Real Estate: Essential Community-Based Operation
With the issuance of Governor Hogan’s latest executive order, it may be confusing or nerve-wracking to read if you are in the midst of buying or selling a home. While things certainly aren’t operating as “business as usual,” the real estate industry and its auxiliary services are constantly adapting to meet the challenges that COVID-19 has brought forth. Though the order stipulates that no Maryland resident should leave their home unless it is for an essential job or for an essential reason, real estate services are deemed essential. The Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), a division under U.S. Department of Homeland Security, has identified critical infrastructure sectors needed to maintain the services and functions Americans rely on daily. Real estate services are part of a critical infrastructure sector, and fall under the umbrella of essential community-based operations, which include: *Residential and commercial real estate services, including settlement services. *Workers responsible for the leasing of residential properties to provide individuals and families with ready access to available housing. *Workers to ensure continuity of building functions, including but not limited to security and environmental controls (e.g., HVAC), the manufacturing and distribution of the products required for these functions, and the permits and inspections for construction supporting essential infrastructure *Staff at government offices who perform title search, notary, and recording services in support of mortgage and real estate services and transactions. Though real estate services are essential, all non-mandatory activities have been delayed or suspended and all core business activities are undertaken with the utmost precaution and care. Title companies, moving companies, and engineering, surveying, architectural, and interior design firms remain operational, albeit under modified operations. In addition to eliminating in-person meetings, services are done remotely where possible and strategically distanced, scheduled, and sanitized when impossible. Title companies are still closing transactions as normal, though many are offering additional virtual services like digital money deposits and virtual signings. The order has temporarily waived the in-person requirement for notarizing documents, which has ushered in the opportunity for remote online notarizations. So long as the Notary Public complies with the requirements and submits a Remote Notary Notification Form, closing documents can be completed remotely. As we learn new information about COVID-19, we will continue to adopt the safest practices and adjust our operations to serve our clients, team, and community. Though these are unprecedented times, rest assured that all hands are on deck diligently working across the real estate industry to protect and promote our clients’ interests.