"Back on Track" and Real Estate

"Back on Track" and Real Estate

Published Sunday, May 3, 2020
Earlier today, Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb announced his “Back on Track” plan to reopen the state in five stages. We’ve been in stage one. Stage two begins for most Hoosiers this Monday, May 4. Exceptions are for Cass, Lake, and Marion Counties, where there are larger, more dense populations, outbreaks, and/or stricter local government guidelines. As a reminder, local government guidelines may be stricter per state law.
How does stage two impact the real estate industry?

First and foremost, like all Hoosiers, every single Indiana REALTOR® has a role to play in keeping the state on track for a full opening. Governor Holcomb’s team is paying close attention to four sets of data — hospitalizations, critical care beds and ventilators, testing, and contact tracing. If the trend is not positive in each of these data sets, then we risk another pause of the economy.

Generally, here’s what REALTORS® should do to keep Indiana’s economy and our personal health moving forward: 1) practice social distancing, 2) wear masks, 3) sanitize/disinfect often, 4) stay home when sick, and 5) only gather in groups of 25 or less from Monday on. The exceptions are for Cass, Lake, and Marion Counties at this point. 

Specifically, here is the provision from Governor Holcomb’s latest executive order (20-26) that addresses real estate (#11). As you will read, we are far from business as usual.
11. Professional Services and Other Office-based Businesses

Professional services, such as legal services, accounting services, insurance services, and real estate services (including appraisal and title services) should be conducted virtually or by telephone whenever reasonably possible. If a real estate showing is necessary, a screening for symptoms is encouraged. Additionally, wearing face coverings while attending the showing is strongly recommended.

Owners and managers of professional services and other office-based businesses needing on-site work should return staff in phases, ensure social distancing and other mitigation measures are employed and open or reopen and operate subject to the requirements in paragraph 4.

A few things to note from the above:
  • The prior directive to only meet face-to-face if there was a “significant adverse impact on the client’s financial or legal position” was removed.
  • The provision only references showings, but we believe it also extends to open houses.
  • “Screening for symptoms” and “wearing face coverings” is strongly recommended.
  • The provision is specific on real estate business functions – that’s a significant change from
    past orders. We take it as a warning that more specifics could come if we don’t comply.
  • Firms and offices may read paragraph 4 or #4 here. The provision is entitled, “Requirements for All Businesses and Entities in Indiana. Additionally, here are the suggested guidelines for professional office settings from the “Back on Track” plan. Chief among them are to allow as many people as practical to work from home when possible. This is mentioned through stage five.
  • Firms and offices may also want to check into the Indiana Small Business Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) Marketplace being developed by the Indiana Economic Development Corporation. Businesses and non-profit entities with less than 150 employees and registered to do business in Indiana will be eligible. More details will be outlined in the coming days.
We also want to draw your attention to the provision from Governor Holcomb’s latest executive order (20-26) that mentions enforcement (#34). This is another significant change from past orders. There are “teeth” via cease and desist orders, closures, reporting to licensing/ permitting/ certifying boards, fines, and jail time.
Last, Governor Holcomb today issued another executive order (20-25) that extends all other executive orders associated with the public health emergency declaration by 30 days. That means the prohibition of evictions and foreclosures now lasts until June 4.