Myriad of COVID-19 orders prompts clarification from real estate associations

by Adrian Fisher

Social distancing measures. Shot in Moreno Valley, California in 2020.

Updates on the coronavirus outbreak have real estate professionals, developers and others in the industry, checking their association and news websites constantly throughout the day.

The chaos of millions of people working from home has brought some confusion, for example a typo in a stay-at-home executive order signed by Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms on March 23, put all private construction projects temporarily on hold.

The executive order specified the kinds of work and industries that were exempted from the stay-at-home rule, which included public works construction projects but not private. The confusion that followed was due to a missing comma, according to the Associated General Contractors of Georgia, which reported that a missing comma between the words public works and construction was the culprit.

Questions to the Mayor’s office revealed the intention was for construction to remain in place and an important comma was omitted from the original executive order,” the association noted in a blog post. That executive order did not exempt those in the real estate industry.

On the same day as Bottoms’ order, Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp also issued a shelter-in-place executive order, which also did not provide details about workers in the real estate industry.

Meanwhile, real estate associations have stepped up with their own custom web pages giving the latest news on the outbreak, financial relief at the state and federal level and details on how real estate professionals are affected by COVID-19.

In a video interview by Atlanta Realtors Association President Jennifer Pino and ARA Governmental Affairs Director Aaron Johnson on March 25, Johnson noted that various government entities at the state, local and county levels have issued various orders and states of emergency. “Basically, what those different things mean is they are trying to distance people as much as possible,” Johnson said. “For the real estate industry, you still have the ability to do work; however, they’re asking you to do as little face-to-face action as possible.”

Shelter-in-place and stay-at-home orders aim to keep people in their homes, Johnson said. “But right now for business purposes, Realtors are able to continue conducting business, just on a very limited basis,” he added.

Pino added that Realtors in Atlanta, Brookhaven, Sandy Springs and Cobb are considered to be essential business.

The Georgia Realtors Association also has released regular updates on its website, providing clarity and direction for its members. In a Q&A page released on March 26, the association gives information on open houses, alternative ways to market property, and more.

“In accordance with guidance from the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and the President, ensure that less than ten people are touring the home at any given time, and consider only allowing one buyer group to tour the home at a time,” the association said of open houses.

Georgia Realtors also recommended maintaining six feet or more between individuals at an open house, requiring visitors to wash their hands or use hand sanitizer, remove shoes or cover footwear with booties and “recommend that your client disinfect their home after the open house, especially commonly touched areas like doorknobs and faucet handles.”

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