COVID-19 FAQs Updated Fall 2020

By James Gathany

Real Estate in West Michigan and COVID-19

Current recommendations for Real Estate related gatherings such as showings and open houses, based on the recent MDHHS Epidemic Orders:

Recommended Practices for Sellers Permitting Showings and/or Open Houses

  • If at all possible, Sellers should not be present during showings or open houses.
  • Prior to any scheduled showing or open house, Sellers should turn on all lights and leave interior doors, drapes and blinds open.  This will ensure that anyone entering the home will not need to touch light switches/doorknobs.
  • Prior to and after any showing or open house, Sellers should clean and disinfect all frequently touched surfaces, such as doorknobs, handles, light switches and countertops.

Recommended Practices for Buyers During Showings

  • Buyers attending showings/visits should meet their agents at the property and wait in their car for the agent to arrive.
  • Buyers should not bring anyone to the showing who does not need to view the property. All adults attending the showing should sign a Showing Certification and Release.
  • Buyers should not touch any surfaces in the property. Buyers should not turn off lights or close interior doors. They should not share phones, pens, tablets etc. with anyone else attending the showing.
  • Buyers are encouraged to wear gloves and masks while viewing a home. Buyers should use hand sanitizer immediately prior to entering the home and upon exiting prior to getting into their car.
  • Buyers should minimize the time physically present at a home. Talk about the showing outside.

Summer 2020 Update:

We are back to work! Practicing social distancing, wearing proper PPE with every encounter, and being very cautious will ensure that the Real Estate business contributes in a positive way to keeping our cases on a downward trend.

Here’s a story about how wearing proper PPE can help tremendously:
Two hairstylists with COVID-19 see 140 clients, no infections.

Donations to Kids Food Basket emergency fund and Grand Rapids Service Relief are still strongly encouraged.


COVID Resources:

Here is a tremendous collaborative resource for everything COVID-19 in West Michigan, facilitated by
Michigan Executive Order 2020-110 Opens up most remaining restrictions on Real Estate
Michigan Dept of Insurance and Financial Services Update (March 30)
Michigan’s Executive Order 2020-59 (the latest)
Michigan’s Executive Order 2020-21 (the first)
Michigan COVID-19 Page
What to do if you think you Have COVID
Chief Economist of National Association of Realtors
Is the US Hurtling Toward Another Housing Crash?

Quarantine Streaming Concerts and Entertainment:

Local Spins West Michigan Calendar
Billboard Calendar
Vulture Calendar
We’re Going on a Bear Hunt (game for Kids)


How is the West Michigan Housing Market Doing as Compared to 2019 at this time?
Long story short, activity was about 40% down from mid March-April. A lot due to buyers, agents, photographers not being able to enter properties.

Is the US Hurtling Toward Another Housing Crash?
How Do We Do Real Estate Closings?

Update (4/9/20): Michigan Governor Whitmer has signed a new Executive Order permitting the use of remote online notarization (RON) in real estate closings.
Can I buy or sell a house right now?
Realtors are urged to stay home in order to curb the spread of COVID-19. Showings are prohibited as are many services related to preparing a home for sale.
Update (3/30/20): Home Inspectors and Appraisers are considered Critical Infrastructure Employees under the Order.
Update (3/29/20): Despite the recent CISA memo that was published defining real estate as an essential service, this memo does NOT change the State of Michigan’s position since this new memo is only advisory and specifically defers to states for their own regulation.
Update (4/27/20): Showings, photos, signs, keyboxes etc are prohibited as are many services related to preparing a home for sale through May 15, 2020.

When will it get back to normal?
This is a liquid situation with daily changes and updates. Right now Realtors are planning on the market opening back up on Monday April 13.
Update: (The federal deadline has been extended through April 30. While Michigan has not yet extended the April 13 date, this should be expected).

If I want to buy what should I do?
Monitor recently closed sales, there are many. Lenders are still taking on new clients, get in touch, line up a pre-approval. Talk to your agent over Zoom or Skype, refine your desires and define your goals.

Is the Mortgage Industry at full strength?
Yes, they are working from home, but they are working harder than we’ve ever seen taking new applications, refinancing and pending sales.

If I want to sell?
We are expecting to walk right back into an incredible selling market mid-April. Home values are up, interest rates are down. Get in touch with your agent to get everything lined up to hit the ground running.

What if I have a sale already in progress?
Title insurance is functioning at near full strength, so is the lending sector. Your sale should be able to progress.

What does the market look like right now?
The market is not declining, it is paused, there is a big difference.
We still have less than a month of inventory, interest rates are still low, West Michigan is an affordable and desirable place to live. Expect more of what we’ve seen so far this year, which is a vibrant real estate market and a safe investment opportunity.

What about that stimulus money?
The federal government is pumping $2 Trillion into the economy in the form of grants, loans, and deferments. Does that mean Michigan gets its fair share, $40 Billion of federal stimulus money? Probably.

What can I do with Rentals?
In the short term it seems mutually beneficial for landlords and residents to stay in place and defer changes. Maintenance is allowed, but must be filling an immediate necessity.

Any Benefits to this?
We’re going to be rolling into a pretty exciting time in the world of Real Estate. What we can’t do now we’ll make up soon. We have extremely low interest rates that will provide an incentive to upgrade and to buy, stimulus money for the economy…It’s going to be a great year! Hopefully we were able to focus on our families, do some reading and self improvement, got organized, accomplished some projects and planning, got some exercise and a renewed faith in our fellow humans.

What is my home worth?
You are most welcome to contact us.

Recent Local Statements Issued

March 24,2020
MAR (Michigan Association of Realtors)
GRAR (Greater Regional Alliance of Realtors, formerly Grand Rapids Association of Realtors)

This evening, March 24, 2020, the Governor’s Office issued further guidance on real estate services under Executive Order 2020-21. The FAQ makes clear that real estate brokers and salespersons are not “critical infrastructure workers” and therefore may not leave their homes for work.  The only narrow exception to the order is the instance where work is absolutely necessary to assist those with a genuine and emergent need, such as an immediate lack of shelter.  The FAQ also uses the ambiguous term of “real estate service employees” which we do not know how to interpret. We have already communicated our concerns over the wording of this FAQ.

As for now, Michigan Realtors® current interpretation of Executive Order 2020-21 still stands. Real estate services, like the showing of homes and other property, open houses, and other client contact should be considered to be non-critical and travel to do so is prohibited through April 13, 2020.  Willful violation of the Governor’s Order is a Misdemeanor. We have already received reports of law enforcement officers enforcing the Executive Order on the streets and establishing communications for the reporting of non-essential services that continue to operate.

For those Realtors® with clients with a scheduled closing in the next three weeks, we have been advised that a number of Michigan title companies and appraisers will continue to do business under the federal government’s general category for financial/insurance services and that closings will proceed. Realtors® should check with the specific title company/appraiser regarding its policy.

Real estate brokerages have the ability to participate in closings via conference calls or other video conferencing methods to comply with the Governor’s order.

If you have a purchase agreement in place and the parties wish to agree to an extension, this can be accomplished by utilizing the Michigan Realtors® Amendment to Purchase Agreement. As with any contract, please make sure that you are consulting with legal counsel

March 26,2020
RPOA (Rental Property Owners Association of Michigan)

The RPOA has just received information from the Michigan Governor’s office regarding how landlords should handle various aspects of their operation under the current “stay at home” executive order. In a nutshell, any essential activity necessary to provide shelter or the health and safety of housing is allowable—with cautionary measures. This activity includes move-ins/outs, lease closings, repairs for items related to health and safety and nuisance code issues such as trash removal.

These activities should be carried out, when possible, remotely. Where they can’t be, cautionary measures should be practiced, such as keeping your distance from others and limiting the number of people involved to the greatest extent possible and using protective wear.

Services and retailers such as moving companies and hardware stores are being allowed to continue under the same premise and cautionary advice.

What isn’t included are showings of property for lease or for sale and repairs and maintenance not related to providing safe and healthy housing. On the topic of grass mowing or other nuisance type related issues, landlords are advised to contact their local housing inspection department to ascertain where the locality stands on the issue since those may be local ordinance violations. (At this time, the RPOA has requested information regarding the City of Grand Rapids’ stance on this issue but has not yet received a response.)

With all of that said, the RPOA recommends using caution when determining what activities to engage in. Local governments may activate even more stringent “stay at home” policies and be more aggressive in their enforcement…especially in hard hit areas such as Oakland County.