00 a.m. The order will remain in place until May 26, 2020 or until a superseding order is issued.
The order does not prohibit real estate showings. However, it requires all persons participating in a real estate showing to maintain social distancing of at least six feet from any other person, and where possible, having hand sanitizer and sanitizing products readily available. To the greatest extent possible, Stark agents will use the virtual options available to clients and customers such as virtual tours and video conferencing. As a Stark policy, we are suspending in-person Open Houses during the duration of the Safer At Home order.
Per the Office of the Governor, individuals do not need special permission to leave their homes, but they must comply with the Safer at Home order as to when it is permissible. It is permissible to travel for purposes of access to Essential Activities, such as real estate services.
Contact your agent for best guidance. While real estate contracts can be similar, each contract has specific terms. Your agent will have knowledge to coach you through if any term of your contract is affected.
For any in-home appointments necessary to satisfy contract contingencies, your Stark agent will stay in contact with you. We’ll discuss in advance to make sure you are comfortable with—and approve of—who is coming to your home, when and for what purpose. For extra safety, inspectors and appraisers are requiring agents and buyers not to attend. All will be asked to follow CDC guidance.
Title companies, movers and businesses involved in a real estate transaction are currently exempt from the Safer At Home Order. Title companies are asking only those who need to sign documents to attend the closing. (This means Realtors, lenders and children are not to be present.) Due to a new law passed in March 2020, many closing services can now be done online. Given our ever-changing environment, your Stark Realtor will remain in close contact with you about options for closing and moving services. Any in-person needs will adhere to CDC guidelines.
Yes, you can buy or sell homes while the order is in place. The Governor elected to exempt real estate and all related activities due to the fact that for some people, moving may be a necessity even in this stressful environment. This means that lending, appraisal, inspection, title, and other functions are also able to operate.
Yes, you can. We’re seeing an uptick in buyers taking advantage of what we call “sight unseen” offers. Many times, buyers will include a clause to make the offer contingent on touring the home in person at a later date. Be aware, however, that some sellers are not comfortable with this type of an offer. Sellers risk the buyer walking away after weeks of waiting to get in. There are many ways to deal with this situation from the perspective of both the buyer and the seller. Talk to your agent if you think this is something you’d like to try.
Yes, and in fact, through mid-April at least, it was functioning surprisingly well. Offers to purchase were down a bit in March compared to normal expectations, but not drastically so. April offers to purchase have been down by about a third from what we would normally expect. The buyers and sellers currently in the market are active and serious, and both have a good chance of success even in the current environment. Nonetheless, we expect activity to remain somewhat below normal while the Safer at Home order is in effect.
We think the answer is no, especially in the longer run. Again, the big unknown is how long the Safer at Home order will last. If the order is lifted by Memorial Day as currently scheduled, we expect to see negligible impact on prices, if any. Remember, this is an exogenous shock to the economy. Supply and demand dynamics for housing were strong when Safer at Home was put in place, and should be minimally affected if the slowdown is temporary. Relatively low inventories and high demand should keep a floor under prices. On the other hand, if the restrictions are extended into the summer or fall, we might start to see sellers accept lower prices. If the economic damage is severe, demand might also be reduced for a period of time which could lower prices. Over the longer term however, we expect the fundamentals of housing to be unchanged. If prices do drop temporarily, they will rebound in time.
In short, we think the answer to this question is also no. In fact, it’s our belief that housing is perhaps as well-positioned as any industry can be to weather this storm successfully. Housing is a basic necessity, and people will always need to buy and sell it. The process for transferring a home usually lasts at least a couple months and is not something people do every day, like buying groceries or going out to eat. The real estate industry is built on intermittent and uneven sales patterns. It’s our belief that when the order is lifted, many clients who postponed their move will be eager to get started again.
This is dependent on your individual situation. There will be fewer buyers in the market while the order is in effect. Many of them will return once the order is lifted. That would argue for waiting before putting your home on the market. On the other hand, homes are continuing to sell. We are still seeing multiple offers on some homes as soon as they hit the market. The buyers that are out now are serious ones. That would argue for going ahead, especially if you believe your home would be in high demand. The bottom line is if you need to move, you should do so. Some sellers are uncomfortable with people going through their home at this time, and that is understandable. You can request virtual-only showings, but that will restrict the number of buyers willing to make an offer. There are as many variables as there are sellers. Talk with your agent and make the best decision for your particular situation. We think there’s a good chance the market will rebound quickly if the order is lifted by this summer, so you can figure that into your decision as well.
Of course, everything we do is a little more difficult under the restrictions of social distancing and reduced face-to-face communication. In addition to the logistical challenges posed by showings, the closing process has also been affected. See our Virtual Options page.
The best answer we can give to this question is perhaps. There have been a number of initiatives at all levels attempting to address the concerns of people who have been temporarily laid off as a result of this crisis and don’t have the cash flow to pay their mortgages. Every bank and lending institution is different. It is critical to call your lender and learn what their approach will be. One thing has appeared to be consistent among all lenders: payments will not be “forgiven.” They might be deferred, but not forgiven. This means that if your lender can (and will) agree to defer your payments for a period of time, you will still owe the money. Each lender decides how you will repay that deferral. Simply not paying will put you in default and will likely cause further difficulties down the road. It is unlikely that most lenders will agree to defer payments for those still working and who cannot demonstrate real need. There is no one-size-fits-all answer. Please, if you feel you need help, call your lender. It will be up to them to work out a solution with you, if they can.