Monthly Archives: March 2020

Disparity Between White, Black Homeowners as Great Today as 1968

More than 50 years have passed since the enactment of the Fair Housing Act, and yet the homeownership rate gap between white and black Americans is comparable to the gap at the time when the Act first passed.

This is according to speakers at the National Association of REALTORS® second-annual Policy Forum held in February, where data collected at the end of 2019 showed that  the percentage of whites (73.7 percent) who owned homes was nearly 30 percentage points higher than the percentage of blacks who owned homes (44 percent) in the United States.

“In 2020, there is still a persistent gap in homeownership rates between whites, African Americans, Hispanic Americans and Asian Americans,” said Bryan Greene, NAR’s director of fair housing policy. “On one hand, you might expect there to be a lower homeownership rate among minority Americans, as a history of discrimination in this country has left many with lower incomes … and less generational wealth to pass on for down payments and the like.”

“I think many of us would have expected rates to have risen more. We did see that happen for a period from the early 90s to the early part of this century; but dramatically, at least for African Americans, we started to see that homeownership rate decline – so much so that last year the homeownership rate for African Americans dipped below the rate in 1968 when the Fair Housing Act was passed.”

A goal of bolstering African American homeownership rates

Last year, NAR, The National Association of Real Estate Brokers and the Urban Institute held a joint roundtable discussion focused on this goal of bolstering African American homeownership rates.

A five-point framework that can be applied across all minority communities emerged from last year’s conversations and continues to be expanded upon in 2020 as the groups continue to work together to tackle the issue.

“The fact that homeownership rates for African Americans have regressed in spite of the presence of fair housing laws makes clear that various institutional challenges still must be faced and defeated,” said NAR President Vince Malta. “By strengthening post-purchase counseling, funding programs to prevent foreclosure for low- and moderate-income and vulnerable families of color, and building tools that help create early-warning displacement triggers, we can ensure first-time homebuyers have the knowledge and resources to remain homeowners for the rest of their lives.”

It is likely that ongoing discrimination in the real estate market also contributes to the ongoing homeownership gap. An investigation by New York Newsday published in November 2019 alleged that real estate companies responsible for 50% of the home sales on Long Island, discriminated against African-Americans, Hispanics, and Asian Americans in 40% of transactions, on average.

To address this ongoing problem, in January, the NAR Leadership Team unanimously passed a Fair Housing Action Plan called ACT, which stands for Accountability, Culture change, and Training.

ACT specifically commits NAR to:

  • Promote minimum, core fair-housing training requirements for all states
  • Promote state licensing laws that ensures real estate agents who violate fair housing laws are held accountable
  • Launch a public-service announcement campaign that reaffirms NAR’s commitment to fair housing and tells consumers how to report problems
  • Integrate fair housing into all Realtor conferences and engagements
  • Explore the creation of a voluntary self-testing program in partnership with a fair housing organization that brokers and others can use as a resource. It would include confidential reports on agent practices so problems can be addressed
  • Create robust fair housing education that includes implicit-bias training and education on how the Realtors’ actions shape communities
  • Conduct a national study to determine what factors motivate discrimination in sales markets
  • Profile leaders who exemplify fair housing practices and workplace diversity
  • Develop materials that helps Realtors provide information on schools in a way that avoids fair housing pitfalls

“NAR has been active in our pursuit of innovative new policies and partnerships that will help us preserve the fundamental right of housing in America,” Malta said, upon the NAR leadership team’s approval of the ACT! initiative. “While we have long been a champion of the Fair Housing Act, recent incidents have underscored the progress our nation must still make. That’s why I am proud to announce that our association’s Leadership Team has voted today to approve an action that will directly ramp up and reinvigorate NAR’s fair housing commitment.”

NAR re-organized last summer to create a new Fair Housing Policy Committee to more effectively advocate on national fair housing policy and hired Bryan Greene as NAR director of fair housing policy. Greene previously served at HUD for 29 years as the top career official overseeing enforcement of the federal Fair Housing Act.

Evidence of a Turnaround?

Despite the year-end numbers presented at the Policy Forum, there were some signs of optimism that showed that the worm may have turned and home ownership among minorities is trending in the right direction.

According to data from the housing website Zillow, the homeownership rate for black households jumped 3.4 percentage points over the second half of 2019, bringing it from a three-decade low to back near historic averages.

A closer look at the data also revealed that some metro areas across the U.S. had a black homeownership rate that was higher than other large metros with similarly sized African American populations.

Across the country, the black homeownership rate lags behind that of non-black households in each of the 45 largest metropolitan areas. However, it is now above the mid-decade average in more than half of those markets.

The biggest increases have been seen in Sacramento (7.8 percent), Phoenix (5.4), Orlando (5.3), San Francisco (4.4) and Portland (3.9).

And in some cases, the rate of growth in the black homeownership rate has exceeded that of all other households since mid-decade – which means the deficit is shrinking. That gap has been closed the most in Sacramento (6.5 percent), Orlando (4.1) and Cincinnati (3.2).

Metropolitan markets with a higher share of African American residents tend to have a higher homeownership rate.

Atlanta has the third highest share of African American residents of any market in the country and its black homeownership rate is 48.2 percent. Richmond, Va. ranks fifth in percentage of black residents and has a homeownership rate of 49.9 percent. Birmingham ranks seventh and has the highest home ownership rate of any major metro at 52.2 percent. Washington D.C. is second-best at 51.4 percent, and they rank eighth in the percentage share of black residents. [This needs to be explained Why aren’t the cities with the higher percentages of black homeowners ranked higher than those with lower percentage of black homeowners? Why is Atlanta higher than those that exceed 50%?]

Some of these metro markets are outperforming expectations when it comes to black homeownership. For example, of the top 45 markets, San Antonio ranks 37th in share of black residents, but its black homeownership rate of 42.9 percent ranks 14th. Orlando (6th highest homeownership rate, 24th in share of residents), Riverside, Calif. (15th and 35th, respectfully) and Sacramento (23rd and 39th, respectfully) also outperform.

Homeownership Rates

The black homeownership rate has been like a roller coaster ride for the past 50 years.  The rate of homeownership for black households rose from 41.6% in 1970 to a peak of 46.5% in 2007.

However, the recession followed, and homeowners of color suffered the most, with the homeownership rate falling below 1970 levels by 2016. The 44 percent homeownership rate in 2019 is an increase from that bottoming out at 41percent three years earlier, but it’s still below the 2007 rate.

But help is on the way in the way of an influx of $40 million in grant money provided recently by HUD to assist fair housing organizations efforts to ensure that fair housing protocols are being followed, to investigate potential claims and file more claims and continue the fight to finally end housing discrimination.

With these newly funded efforts and with continued education, there is hope that the black home ownership rate will exceed that 2007 peak in the not too distant future and continue to close that racial gap until it becomes inconsequential or is eliminated entirely.

Resources for Homeowners and Homebuyers in the Time of COVID-19

Just because you are stuck inside and can’t go anywhere because of the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic, doesn’t mean that there aren’t resources out there for you if you need help.

That’s right, although it might seem like the country is completely shut down, it’s not and if you are a property owner and you are uncertain of what assistance there might be for you during this uncertain time, then look no further.

Courtesy of the National Association of REALTORS®, all the links below can be resourceful tools for you to seek aid or assistance for yourself and your property while waiting for the coronavirus outbreak to subside.

Click on a link below to navigate to specific topic:

Title and Settlement Companies
Banks
Your Credit
Drinking Water
Foreclosures and Evictions
Taxes
Student Loans
Veterans


Title and Settlement Companies

Are you worried about closing on the sale of a property during the pandemic? According to the American Land Title Association (ALTA), title and settlement companies are unified in enacting the following protocols to ensure these property transactions can still take place at a time when social distancing remains paramount:

  • When arriving at closing: guests are encouraged to use hand sanitizer and/or wash their hands.
  • Symptomatic Clients: Any guest who exhibits symptoms that may be like coronavirus, even if it’s not coronavirus   –  fever, cough, shortness of breath, for example – should notify staff upon arrival and they will immediately be taken to a private closing room.
  • Post-Closing: After each closing, the entire room will be disinfected – including the chairs, table and door handle – and will be wiped down with disinfecting wipes or bleach solution.
  • At the closing table: Any extraneous materials will be removed. Pens used for signing documents will be disposable and one-time use only.
  • Lobby Items: Anything that is non-essential that could be re-usable by guests – such as reading materials or coffee mugs – will be removed.
  • Children’s Play Areas: Games and toys for children meant to provide a distraction while business is process have been removed.
  • Hand Sanitizer: While supplies last, hand sanitizer is being provided in closing spaces and common areas.
  • Social Distancing: Even in the closing room, the practice of staying approximately six feet from others will be in effect and done to the best of everyone’s ability.
  • Workforce Dispersion: Only necessary personnel will be on the premises to conduct business while others will be working remotely to ensure service continuity but also public health safety.

The National Notary Association has created health screening forms for both the signing agent and the borrower to fill out to protect all parties during a closing.

ALTA is tracking the operating status of every recording jurisdiction in America by county. They are maintaining it in a Google spreadsheet where you can check and see what your county’s operation status is, and if it has been modified, how so.

Banks offering help to homeowners

Bank regulators, like the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) and the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (Fed) have all put out their own guidance for banks and servicers to be more proactive in extending help to homeowners who need it during a struggling economy created by the pandemic.

The FDIC has information for both bankers and consumers on its homepage.

The Fed has daily updates on its homepage regarding COVID-19 and its impact on the interest rate, among other economic impacts to consumers.
Meanwhile, the banks have posted their own policies and ways for consumers to contact them for assistance:

Outside of the banks, servicers who act as an intermediary between banks or investors and the consumers – such as Mr. Cooper and Flagstar Bank are also providing important information for homebuyers who are in need of assistance as they try to purchase a home during this trying time.

In addition, the mortgage insurer Genworth is providing information on how servicers can help consumers.
Mortgage Insurers are also providing information on how servicers can help consumers:

Protecting your credit

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) is urging consumers to protect their credit during the pandemic.

They have outlined the following steps as ones all consumers should take, especially those who are feeling the crunch financially as a result of COVID-19’s impact on the economy.

Get a copy of your credit report

If you haven’t requested your free annual credit reports, you can get copies at AnnualCreditReport.com. Each of the three nationwide credit reporting agencies (also known as credit reporting companies) – Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian – allow you to get your report for free once every twelve months. You can request additional reports for a small fee if you’ve already received your free report. Be sure to check your reports for errors and dispute any inaccurate information.

In addition to your free annual credit reports, all U.S. consumers are entitled to six free credit reports every 12 months from Equifax through December 2026. All you have to do is get a “myEquifax” account   or call Equifax at 866-349-5191.

If you can’t make payments, contact your lenders

Many lenders have announced proactive measures to help borrowers impacted by COVID-19. As with other natural disasters and emergencies, they may be willing to provide forbearance, loan extensions, a reduction in interest rates, and/or other flexibilities for repayment. Some lenders are also saying they will not report late payments to credit reporting agencies or are waiving late fees for borrowers in forbearance due to this pandemic.

If you feel you cannot make payments, contact your lenders to explain your situation and be sure to get confirmation of any agreements in writing.

The CFPB has resources to help you discuss the impact of COVID-19 on your financial situation with your lenders.

Routinely check your reports

If you’re working with lenders on payment assistance programs or forbearance, routinely check your credit reports to make sure they are accurate and reflect your agreements. For example, if your lender agreed to let you skip one month’s payment, make sure they didn’t report it as delinquent or a missed payment.

There are other reports you may want to check too, such as reports that monitor your bank and checking account history, among others. The CFPB has a list of consumer reporting companies where you can learn more about which reports might be important to you, depending on your specific situation.

Report and dispute inaccurate information

If you find inaccurate information on your credit reports, use the CFPB’s step-by-step guide to dispute that information with the credit reporting agency and the company that provided that information to them, also known as a furnisher.

If an investigation doesn’t resolve your dispute with the credit reporting company, you can ask that a brief statement of the dispute be included in your file and included or summarized in future reports. You can also submit a complaint to the CFPB.
Protect Yourself Financially: The CFPB has a number of resources focused on financial protection, both short and long term, such as paying bills, income loss, and scam targeting.  Resources include contacts for housing and credit counselors, debt collectors, and state unemployment services.

Tap water is still safe

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Americans can continue to use and drink water from their tap as usual. The EPA has provided important information about COVID-19 as it relates to drinking water and wastewater to provide clarity to the public. The COVID-19 virus has not been detected in drinking-water supplies. Based on current evidence, the risk to water supplies is low.

Foreclosure and Evictions Relief for Homeowners

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has authorized the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) to implement an immediate foreclosure and eviction moratorium for single family homeowners with FHA-insured mortgages.
The FHA is also continuing to run single family business operations and has created a Q&A form available on their website to keep interested parties updated on their procedures during the COVID-19 crisis.

The Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) has instructed Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and their servicers to be proactive in providing assistance to homeowners including forbearance. In addition, FHFA imposed a moratorium on eviction and foreclosures on mortgages backed by the GSEs.

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have issued similar guidance:

  • Homeowners who are adversely impacted by this national emergency may request mortgage assistance by contacting their mortgage servicer
  • Foreclosure sales and evictions of borrowers are suspended for 60 days
  • Homeowners impacted by this national emergency are eligible for a forbearance plan to reduce or suspend their mortgage payments for up to 12 months
  • Credit bureau reporting of past due payments of borrowers in a forbearance plan as a result of hardships attributable to this national emergency is suspended
  • Homeowners in a forbearance plan will not incur late fees
  • After forbearance, a servicer must work with the borrower on a permanent plan to help maintain or reduce monthly payment amounts as necessary, including a loan modification

Fannie and Freddie have also created pages with additional information for consumers.

You Have More Time to Do Your Taxes

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has extended the income tax filing and payment deadline in light of COVID-19 crisis. On March 21st, an announcement was made that extended the income tax payment deadline for individual returns (as well as all other entities) until July 15, 2020. Two days later, the IRS also extended the tax filing deadline to July 15, 2020. Additional forms do not need to be filed to qualify for these extensions.

Rural Property Owners getting much needed relief

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has informed lenders of a foreclosure and eviction moratorium for all USDA Single Family Housing Guaranteed Loans Program (SFHGLP) loans, in connection with the Presidentially declared COVID-19 National Emergency. Additionally:

  • Rural development (RD) will continue to provide loans and grants to rural communities across all of their programs.
  • ReConnect applications will continue to be accepted with a March 31st deadline, and RD will then begin the review and award process.
  • RD has granted authority to lenders that participate in their Single-Family Housing Guaranteed program so that these lenders can work with borrowers to ensure that homeowners will stay in their houses if they are having difficulty making payments.
  • RD will issue guidance to their Single-Family Housing Direct borrowers to ensure they can also seek payment assistance if needed.

Student Debt Relief Available

The Department of Education announced that it will allow forbearance on federally-backed student loans beginning on March 13, 2020. Likewise, all interest on student loans has been waived for this same time period. You must contact your loan servicer to bring a forbearance.

Servicers are sharing information how borrowers can seek remedies.

Protecting Veterans and their homes during the pandemic

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is providing information to keep Veterans and stakeholders safe while continuing the mission of the VA Home Loan Program.


Visit our COVID-19 Page for the latest news and information from Home Ownership Matters on COVID-19 and its impact on homeowners, housing and communities across the country.

Guidelines and protocol surrounding COVID-19 are changing quickly. For the most up-to-date information we recommend visiting the CDCWHO, and your local health department websites.

Evictions And Foreclosures Temporarily Suspended

In order to keep renters and multifamily properties in their homes, while also supporting multifamily property owners during the COVID-19 (coronavirus) national emergency, the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) announced a suspension of all evictions for renters unable to pay rent and a mortgage forbearance for property owners due to the impact of the pandemic.

“Renters should not have to worry about being evicted from their home, and property owners should not have to worry about losing their building, due to the coronavirus,” said FHFA director Mark Calabria.

The eviction suspensions will remain in place for the entirety of the duration that a property owner remains in forbearance and is available to all multifamily properties with a mortgage backed by either Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac that was negatively impacted by the COVID-19 outbreak.

“Renters should not have to worry about being evicted from their home, and property owners should not have to worry about losing their building, due to the coronavirus,” said FHFA director Mark Calabria. “The multifamily forbearance and eviction suspension offered by (Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac) should bring peace of mind to millions of families during this uncertain and difficult time.

“Fannie and Freddie are working with mortgage servicers to ensure that these programs are implemented immediately so that property owners and renters experiencing hardship because of the coronavirus can get the assistance they need.”

In conjunction, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), authorized the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) to implement an immediate foreclosure and eviction moratorium for single family homeowners with FHA-insured mortgages for a period of 60 days.

“(This) will allow households who have an FHA-insured mortgage to meet the challenges of COVID-19 without fear of losing their homes, and help steady market concerns,” said HUD Secretary Ben Carson. “The health and safety of the American people is of the utmost importance to the Department, and the halting of all foreclosure actions and evictions for the next 60 days will provide homeowners with some peace of mind during these trying times.”

The FHA continued to encourage servicers to offer its myriad of loss mitigation options to distressed borrowers – including those that could be impacted by the Coronavirus – to help prevent them from going into foreclosure. These include short and long-term forbearance options, mortgage modifications, and other mortgage payment relief options available based on the borrower’s individual circumstances.

Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Director Kathleen L. Kraninger said that the actions taken by HUD and the FHFA are both timely and important to provide assurance to consumers and lauded both bodies for being proactive and providing Americans with some needed peace of mind.

“Earlier this month, the Bureau, along with our Federal and State partners, encouraged financial institutions to work with their customers affected by the coronavirus,” Kraninger said. “Consumers’ first stop in the face of hardship is with their creditors and their financial institutions, so our message was important for regulated entities to hear. I will continue to work with our Federal and State partners, and seek feedback from stakeholders, to ensure we are providing appropriate flexibilities to benefit consumers during this time.”


Visit our COVID-19 Page for the latest news and information from Home Ownership Matters on COVID-19 and its impact on homeowners, housing and communities across the country.

Guidelines and protocol surrounding COVID-19 are changing quickly. For the most up-to-date information we recommend visiting the CDCWHO, and your local health department websites.

Five Tips For Landlords During The COVID-19 Outbreak

There’s no doubt that everyone is a little bit on edge with the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic that has engulfed the world.

If you are either a property owner who rents out their property on either a short-term or long-term basis, then you likely have a lot of questions and very few answers.

Unfortunately, a lot of those answers are unknown at this point, and likely will remain that way for some time. But in the interim there are a handful of things you can do to maintain best practices with your properties and at the same time, try to maintain a level of sanity as everyone does their best to flatten the curve while the situation remains completely fluid.

Here are five things you can do though to try to manage the situation as best you can not only for yourself but for your tenants as well:

Only follow information from official sources

Everyone is talking about Covid-19 and what is happening, and we’re all hearing myriad stories and we don’t know which ones are accurate and which ones aren’t. The spread of misinformation, whether intended or unintentional, is often the biggest hurdle to traverse during a crisis such as this one.

It is important then that the information you use to make decisions for your property comes from the most reliable sources of information.

As such, avoid letting anything you see or read on social media be your guide. That’s not a recommendation to stay off of Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Snapchat, or any other platform, but rather to not let those posts be what dictates your decisions.

Instead, make sure you get your information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as well as your state and local health authorities.

The CDC web site not only has the latest updates on recommendations to combat Covid-19 but also provides links to tell you what to do and where to go if you feel sick, how to keep your workplace and your community safe, and the preventative measures you can take to prevent the spread of the virus.

The website also provides contingency planning material for you to follow in case things get worse for you and the community where your property is located.

If your property is one that has a lot of public access or is on a thoroughfare to a place where people tend to gather – shopping centers, supermarkets, gas stations, etc., it is especially important to follow the CDC and to share the latest recommendations with those who can be most impacted in these locations.

Be honest and open in communication

It is important to keep tenants and others who use your property as up to date as possible as to how you are managing the crisis.

Being proactive and providing transparency with tenants and the public is of the utmost importance. Not only should you share with everyone what you know, but also what you are doing, thinking about doing, and potentially what you may need help doing. Creating a hive mind mentality is also productive, as it allows people to not feel alone during a crisis, feel like they can share ideas and be in this predicament with others.

All of this fights the greatest fear – the fear of the unknown.

Establish a protocol

It’s one thing to communicate with everyone, but it’s another to set up the steps needed in case an in-crisis emergency arrives. Who is in charge? Who is on the communication team? Who can respond to a problem in the most efficient, timely and most importantly, safe manner?

Part of that protocol could include a hygienic assessment. Ensure everyone is following the best practices on the property, whether it is regular hand-washing or continuing cleaning of common surfaces.

Know your legal obligations as a manager of your property

This outbreak is likely going to put a stop to construction or repair work needed on certain properties – at least for a short time. It is important to know if this slow down or ultimate stoppage in work impacts a contact in some way.

Also, it’s important to know who might be legally responsible for any delays or exceeding budgets because of coronavirus impacts on the supply chain as well as understanding your insurance coverage.

A property owner is most likely not liable for the virus outbreak occurring and people getting sick because of it, however a property owner could be liable if they tried to hide the fact that the virus was in their property or someone who was exposed to it or they didn’t share information about a potential exposure with tenants or the community.

Don’t be afraid to revise a plan or change course as the virus evolves

Many times, property owners have physical plans in place in case of a natural disaster – whether it’s boarding up windows in anticipation of a hurricane or lining the property with sandbags to prevent flooding. But how to prepare to stop something you can never see coming?

It’s much harder for sure, but a “worst-case-scenario” action plan should be in place. Do you lock down a property? Do you evacuate it? If there’s work being done on your property do you immediately put a halt to it? Having a site-specific plan in place, even if it never comes to fruition, will help ease the anxieties that could arise from a pandemic of this magnitude.

Additionally, there’s nothing wrong with having a continuity plan as well, to have in effect prior to reaching that worst-case scenario.

Maybe you are a short-term renter and you want to know where your renters are coming from before they come onto the property? Maybe you own a small business and one of your employees was travelling and was exposed to the virus. How do you manage them and the rest of your staff? Can others step in and replace this person, who will now likely be quarantined for at least two weeks?

Everything that you have always done has now gone out the window. You need to adjust, and the best way to adjust is to be prepared, for anything, stay informed, communicate honestly and act quickly.

Doing all of these things will not only help stop the spread of the virus, but also help manage a crisis in the midst of the virus spreading throughout your community.


“Guidelines and protocol surrounding COVID-19 are changing quickly. For the most up-to-date information we recommend visiting the CDCWHO, and your local health department websites.”

Opportunity Zone Projects in Duluth Are Having An Impact

There are five adjacent census tracts in Duluth, Minn. spanning six miles that are the very definition of disadvantaged neighborhoods.

In that small swath of the city, there is a 41 percent poverty rate, a 13.8 percent unemployment rate and an average income that is just 43 percent of the median for the entire area.

It is in communities like these that the opportunity zone program that was part of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 was meant to make a difference.

And in a town like Duluth, that appears to be the case.

According to the Duluth News Tribune, there are six active projects in this area worth approximately $125 million in investment with another six prospective projects in the pipeline, all taking advantage of the opportunity zone program to help revitalize a community that is in great need.

These opportunity zone projects are taking place all over America, with hundreds of areas having been identified as opportunity zones for investors.

And while the concept of opportunity zones has been around for a long time at the state level, it’s only been approaching three years now at the federal level – and the result of that they are finally starting to bear fruit.

How does the opportunity zone program work?

Each state has census tracts that are identified as opportunity zones – areas that are primarily disadvantaged that could benefit from investment and development, which would create jobs, more community safety and revitalize once thriving neighborhoods that have faded or been forgotten in time.

In the example above, Duluth has five of the 128 census tracts identified in the state of Minnesota. There are approximately 8,700 opportunity zones nationwide.

The incentive for investors to fund projects in opportunity zones is a significant tax benefit. Investors can avoid paying capital gains tax on investment by rolling the profits from that investment into a qualified opportunity fund specializing in identifying projects in these designated zones.

An investor who holds that investment for at least five years can defer 10 percent of their capital gains taxes and after seven years can defer 15 percent.

But the carrot that dangles most lucratively from the stick is that capital gains taxes are wiped out entirely with a 10-year investment in an opportunity zone.

Investors are lining up

Chicago real estate investor Larry Levy teamed up with a pair of private equity firms and are pledging to sink $750 million into opportunity zones across the country.

This is their second go-round in raising capital to invest in opportunity zones. The first time led to raising $465 million in investments in seven projects. Most of these developments are coming in places like Phoenix or Portland, Ore, and not in Chicago, which is having a hard time attracting investors to its 135 opportunity zones.

That means the tax breaks are attractive to the investors, but secondarily to the viability of the project. If the investors don’t believe a certain project will work in a certain community, they’ll pass and go elsewhere looking for more certainty for their investment dollars.

The co-owners of the Sacramento Kings, a franchise in the National Basketball Association, have committed $850 million in investment dollars to opportunity zones that are near sports complexes, according to Bisnow.

However, Alex Bhathal and Ryan Parkin, managing partners of RevOz, the company that owns the Kings, are not investing in the state of California where their basketball franchise is located.

They did invest in the development of a medical office building in San Bernadino in a qualified opportunity zone, but that may be the only investment in California for the foreseeable future, even though the state has 879 opportunity zones available to investors.

That’s because California has taken a hard line on the tax breaks that are afforded to opportunity zone investors.

It is one of just four states in the country to not fully conform to the tax advantages as outlined in the 2017 federal legislation.

There are a variety of reasons for California not fully getting on board the opportunity zone train, but mostly the state’s reluctance has come from legislators unwillingness to learn or understand the complexities of the program or also a fear of gentrification, that would displace minorities from the homes and communities that they know.

Without full conformity by the state, investors would still have to pay a c13.3 percent capital gains tax upon departing from the investment.

Will this program be successful? Only time will tell

While it seems like a good investment to help rehabilitate distressed areas of the county, the true impact of opportunity zones won’t be felt for years, and while there are sure to be some areas that were successes, there might also be some that fail to meet expectations.

Venroy July, an attorney in Baltimore and a partner with Miles and Stockbridge told the Charleston Chronicle that the first wave of investments are sure to be successful because big money investors were going to throw their dollars behind the most attractive projects.

But the real test for opportunity zones will be the smaller projects that come down the road.

An example in Baltimore that July referenced was Yard 56, a mixed-use project converting a 20-acre shuttered industrial site into a retail development center that will include a gym, a supermarket and other shops and restaurants.

The all-important second phase of the development will include office space, residences, a hotel and some more retail.

“It will take time to see if capital goes into the next layer of projects and into areas that are not as attractive,” July said. “Once we get into the second, and third layer investments, we’ll begin to see the true potential of what Opportunity Zones can accomplish.”

He added that the investments that are in the hundreds of thousands of dollars as opposed to the tens of millions of dollars will allow for the development of the neighborhoods surrounding the big, sparkly initial investments.

Projects pursued by churches, fraternal organizations and others that can pool resources to invest in their communities will determine which opportunity zone projects are successful and which aren’t.

“There is already a trust relationship within these organizations,” July said. “If they plan strategically, members can put together a well-thought-out plan for urban renewal in the communities where they live, without bringing about displacement. Such investments can actually enhance these communities, while also helping to create generational wealth for African Americans and others.”

Scientists Recommend These 10 Methods to Disinfect Your Home

This time of year has everyone stocking up on vitamin C, cold medicine, chicken noodle soup, and anything else to help ease any potential sickness, and now specifically the Coronavirus. While you may keep your home squeaky clean, it is all too easy to bring germs back into your home from the outside world, and there are dozens of nooks and crannies where said germs can hide out. Unexpected areas and objects such as your television remote, towels, your computer keyboard, and even your faucet are a favorite refuge for a variety of germs.

As Google searches indicate, the keyword Coronavirus has skyrocketed in the past several weeks as citizens prepare for the pandemic and research the best ways to stay protected. However, medical care professionals agree that simple precautions taken continuously can drastically help combat the Coronavirus, as well as any germs in general. Aside from getting a yearly flu shot and washing your hands, various medical reports and health care professionals have shared the easiest ways to fight off the common flu as well as COVID-19.

Here are the top 10 easiest ways to keep your family and yourself happy and healthy not just through the height of flu season and the COVID-19 pandemic, but also throughout the whole year.

Carefully read cleaning product claims

Shopping for cleaning products can be overwhelming. With shelves jam-packed with a variety of options, it’s tough to find the right product for you and your home. Many products proudly exclaim they are “anti-bacterial”, although that doesn’t necessarily mean they disinfect surfaces properly. The EPA — the Environmental Protection Agency — has compiled a list of 500 products that they guarantee will disinfect all areas against viruses such as the Coronavirus. When stocking up on cleaning supplies, look for labels that the EPA has tested and approved with words “disinfect” and “sanitize.” If you prefer to steer clear of chemicals, there are an abundance of all-natural products that kill microbes, such as tea tree oil, lemon juice, and vinegar. While these products will certainly help eliminate germs from your home, they work much slower than their chemical counterparts. Microbiologist Charles Gerba of the University of Arizona explains that these options kill fewer microorganisms than those that have been approved by the EPA.

Increase humidity

Increasing the humidity in your home can not only help you breathe with more ease during the harsher winter months, but it can also make it more difficult for bacteria and COVID-19 to grow and develop. Creating an environment that doesn’t allow germs to thrive will create a safer home for yourself and protect you from the dreadful Coronavirus. Humidifiers can also aid symptoms if you’ve unfortunately already been hit with a cold or COVID-19. With that being said, it’s also very important to keep your humidifier clean. This is one household item that is often overlooked once cleaning day comes around. As humidifiers add moisture to the air, they can also quickly generate bacteria. The president of Building Wellness Consultancy, Barney Burroughs, advises residents to regularly clean individual humidifiers and the whole house system should be serviced once a year, preferably when they aren’t in use in the warmer seasons.

Replace your sponges

As NPR says, sponges are a “bacteria hotbed”. Regularly replacing your sponges is a small task that goes a long way. Kitchen sponges hold a tremendous amount of bacteria, although it’s easy to let that slip your mind as you’re constantly using a sponge with soap and hot water. Every couple of weeks, be sure to replace your sponge to ensure no bacteria is lingering around your sink and dishes.

If you’re short on cash, an alternative option is to toss your sponge in the dishwasher or microwave it for one minute. These two options will certainly reduce the bacteria living in your sponge and heat targets the most dangerous bacteria, although it cannot kill all of the billions of types of bacteria hiding in your sponge. As a food microbiologist at Drexel University, Jennifer Quinlan explains, “It doesn’t sterilize the sponge…but remember, the bacteria we want to kill are the ones that will make you sick.”

Don’t just push germs around, eliminate them

Many cleaning tools give the impression that they are killing germs and cleaning your home when in reality they are simply spreading germs to other more hidden areas of your home. The only way to avoid this is by sanitizing these cleaning tools, such as mops, dusters, and dishrags between uses or they will continue to spread bacteria around your house. This issue often goes unnoticed, as some of the most sparkling clean homes can be saturated with bacteria while other untidier homes are tested low for germs because said germs sit still rather than spreading from wall to wall. Dishrags and other non-disposable towels are an excellent environmentally conscious tool as opposed to paper towels, but only if they are continuously washed at high temperatures to kill pesky germs. The co-author of The Germ Freak’s Guide to Outwitting Colds and Flu, Charles Gerba, expresses, “It’s a free ride for the virus.”

Sanitize surfaces that are touched on the regular

When relaxing at home, there are a handful of surfaces you touch constantly, such as doorknobs, light switches, remotes, fridge handles and more. Flu viruses can live for two to eight hours on these hard surfaces, so it’s crucial for your health to frequently disinfect these areas. Any cleaning wipes or products that say “sanitizing” on the label will work fine to catch those vexatious germs.

Stock up on tissues

For many people, tissues aren’t a go-to purchase at the market unless you’ve been hit with a cold that has left your nose craving some comfort. With the flu season upon us and the fear of the Coronavirus, stocking up on tissues is a great idea for not only contentment but to keep your home germ-free. One sneeze can spray an assortment of germs up to 6 feet, which is likely to linger in your home for hours if not days after. Research from the University of Bristol shows that the “average sneeze or cough can send around 100,000 contagious germs into the air at speeds up to 100 miles per hour.” Using a handy tissue to sneeze or blow your nose will confine your germs and keep them where they belong — in the trash.

Wash your linens

Sure, you likely wash your towels, sheets, and dish rags every now and then, but our guess is: not often enough. As soon as you step out of the shower and dry off with your towel, you’re spreading thousands of germs and bacteria onto yourself. While your towel hangs in your bathroom, persistent germs latch onto your linens and grow — even droplets from your toilet. Gulp. While these microbes aren’t guaranteed to get you sick, they rapidly multiply. NYU School of Medicine microbiologist, Philip Tierno claims explains that a damp towel has growing bacteria and “Wherever there is odor, there are microbes growing, so it should be washed.”

Not only are your bath towels a breeding ground for germs, but your bedsheets are as well, and may even be worse. From lint to skin cells, your sheets are covered in a variety of germs and allergens that can negatively impact your health. Tierno recommends washing your bed sheets at least once a week to avoid the growth of these microbes.

Stop abiding by the “3-second rule”

We all remember the socially acceptable rule we learned in elementary school — the “3-second rule” — that made everyone feel better about eating food off the floor. Not too much of a surprise here, but the floor is swarming with viruses and bacteria and you should not eat anything that touches it. As microbiologist Tierno puts it, “If you drop some food stuff there [on the floor], don’t eat it…a lot of people do stupid stuff, and they have the three second rule, which is nonsense.” Unless you’re sanitizing your floor every few minutes, eating any food that has touched it is clearly a bad idea. When you pick a chip up off the floor, for example, you may believe you’re only taking in your own germs and will probably think something along the lines of, I just mopped the other day, my floors are clean. Although, anything that has hit the floor will become covered in germs that have been tracked in from the outside world. Another important factor to remember: just because you don’t see germs, doesn’t mean they aren’t there.

Deep clean your floors and carpets regularly

It’s rather easy to center your deep cleaning around times when things become visibly dirty, but by putting that cleaning off you’re allowing germs to multiply. Rather than waiting until a big spill hits your hardwood floor, practice steaming your wooden floors and deep cleaning your rugs/carpets about every month. Hardwood floors harbor any bacteria from outside which idle until the area is properly disinfected. Floors in or near your kitchen are especially important to focus on, as germs from food (raw chicken is the #1 worst culprit) are dangerous.

As studies from Clemson University’s Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition have found, hazardous pathogens that have the potential to cause severe internal infections such as E. coli, campylobacter, and salmonella can survive on hard surfaces for days, so better safe than sorry. As for rugs and carpets, they should be cleaned regularly as they attract and hold a great deal of detritus. Carpets can contain up to 200,000 bacteria for every square inch, making it “4,000 times grosser than your toilet,” as writer Heather Barnett states.

Splurge on germ-fighting appliances

If you’ve been in the market for a new dishwasher or washing machine, take some time to research appliances that have been cited by The Public Health and Safety Organization, NSF. This organization has certified a great number of appliances that focus on fighting germs and keeping your home healthy and safe. Their Home Product Certification Program aids consumers in identifying the safest products for their home. NSF’s extensive testing is specific to home use and balances the product’s performance, quality, and food contact material regulations.

Germs are all around us, and they’re certainly not going anywhere, so it’s important to protect ourselves as much as possible. Then again, being too clean isn’t going to be anyone’s saving grace. Not all germs are harmful, so there is no need to turn into a full-blown germaphobe.

By taking simple actions to keep yourself healthy and happy, you’ll likely never cross paths with the COVID-19, or even the common flu again. These methods to stay Coronavirus-free this season are very effective and will barely alter your day to day lifestyle. As Tierno says, “You’ve just got to be wise, be aware, and understand your surroundings. It’s not brain surgery.”


“Guidelines and protocol surrounding COVID-19 are changing quickly. For the most up-to-date information we recommend visiting the CDCWHO, and your local health department websites.”

Smart Homes Are Saving Homeowners a Chunk of Change

Once you’ve settled into your new home, after signing a slew of checks to cover moving expenses and whatnot, you’re likely dreading seeing your name on the top of yet another bill. With the help of a variety of home automation services, you can cut your utility bills nearly in half while enjoying the conveniences of a smart home—a true win-win. Some common smart home features are smart thermostats, sensors, power strips, and water systems. Pairing all these features together essentially gears your house up with a crew of robots to care for your home, so it’s a surprise to hear that these amenities actually save you money.

Why Smart Appliances?

These “smart” appliances allow you to prep your home exactly the way you like it before you even pull into your driveway. With common features that support home energy efficiency such as detecting when a room is empty and powering off all devices, also known as “energy vampires,” and smart utility meters that read a house’s energy usage daily without having to be prompted, you can rest easy that you’re not using any unnecessary energy. By using less energy, you’re in turn helping the environment and saving money on your bills. A home automation system can help save you a great deal of money, help regulate energy use, and solve a variety of day to day annoyances.

Considering it’s quite an investment to turn your not-so-smart home into a genius, it’s natural to assume companies may be trying to trick you into dishing out lots of funds with false promises of savings in the end. When smart homes just began trending around 5 years ago, it could cost upwards of $3,500 for a complete home revamp with all the smart appliances, but today we can expect to pay much less, perhaps even under $500. It’s important to remember that smart homes are an investment, and while you’ll be paying 30% or so more for these smart appliances, you’ll start to see the benefits (in your wallet) overtime. Typically, investments just involve a grueling waiting period, but one huge advantage with this investment is that you can at least begin enjoying the perks and conveniences right away.

 Without smart appliances, it’s hard to see how much energy you’re using in your home. Sure, you can look through your gas and electricity bill for details, but the tough part is knowing when energy is being used during an unnecessary time. Such as the aforementioned energy vampires, which use up electricity even when they are turned off. These appliances and electronics are responsible for 10% of the energy used in an average home, according to the Department of Energy, which also shares that “an appliance constantly taking in 1 watt of electrical current is equivalent to 9kWh per year, adding up to $1 in annual costs (basically $1/watt/annual). Considering how many appliances are used in an average household, costs can quickly add up to $100-200 a year.”

Smart Appliances Are a Making A Difference

There are many components that impact the amount of energy a home uses, such as location, climate, number of household members, and the size of the home, but as of 2018, the average American home consumed about 914 kWh of electricity per month. Electricity is used in just about every home and accounted for 44% of household energy consumption in 2017, while natural gas—which is used in 58% of homes—accounted for 43% of household energy consumption in the same year. This average energy use per household is consistently declining, and it seems that it’s no coincidence with the rise of smart homes. Overall, 3 of 4 American homes use two or more energy sources and chances are if they’re not using smart devices, they’re using too much energy and paying too much.

Electric companies are a bit sneaky and offer “time-of-use pricing,” which charges more for electricity during peak times during the day. With the help of smart appliances, they can help do the work for you during off-hours while saving you a bit of money here and there—which adds up. As Dan DiClerico of HomeAdvisor says, “Smart appliances make it easy for homeowners to control when their appliances are using electricity. For example, the dishwasher and dryer can be programmed to run late at night. Or the refrigerator can be set to go into energy-intensive defrost mode only on weekend mornings, when electricity rates are very low.” These are the small factors that are often looked over by homeowners who simply skim their utility bills before making the payment.

There continues to be greater advantages than just saving money when it comes to smart gadgets. Smart lighting, for example, offers a sense of security with the ability to control your lights remotely. Let’s say you forgot to hit the lights before taking off on vacation, or maybe you’d like to have the lights on when you get home late one evening—with smart lighting this can all be done with the press of a button.

By 2021, the market penetration for smart home technologies is expected to reach 38.7%, which is quite the jump from 8.2% in 2016. Clearly, homeowners are catching on to the potential massive savings a smart home will create. According to Energy Star, the average homeowner spends more than $2,000 on utility bills per year. After switching to a smart home lifestyle, one can expect to save between 20%-30% on their energy bills.

Smart Appliances Are Connected

As far as conveniences go, smart home technology may rank number one. With voice assistants like Alexa or Google Home, you can simply announce that you’d like your favorite song played, the lights dimmed, and the heat set to the perfect temperature. You can even set yourself reminders, check the weather, and restart your router when the internet is acting up, all without lifting a finger. These amenities are adored by everyone, but especially children and those with disabilities that might find it harder to reach certain places.

Between the dozens of technology-driven appliances, you can save approximately $996 a year. There are enough stressors in our lives already, do we really want to add our energy bills to that list?

How Covid-19 could impact the Real Estate Market

Update (April 15): State guidelines on real estate services are changing each week. Click here to find out what the protocol is in your state.

Update (April 8): Each state has determined whether real estate services are considered essential or non-essential and have a variety of guidances and restrictions related to it. Click here to find out what the protocol is in your state.

Update (March 26, 2020): Mortgage rates are ever-changing, especially during the uncertainty of the coronavirus crisis. Since this article was first published, they have fluctuated, and as of March 25, they are slightly higher. It is recommended that you go to Realtor.com to get mortgage rates that are updated daily.


Covid-19, or coronavirus, is all that everyone is talking about. And there are dozens of questions related to it. Is it preventable? How fast is it spreading? How dangerous is it? Will a treatment or even a cure be found in time?

All those questions are fair, and from a public health standpoint, should be asked and answered by those who are tasked to answer them – like the Centers for Disease Control.

However, this global pandemic, while terrifying millions around the world, is also having an impact on global financial markets and likely will impact the U.S. Real Estate market soon.

“U.S. Mortgage rates hit an all-time low in early March, with the average rate of the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage dropping to a staggering 3.29%.”

Mortgage interest rates are plummeting, and according to a report on CNBC in early March, they could fall as low as zero percent, and even then, the Fed could go even farther.

“We certainly think the Fed would be prepared to do more,” said Michael Gapen, head of U.S. Economics at Barclay’s in an interview with CNBC. “There’s a lot of volatility in markets, and the Fed is very concerned about market functioning and keeping liquidity free flowing and credit available.”

In addition to the plummeting mortgage interest, an already slow real estate market will be impacted by a lack of Chinese buyers.

“China has been the most important source of foreign demand for real estate,” Lawrence Yun, chief economist at the National Association of Realtors®(NAR) told Realtor.com. “The upper-end market can expect to be softer as a result.”

That’s because wealthy Chinese buyers often purchase luxury properties in places like California and New York.

According to NAR’s most recent data about foreign buyers, Chinese buyers spent $13.4 billion on U.S. homes between April 2018 and May 2019 – which is a 56% drop from the previous 12-month span.

While some of that drop can be attributed to more strict rules by the Chinese government on international spending combined with tougher immigration rules in the U.S., even those Chinese buyers who would still come to America to buy real estate have been put on ice based on travel restrictions, flight cancellations and required quarantines and self-isolations.

This takes away the incentive to buy real estate because when a potential buyer can see the property remains unknown.

The Mortgage Interest-Free Fall

U.S. Mortgage rates hit an all-time low in early March, with the average rate of the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage dropping to a staggering 3.29% according to Freddie Mac, eclipsing the previous low set back in 2012. Just a year ago, though, mortgage rates were hovering in the mid-4% range after almost touching 5% at the end of 2018.

However, some experts, like Jay Farner, CEO of Quicken Loans, sees this as an opportunity for current homeowners to refinance their mortgages and pay down the loan even faster.

“So, 30-year mortgage rates have dropped quite a bit to the low-to-mid three percent range on a 30-year fixed-rate, and we’re now below three percent on a 15-year fixed,” Farner told MarketWatch “ So, I’d say for the vast majority of Americans, they’re now in a position where they can save money by refinancing. So, they should be doing something.

“The one potential conundrum for lower mortgage interest rates is that it could create a slippery slope where more buyers enter the market trying to get a good deal, allowing sellers to jack up their prices.”

“Interestingly, one of the things we’re talking a lot about is people moving from a 30-year to a lower term, a 20-year or 15-year, because rates are so low, they can get a payment today at a 15-year that is similar to a payment they would have made four or five years ago on 30-year when rates were in the fives, yet they could pay their home off in 15 years for far less interest.”

Farner added though that we shouldn’t expect to see the 30-year fixed rate mortgage to drop below three percent. Uncertainty creates volatility in the market, which impacts interest rates. However, once there is certainty, either positively or negatively regarding coronavirus, it would cause interest rates to be on the rise again.

“Even if they come out and say maybe the coronavirus will be a little bit worse than we thought that would bring certainty. If it makes sense, you can save money, you got to lock your interest rates. Take advantage of the savings. And if I were a betting man, I’d say there’s a higher probability rates will rise in the (near future).”

The one potential conundrum for lower mortgage interest rates is that it could create a slippery slope where more buyers enter the market trying to get a good deal, allowing sellers to jack up their prices at a time when home prices are increasing exponentially even without the impact of a global pandemic.

Getting back to China, where Covid-19 originated, considering China has the World’s second-largest economy and it also has a worldwide supply chain. Limits on that supply chain impact businesses around the world. This can slow development even further as developers will need to wait longer than usual to get the supplies necessary to build.

The last time a health risk had this kind of impact on the global economy was in 2003 during the outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome, or SARS. Mortgage interest rates also dipped during that outbreak, but the impact on real estate was minimal, if at all.

That’s because Chinese investors weren’t as interested in the U.S. market at the time. Considering how much Chinese interest there is now, it leaves a lot of uncertainty as the Covid-19 virus spreads.

Luxury Homes could see a boost long-term

Wealthy buyers from China seem to be more interested in U.S. properties after negative stories emerge from their own country.

For example, there was a spike in Chinese purchases of property in the U.S. after the 2019 anti-government protests in Hong Kong.

Covid-19 could bring the same rush from China to the U.S. market as these Chinese buyers see the U.S. as a safer option than at home because of the civil unrest.

“[Chinese] people who are wealthy may feel tired of the perception of China as being a third-world country,” Yun said. “They want to park their money in a first-class world economy, which is Australia, Canada, and the U.S. Hence, we may see greater demand from Chinese, wealthy households.”

Closing Delays

While real estate is not usually subject to volatile swings in the stock market, which has been impacted by the spread of Covid-19 and the uncertainty of its real impact on public health in America, the reality is, it’s hard, and potentially impossible to close a deal on a real estate transaction of travel restrictions are put in place.

Whether a sale is contingent upon the buyer seeing the property before signing the dotted line, or due diligence is required before closing an ongoing deal, the impact of Covid-19 could cause a delay in closing, or potentially even put a kibosh on the deal in total.

Travel restrictions that are being put in place, as well as recommendations of self-isolation and the general fear of the unknown could have people sheltering themselves in their current homes and not venturing out until necessary. These kinds of actions, even if done in the minority, could create a real estate transaction slowdown, albeit temporarily.

On the commercial real estate market, transactions had started slowing long before Covid-19 was a thing. According to Bisnow, in New York City, there was a 31 percent drop in the sale of investment-grade real estate from 2018 to 2019.

“The market was soft before the news of the virus hit,” Compass Vice Chair and commercial investment sales broker Adelaide Polsinelli wrote in an email to Bisnow. “If you aren’t afraid to do business in real estate in New York City, you aren’t afraid of coronavirus.”

She added that there is a positive outcome that is running parallel to the slowdown, because some investors are seeing the drop off in competition for real estate as a golden opportunity to lock down a deal.

“This is the perfect storm for buyers,” she said. “Competition has slowed down, sellers are nervous, interest rates are low and opportunities are increasing.”


IS REAL ESTATE CONSIDERED AN ESSENTIAL BUSINESS IN YOUR STATE?

Each state is operating under its own set of rules to determine which businesses are, and which aren’t, considered essential to remain operating during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Depending on the state, buying or selling a home can have a unique set of rules during this uncertain time. It is important not only for those who work in real estate to understand these rules, but also those consumers who wish to buy or sell a property.

Below is a list of each state with data gathered by the National Association of REALTORS® and is current as of April 15, 2020. For the most up to date information for your state, please check with your local government offices.

ESSENTIAL STATES

Real Estate is considered an essential business in each of the following states. Yet in each one, social distancing is strongly encouraged, as well as other practices to help stop the spread of COVID-19.

  • Alabama – Real estate is considered an essential business. All essential businesses in the state are required to take reasonable steps to avoid gatherings of 10 or more people and maintain consistent six-foot distances between people. Jefferson and Mobile counties may implement more stringent measures as local circumstances require. Evictions stayed.
  • Alaska – relies on the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) recommended “critical infrastructure” workers which includes residential and commercial real estate services as of March 28. Congregations of more than 10 people are prohibited. Evictions stayed.
  • Arizona – individuals may leave their place of residence to participate in an essential function. Real estate, appraisal and title services are included in essential functions. Evictions stayed through July 22 for residential properties and May 31 for small businesses.
  • California – relies on the DHS recommended “critical infrastructure” workers which includes residential and commercial real estate services as of March 28. Evictions Stayed through May 31.
  • Connecticut – relies on the DHS recommended “critical infrastructure” workers which includes residential and commercial real estate services as of March 28. Short-term rentals of 31 days or less are only permitted in limited circumstances. Short-term rentals for leisure/vacation are banned. Evictions stayed.
  • District of Columbia – notary publics are essential businesses, but only when necessary to assist in compliance with legally mandated activities, essential business or essential government functions. This originally did not include real estate services, but the DHS guidance from March 28 included real estate services as essential.
  • Florida – relies on the DHS recommended “critical infrastructure” workers which includes residential and commercial real estate services as of March 28. Evictions are tolled through May 17.
  • Georgia – relies on the DHS recommended “critical infrastructure” workers which includes residential and commercial real estate services as of March 28. Critical infrastructure with continued in-person operation must implement mitigation measures as described in the order. No vacation rentals allowed through April 30.
  • Hawaii – real estate services, including appraisal and title services, are considered essential.
  • Iowa – mandated the closure of non-essential businesses. Real estate is not on the non-essential list. Evictions stayed.
  • Idaho – commercial construction, and the transfer and selling thereof, and construction of housing, and the transfer and selling thereof, are essential. Gatherings of any size are prohibited unless related to an essential business.
  • Illinois – professional services including legal, accounting, tax, payroll, real estate and property management services are essential. Essential businesses should promote telecommuting where possible and comply with social distancing requirements. Open houses and showings of occupied rental properties are prohibited. are prohibited. Showing of vacant or owner-occupied units are permitted if necessary and scheduled in advance (virtual showings are preferred) but limited to no more than four people. Residential evictions are stayed.
  • Indiana – real estate services, including appraisal and title services, are considered essential. However, real estate services should be conducted virtually or via telephone whenever reasonably possible and any face-to-face encounters should be postponed unless a failure to meet in person will have a significant and adverse impact on the client’s financial or legal position. Local ordinances may be more restrictive.
  • Kentucky – relies on the DHS recommended “critical infrastructure” workers which includes residential and commercial real estate services as of March 28. However, real estate services must implement telecommuting and remote work to the fullest extent possible.
  • Kansas – real estate services are essential but must use telework capabilities to avoid meeting in person to the extent possible without significant disruption to essential functions.
  • Louisiana – relies on the DHS recommended “critical infrastructure” workers which includes residential and commercial real estate services as of March 28.
  • Maryland – relies on the DHS recommended “critical infrastructure” workers which includes residential and commercial real estate services as of March 28. Evictions stayed.
  • Maine – real estate agencies are essential as of March 25, however no live open houses are to be hosted.
  • Minnesota – work that facilitates or finances real estate transactions and real estate services (including appraisals and title services) are essential. However, all workers who can work from home must do so, even essential businesses. Open Houses are strongly discouraged, and showings should only occur once a buyer has viewed the property virtually.
  • Missouri – relies on the DHS recommended “critical infrastructure” workers which includes residential and commercial real estate services as of March 28. However, gatherings of more than 10 people remain prohibited. The order does not close non-essential businesses but requires them to comply with gathering limitations and social distancing.
  • Mississippi – real estate services, including appraisal and title services, are listed as essential businesses and may remain operational provided they adhere to the ban on large gatherings.
  • Montana – banks, realtors or others providing real estate services and title companies are essential.
  • North Carolina – real estate, brokerage, appraisal, title, construction and moving and relocation services are essential. Evictions are stayed through April 17. Termination of utilities for non-payment is prohibited.
  • North Dakota – mandated the closure of certain non-essential businesses. Real estate was not listed.
  • New Mexico – real estate services, including brokers, title companies and related services are essential.
  • Nevada – professional or technical services including legal, accounting, tax, payroll, real estate and property management services are essential. Open houses and showings of renter-occupied properties are prohibited. In-person services and transactions are to be avoided to the greatest extent practicable.
  • Ohio – real estate services are considered essential. As of March 25, state legislature included language in a COVID-19 bill to ensure county recording offices stay open to effectuate property transfers and title searches. Local health departments may order closure of specific businesses for a limited period of time.
  • Oklahoma – relies on the DHS recommended “critical infrastructure” workers which includes residential and commercial real estate services as of March 28.
  • South Carolina – relies on the DHS recommended “critical infrastructure” workers which includes residential and commercial real estate services as of March 28.
  • Tennessee – relies on the DHS recommended “critical infrastructure” workers which includes residential and commercial real estate services as of March 28.
  • Texas – relies on the DHS recommended “critical infrastructure” workers which includes residential and commercial real estate services as of March 28.
  • Wisconsin – real estate services, including appraisers, inspectors and title companies, are essential but should, to the greatest extent possible, use technology to avoid meeting in person. They must also meet social distancing requirements promulgated by DHS and the Centers for Disease Control.
  • West Virginia – real estate services, including title companies and appraisers, are essential.
  • Wyoming – forced closure of certain businesses, of which real estate services are not listed. However, gatherings of 10 or more people are prohibited.
LIMITED STATES

In these states, real estate business can still be conducted, but with limitations. The limitations for each state are listed.

  • Colorado – real estate appraisals and transactions are considered essential. However, per the state attorney general, real estate marketing services such as showings and open houses are not essential and not exempt from the stay-at-home order. Social distancing still required.
  • Massachusetts – open houses are not prohibited but are subject to the Commonwealth’s order limiting gatherings to 10 people. Closings can continue, with social distancing required for all in-person transactions. Meetings with clients cannot take place at the agent’s bricks-and-mortar place of business, but can take place remotely with social distancing, or by phone or video.
  • New Hampshire – amended on March 27 to say real estate is an essential business. However there can be no open houses, no meetings in broker offices and that social distancing is required for in-person showings, appraisals, inspections and closings.
  • New Jersey – Individual showings are considered essential although open houses are prohibited. Real estate offices are allowed to remain open as an essential business. Evictions stayed.
  • New York – real estate is essential, but must be conducted remotely for all transactions, including, without limitation, title searches, appraisals, permitting, inspections, and the recordation, legal financial and other services necessary to complete the transaction. However, any of those services may be conducted in-person only to the extent legally necessary and then only in accordance with social distancing and cleaning protocols. No brokerage or branch office is allowed to remain open to the public. Evictions and foreclosures are stayed.
  • Oregon – in-person meetings should only be done if telework options are not available. If in-person meetings are required, social distancing policies must be employed.
  • Virginia – in-person meetings should only be done if telework options are not available. If in-person meetings are required, social distancing policies must be employed. All public and private in-person gatherings of 10 or more individuals are prohibited. Open houses are strongly discouraged.
  • Washington – previews and showings are allowed by appointment only. The creation of virtual tours, inspections, appraisals, buyer walk-throughs and providing keys to the buyer at closing are allowed if proper sanitary and social distancing protocols are followed in each case. No other in-person real estate brokerage activities are permitted.
NON-ESSENTIAL STATES

In these states, all real estate business must be conducted virtually or through other non-traditional means while stay-at-home orders and social distancing mandates are in effect.

  • Delaware – real estate is considered non-essential. However, showings are allowed virtually, but no open houses are allowed. Necessary actions to complete any sales or rentals that were in progress prior to March 22 are allowed. All short-term rentals are banned. Evictions are stayed.
  • Michigan – no in person client contact, showings or open houses. However, appraisal and title services continue to operate to allow closings to occur. Realtors/Real estate agents can only participate in the closing remotely. No advertising or rental of a short-term vacation property allowed unless to assist in housing a health care professional or volunteer aiding in the COVID-19 response. Evictions stayed.
  • Pennsylvania – Appraisals, final walk-throughs and in-person title insurance activities are allowed for residential real estate transactions that were under contract prior to March 18 for existing home or, with respect to new construction, that were under a previously executed contract that provides for closing on or after March 18. Such activities are to be arranged by appointment and are limited to no more than two people on site at any one time. Social distancing is required. Wearing further protective gear is encouraged. All real estate business that is executed remotely is allowed. For residential real estate contracts entered into after March 18, in-person inspections, appraisals, final walk-throughs, and title insurance activities are prohibited until the Emergency Disaster Declaration is lifted for the Commonwealth. Drive-by and desktop appraisals are permissible.
  • Vermont – real estate sales and brokerage firms must suspend in-person operations. Real estate functions may be conducted online, by phone or via e-mail. Online real estate sites must post a prominent notice on their websites advising potential buyers and sellers that all in-person real estate transactions are temporarily suspended. Appraisals, inspections, title services and other activities that require in-person business are prohibited. This also applies to sale-by-owner listings.
NO STATE MANDATES ISSUED ON ESSENTIAL/NON-ESSENTIAL BUSINESSES

The following states have not issued mandates about essential and non-essential businesses within their borders. As such, business can go on as usual in these states for the time being, although social distancing is still strongly encouraged.

  • Arkansas
  • Nebraska
  • South Dakota
  • Utah – remote work is encouraged. Evictions stayed. Local authorities may impose more stringent directives and orders.
STATES WITH UNCERTAINTIES
  • Rhode Island – the state issued an order closing all “non-critical” businesses and allowed for “critical” businesses to continue to operate. However, real estate services weren’t listed on either list.

 


Visit our COVID-19 Page for the latest news and information from Home Ownership Matters on COVID-19 and its impact on homeowners, housing and communities across the country.

Guidelines and protocol surrounding COVID-19 are changing quickly. For the most up-to-date information we recommend visiting the CDCWHO, and your local health department websites.