Real estate during COVID-19

WE are back to work. The Department of Homeland Security, Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) updated its list of essential services during the coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis and expressly included residential real estate. Since Governor Newsom’s order incorporates this list, the order now includes residential and commercial real estate, including settlement services, as essential services in California. Notwithstanding this new development, all real estate licensees must take into account the health and safety of their clients and fellow licensees, and follow the existing protocols for protecting against the spread of COVID-19.

No open homes are permissible under any circumstances. Showings of homes must be virtual. Only if it is not possible to show a home virtually may a showing of a vacant home take place, by appointment, and the number of people in a home may not exceed a maximum of 2 visitors and they must be from the same household. No showings of any occupied homes may take place, even if the occupants leave the home for the day. At any showing of a vacant house, social distancing protocol must be in place and a form must be completed and posted at the showing.

What will happen to your mortgage payment?

Many mortgage servicers have programs to help people avoid foreclosure. Your mortgage servicer will look at your situation to consider the options that may be available to you. The servicer may ask you to fill out a mortgage assistance application.

Mortgage forbearance

Forbearance is when your mortgage servicer or lender allows you to pause or reduce your mortgage payments for a limited period of time. Forbearance doesn’t erase what you owe – you’ll have to repay any missed or reduced payments in the future. If your income is restored, reach out to your servicer and resume making payments as soon as you can.

If your mortgage is a federally backed mortgage, you have two mortgage relief options under the CARES Act: First, your lender or loan servicer may not foreclose on you for 60 days after March 18, 2020. Specifically, the CARES Act prohibits lenders and servicers from beginning a judicial or non-judicial foreclosure against you, or from finalizing a foreclosure judgment or sale, during this period of time.

Second, if you experience financial hardship due to the coronavirus pandemic, you have a right to request a forbearance for up to 180 days. You also have the right to request one extension for another up to 180 days. You must contact your loan servicer to request this forbearance. There will be no additional fees, penalties or additional interest (beyond scheduled amounts) added to your account. You do not need to submit additional documentation to qualify other than your claim to have a pandemic-related financial hardship.

Refinancing?

One silver lining is that the crisis has driven mortgage rates in a downward direction. As such, prospective homeowners are clamoring to apply for mortgages while current homeowners are rushing to take advantage of these competitive rates by refinancing. Refinancing allows you to swap an existing mortgage for a new one. When rates drop, you get an opportunity to lower your monthly mortgage payments without paying a lump sum toward the principal of your home loan.

Property Tax deadlines?

San Francisco and San Mateo counties have extended their normal April 10 property-tax payment deadlines until May 4, the date their tax collector’s offices are scheduled to reopen to the public after shelter-in-place orders are lifted.

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Martin Santiago is a broker associate at Sell Your Home, a full-service residential brokerage firm. He is also an International Associate at the American Institute of Architects. The information presented in this article is for general information only and is not, nor intended to be a formal legal advice nor the formation of a broker-client relationship. Call or email Martin at (415)850-7704; teammsquare@gmail.com; www.teammsquare.com.

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