The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has touched all aspects of the American economy, including the residential real estate market. This, in turn, has effected real estate agents, lenders, title agents, and real estate lawyers. The health and economic crisis look likely to continue for the indefinite future.
Business as usual for buyers and sellers and their real estate agents is anything but. Understandably, concerns are being raised about personal contact, notwithstanding the current (as of this writing) shutdown and “stay at home” orders recently entered by Governor Wolf. “Virtual” and “drive-by” showings have replaced the traditional in-person showing and viewing of properties. Inspection contingency periods should be generous or extended, as home and other electable inspections similarly cannot currently be conducted.
From a financing standpoint, buyers are facing longer commitment times, suggesting that mortgage contingency periods in the Agreement of Sale should be generous or extended. Necessary appraisals for lending purposes could be problematic, as traditional, in-person appraisals are prohibited. And a buyer with a change in his or her financial status is duty-bound to notify the seller of that change, a reality which many may confront in the coming weeks and months.
From a title underwriting standpoint, judgment and lien searches are taking longer due to County recorders’ offices currently being closed to the public. Municipal transfer procedures may also be a hurdle, as most municipalities are simply not open for business, although a temporary occupancy permit may be obtainable.
To try and ease the burden, the Pennsylvania Association of Realtors has come up with a form providing a 30-day extension to amend existing agreements of sale while sellers and buyers address the current reality of residential real estate closings. Some are suggesting that real estate contracts like agreements of sale simply can’t be performed in the current environment. The real estate lawyers at OWM Law are here to help.