Coronavirus: Shelter-in-Place Order
Shelter-in-place orders were issued by the City of Austin, Travis County, and Williamson County. In this video, I explain how it impacts real estate in the area. Hint: you can't go tour those houses today. If you'd prefer to read my update, the transcript can be found below the video.
Greetings, I'm Craig Smyser with 1835 Realty. Well, it's happened. The Shelter-in-Place orders have been issued by the City of Austin, Travis County, and Williamson County. So, we’re going to take a look at the impact on real estate with all of these entities. And really, in short, the main activity of showings is not going to happen, but we’re going to get to that in a little bit. First, let’s talk about Travis County and the City of Austin. Their orders are structured very similarly, they have identical wording in many, many places, so we’re just going to take those two as one unit to about them. First, what is permitted, and that is closings. Title companies can still be open and still do all their work and we can close the sale of a property that is already underway. Appraisals, they are permitted, so if you’ve got a house under contract, the appraiser can still come out and do the appraisal for the lender. Moving, a moving company is permitted to come out and pack you up and move you away. Obviously, you can do that on your own. So, for the most part, any contract that is already in place, there’s no barriers for being able to finish that up, okay? Other than inspections. If you’re just at the very beginning, there’s no provision in Austin or Travis County for inspections to be done.
Now, let’s talk about what can’t be done and the main thrust of that is showings. Obviously, there are things that we can do in real estate remotely; we write offers, and have clients sign them electronically, we negotiate. A lot of these things, we’re not face-to-face with anybody and we can do I from the office, but the key component is the showing. Going and looking at a house, and that is not allowed. I don’t care how many real estate agents try to weasel their interpretation of this. I’m not an attorney, but I’m a functioning adult who knows how to read and these orders are quite clear. So, there is no real estate section for Travis County and Austin, but they do mention real estate in the professional services area, and here’s what it says, it that, “these services can be done when necessary to assist in compliance with legally mandated activities.” So there’s really nothing in this order that permits the showing of homes. If there was, they would make it clear, it would be very clear if we could do that. Take for example, Waco or more accurately, McLennan County, in their Shelter-in-Home order, they have a real estate section that specifically says showings are permitted and so they’re not going to be, and they are not permitted here in Travis County. You’re not going to be able to have a photographer out, a stager out. Now, I know people are going to do it. I know things are going to come to the market. I know people are going to do showings, but what I’m telling you is that the order does not permit that stuff.
Let’s turn now to Williamson County. The same thing up there; you can close, you can have appraisals done, you can have the moving done. They actually have an item there says inspections can be done. The other thing about Williamson County is they actually do have a real estate section specifically saying, property management services, so if a tenant has a problem that needs to be repaired, it can be done, but when we get to the actual, what would be considered showings and regular residential real estate activity, let me just go ahead and read that section to you because I know, for a fact, that we’re going to have some agents citing this one. “Real estate related services, such as permitting inspections, construction, procurement representation, and title services.” And I guarantee there are people who are going to, “procurement and representation,” means I can show houses. No, it doesn’t. Again, they would be crystal clear about that, but I knew I was going to do this video, I know people are going to disagree, so I just took a quick second and I called Williamson County, their Covid-19 Hotline and I asked him the question, I said, “can we still show properties?” And it was extremely clear. They were unambiguous and emphatic, no. No showings of property, period. So, let’s just put that to rest, alright? Yeah, it’s still going to go on.
So, you might be asking yourself why are so many agents waning business to still go on? Well, there are plenty of agents who understand you can’t go forward too, but let me just… What I think the big thing is that we got some fear and a lot of its economic fear. Let me just share with you a bit about how this industry works. Almost every real estate agent is an independent contractor, okay? There’s no salary involved. You get paid the commission when you close on a house, so for a lot of agents, they don’t have the savings. They don’t have money to fall back on during this time, right? And because we’re independent contractors, we’re not entitled to collect unemployment insurance. Now, that’s probably going to change, we haven’t passed the bill in Washington yet, but I understand they’ve come to an agreement and from my understanding they are expanding unemployment benefits to independent contractors. So, that will help some real estate agents from that perspective, but very few real estate agents sell a lot of homes. In fact, I’m one of the three percent nationwide that sells 25 or more homes in a year. We’ve definitely got the 80/20 percent rule, I’d say about 20% of the agents sell 80% of the homes. I think that’s why you have a lot of agents just wanting to continue, it’s just the fear of what economically is going to happen to them, so that’s my expectation on that.
Anyway, let’s wrap this up. What can still be done? Theoretically, if someone wants to buy a house, site unseen, we can do that all the way through closing, right? But most people are not in that situation where that’s what they wan to do. Things we can still do, if you need anything, give me a call. If you’re interested in selling your home, we’ll get together on Zoom and we’ll talk about the process and talk about your house, maybe even have you show me around a little bit virtually and we can be ready for when this passes because it will pass, and we’ll get back to business as usual, and the real estate market, I am quite certain, will come roaring back because of the pent-up demand and the low interest rates. So, we can get that started for you. From a buyer’s standpoint, while we can’t actually look at homes, let’s get the process started. We can talk about what to expect and obviously we’ll send you houses that you can look at virtually and again we’ll just get things rolling. So if you have any questions, please give me a call at 512-650-7300, email me at [email protected], or just comment below. I hope you are doing well. I hope you are staying healthy. Stay quarantined and let’s get this thing beat. We will beat the Coronavirus and we’re going to come out roaring on the other side.
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