Can You Legally Put on Hold Your Real Estate Business During the Pandemic?
The coronavirus pandemic is changing the world right now, and it’s hard to say in which direction. More and more companies are looking for ways to digitize their businesses and have their employees working from homes during the period of self-isolation. However, this option is not always available or easy to introduce; there are industries where it’s not possible to operate remotely at all, or on some stages of the business. One of the sectors is real estate.
It’s not only about individual companies right now; these companies that can’t operate in a standard way (probably not many people think about things like Sea Pines Homes & Houses For Sale these days, and even if they do, they are not likely to go see the house and make a purchase). It’s also about the real estate market after this is all over. Presently, we can’t be sure how long it will last, and then, we will have to deal with repercussions and consequences, in some cases long after the pandemic is called off.
So how real estate businesses can reshape? What is their future? Is it possible to legally put these companies on hold to minimize the costs and wait for better days?
Is this simply a beginning?
It’s hard to predict how it will go in each country. Will the situation evolve similarly in the US as it developed in China? Will it be better? Can it be worse? The possibilities are at least several, but the fact is that the situation has already started to affect real estate businesses. For example, the governor of the state of New York, Andrew Cuomo, has recently forbidden real estate agents to show homes to potential buyers, and it’s almost sure that he won’t be the only one to order so. And if people can’t see houses, then they probably won’t buy them. Many companies may focus on closing some deals that were agreed upon before or dealing with those that closed recently.
It’s the right thing to do
All business owners and real estate agents know that it’s the only option to stop and take control over the spread of coronavirus. Still, it doesn’t change the fact that many of them may face reality without any stable income. Especially that performing any activities deemed by the law as unnecessary can trigger fines, so you’re not morally obligated to stay home anymore, you’re legally bound to do so.
What now? Is it possible to run a real estate business right now?
The National Association of Realtors has issued a statement in which a group of agents proposed some guidelines to follow during this challenging time. They propose video house tours and other virtual solutions if you don’t want to stop working. There are also some rights given to real estate agents by the law, for example:
- an agent can refuse to drive a client who shows any symptoms of the disease,
- an agent can refuse to drive a client who has recently been to an area of increased risk of coronavirus,
- an agent can require a client to drive to the meeting place by themselves to avoid close physical contact in a car,
- and many more.
However, agents must bear in mind the Fair Housing Act and not to discriminate against clients because of their nationality, ethnicity, etc. A lot of agents equip their houses with sanitizers, they provide clients with gloves and masks and avoid hand-shakes.
Some real estate companies work on digital solutions, like 3D house tours. And while this can be a lot of money to spend at once, it may prove beneficial right now and in the future. Agents highlight the advantage of avoiding the visits of clients who only want to take a look without the real intention of buying.
It may be worth introducing these solutions. Market experts predict that there will undoubtedly be buyers who will want to take advantage of the fact that the interest in real estate has dropped.
Can I put my business on hold?
Well, you can put your business on hold, but if you don’t want to lose all your money and leave your employees with nothing, you need to look for alternatives.
In this case, the answer is not as simple as yes or no. It all depends. If you consider this, you need to contact your insurer first and see if you have any options there. Of course, the coronavirus pandemic is a whole new situation, so you couldn’t have included it in your insurance, but there may be different solutions. Many policies deal with various setbacks, so it’s best to talk to your insurance agent, as you may have a chance for help, especially if you fall sick yourself or someone in your family has some serious health issues related directly or indirectly to the current situation.
Will there be help on the federal level?
The federal government is working on solutions to help business owners and their workers, and these solutions may include financial help or specially prepared loans (with low or no interest rates). But for the time being, The US Small Business Administration has increased the funding from $20 billion to $50 billion to help the owners face the pandemic. They offer low-interest disaster loans that can be used to cover bills and payrolls. You can reach the SBA online or by mail, or make an appointment in one of their offices (if they’re working in your area). The government may also suspend payroll taxes.
A lot of business fundings and aids are operating locally, so it would be best to take a look around, visit your state government’s website or ask around by talking to insurers, bankers, etc.
Apart from that, the Treasury Secretary has announced that smaller businesses will have time until July 15 to pay their income tax, and this is only for now, as the situation is fluid and may change.
But first of all, you should consider if it’s worth putting your company on hold, or maybe it’s better to try managing somehow. If you’re inactive, you will most likely lose many clients and potential customers, as they are not patient as a group, even in times like these. So contact all professionals you know (lawyers, bankers, insurers, tax professionals, etc.) to see what your options are. It may be best to stay in the game, as it’s hard to tell when the situation will get better and what the market will be like after it’s all over.