The COVID-19 pandemic has forced many REALTORS® to quickly transition to the digital age and a new era of video conferencing and online meetings using tools like Zoom, Skype, Facetime Live, Microsoft Teams and many others.

It is important to remember even as we all work from home, the video conference meetings we attend are professional meetings, and participants should practice good video meeting etiquette.

Here are some best practices for online video conference meetings from Zoom and other resources:
1. Save your invitation confirmation, which provides the meeting ID number, password, and a link to the meeting that is unique to you. It cannot be replaced. Do not share invitation links with others.

2. Download the Zoom or whatever conference app you plan to use. Sign in and familiarize yourself with the audio and video settings. You can do a test to see how you look in the camera and test the audio.

3. Find a quiet place without background noise, where you won’t be distracted or interrupted by a television, phone calls, barking dogs, etc.

4. When you are let in by the host, click “Join Audio” so you can hear speaker. Do not interrupt the meeting to let the whole group know that you can’t hear, or can’t see the person on the screen.

5. Make sure you have a work-appropriate background. Nobody wants to see your bedroom or personal collections! You want participants to focus on the meeting and not on your background. Better yet, use Zoom’s virtual background feature to eliminate background distractions. Avoid backlight from bright windows.

6. Use the video option when possible as it gives you a greater presence at the meeting. If you are using you mobile phone, for security reasons add your name instead of your phone number, so the host and other participants can identify you.

7. Don’t look sloppy. Dress for your audience. Your outfit should match the expectations of your audience. Be professional-looking. Use a professional photo in place of video if you are not appropriately dressed.

8. Join the meeting early, at least 3-5 minutes before the start of the meeting. Be patient and wait until the host lets you in.

9. Mute your microphone when you’re not called on to speak.

10. Do not interrupt the speaker. Use the chat function to ask questions. And don’t be rude in the chat. Everyone can see the chat box, even the speaker!

11. Be aware that you are on camera. Stop looking at yourself, avoid doing other tasks like checking emails, looking at your phone, or worse yet, snoozing. Look into the camera when talking instead of looking at yourself.

12. If you need to go the bathroom while on a Zoom call, do not forget to turn off your video and audio. You don’t want everyone to remember you brushing your teeth and gargling, or flushing the toilet, because they will!

June is National Homeownership Month, a time to recognize the value of homeownership. Owning a home is more than an address. When you invest in homeownership: you build financial stability, gain the freedom to create a home that fits your lifestyle, and play a role in strengthening your community.

Since Americans have been forced to shelter in their place of residence due to the coronavirus pandemic, the home has come out on top. Families are discovering their home and improvements they can make. Homeownership has mattered even more to prospective buyers.

“The home is now not just a place to live, but also a place to work,” said Mary Kay Groth, president of the Silicon Valley Association of REALTORS® (SILVAR) and a REALTOR® with Sereno Group. “With more companies allowing their employees to work remotely, surveys show a growing trend in buyer preferences to expand their home search farther from the city to places with more open space and for larger homes with a dedicated space for a home office.”

The social benefits of homeownership are many. Homeowners move far less frequently than renters, making it easier to build community networks and support systems. This results in a higher membership in voluntary organizations, greater social interaction in their communities, better school performance by children living in owned homes, a higher rate of high school graduation and higher earning, and better physical, psychological and emotional health outcomes.

The pandemic has caused a drop in home sales, but it has not brought transactions to an absolute halt. In fact, market activity has grown in the past month as REALTORS® embrace technology to help their clients achieve their dream of homeownership. Since traditional open houses are banned, SILVAR REALTORS® like Mary Jo McCarthy are holding open houses virtually.

McCarthy, a REALTOR® with Golden Gate Sotheby’s International Realty, recently told SILVAR members, “It’s the path that we’re in, so I felt I have to learn it. I’m in the weeds right now and just figuring out how to navigate, but it shows my clients that I’m moving ahead with technology.”

In-person showings are allowed now, but with only three persons – two from the same household and the agent. Health and safety restrictions must be followed. Mitra Lahidji, a REALTOR® with Compass, described the process. “We kept a 6-foot distance from each other, we had face masks and gloves. I gave booties to my clients, two persons only, and then wiped the areas we touched.”

“We are so fortunate technology has allowed us to be in touch ‘face to face’ with our clients,” said Groth. “For now, the best value we can give our clients is to know our marketplace so every buyer who wants to achieve their dream of homeownership can, and to also be a voice of calm and assurance when they are feeling overwhelmed with all that is happening around us.”

The National Association of REALTORS® is celebrating the new era of homeownership and recognizing the people, policies, and programs that are #CreatingHome now and into the future. Visit https://homeownershipmatters.realtor/homeownership-month-2020/ for homeowner stories and expert advice.

There is a bright spot to the coronavirus pandemic, and that is the rise in adoption and foster applications in animal rescue and shelter facilities. In fact, some shelters have happily announced they are empty, while others like the Silicon Valley Humane Society, have announced due to overwhelming adoption demand, they have temporarily paused their adoption appointment sign-up for dogs and are only taking adoption appointments for those interested in meeting cats, rabbits, and pocket pets and even these appointments are filling up quickly.

“In this unprecedented time of shelter-in-place and social distancing, many individuals and families long for a little companionship,” said Mary Kay Groth, president of the Silicon Valley Association of REALTORS®. “If you were planning to adopt a pet before the coronavirus pandemic, now could be a great time to take that step. More time at home means more time to bond with your new pet and work with them on training.”

According to the National Association of REALTORS® “2020 Animal House: Pets in the Home Buying and Selling Process” report, 66 percent of U.S. households currently have a pet or plan to get one in the future, proving that pets and their effects on a home, must be considered for a majority of households. Additionally, 43 percent of households would be willing to move to better accommodate their pet(s), demonstrating that this is a priority among consumers. A small percentage, one percent, of recent homebuyers said they were prompted to make their purchase by the desire for a better home for their pet(s). When searching for a new home, 18 percent of recent homebuyers said it was very important that their new neighborhood is convenient to a vet and/or outdoor space for their pet(s).

Within the past year, a median of 38 percent of REALTORS®’ clients have owned a pet, companion animal, or service animal; and 18 percent of REALTORS® have represented clients that have moved solely for their animal. When finding a home for their clients, the most important feature for REALTORS®’ clients in terms of their animals’ situation is a fenced yard. This was followed by a large enough home for the household and pet, and flooring.

Pets also come into play when REALTORS® work with sellers. The most common pet-related advice REALTORS® give their seller clients is take the animal(s) out of the home during showings and replace anything damaged by the pet(s). Eighty percent of Realtors recommend that their clients remove pets during showings when selling their home.

Groth cautions families not to adopt a pet just because they are home during the coronavirus pandemic. “The pandemic and our shelter-in-place orders won’t last forever,” said Groth. “Before you adopt a pet, consider how much time you will have to care for a dog, now and post-pandemic, is your job secure enough to afford pet-related expenses, does your current place of residence have space for a pet or, if you’re renting, does your landlord allow pets? Will you have the time and energy to commit to training your dog? These are important questions to consider.”

The National Association of REALTORS® MLS Policy Statement 8, also known as the MLS Clear Cooperation Policy, takes effect for all MLSs beginning today, May 1. NAR’s Board of Directors adopted the policy last November.

The new NAR policy requires listing brokers who are participants in an MLS to submit their listing to the MLS within one business day of marketing the property to the public. Agents may promote a listing only within their brokerage – not with others on the MLS or outside of the brokerage.

The California Association of REALTORS® (C.A.R.) reviewed and adopted the policy with more details to its model rules for CA MLS, and on April 15, the MLSListings Board of Directors adopted the C.A.R. model rule changes. The C.A.R. SELM form has been modified to refer to the policy.

Within the MLSListings service area, the Clear Cooperation Policy applies to one to four-unit residential property and vacant residential lots. It does not apply to commercial listings and new construction of five plus units.

Brokers/agents can still take an exclusive listing, but can only promote or advertise the listing within their brokerage. If advertised to the public or to an outside agent, the listing must be added to the MLS within one business day as an Active listing.

Public marketing or advertising includes, but is not limited to conveying or displaying any information about the property or its availability for sale through or on any windows, signs, public facing websites, social media, brokerage or franchise operated websites (including IDX and VOW), digital communications marketing (ex: email, text or phone blasts, social media messaging), multi-brokerage or franchise listing sharing networks, flyers or written material or on any applications available to the public or through conducting an open house.

This rule only applies to “excluded” or “exclusive” or “waivered” listings. Listings entered as Coming Soon on the MLS may only be advertised as Coming Soon off the MLS.

For the next month, MLSListings will be educating brokers and agents about the new rules. MLSListings is urging agents to communicate with their broker about the new policy. Brokers, in turn, need to counsel their agents. Agents need to counsel their sellers about what it means to have an “exclusive” listing.

If caught violating the rule, an agent must enter the listing as Active. Agents in violation will receive courtesy notices for violations with a copy sent to their broker or office manager. The fine for a violation is $500 and escalates until the property is listed or the NAR maximum of $15,000 is reached. Many MLSs are imposing fines upwards of $5,000.

Visit MLSListings Clear Cooperation Resource Page

View MLSListings’ video on Clear Cooperation Implementation

California Governor Gavin Newsom has extended the state stay-at-home order through the end of May and has California’s Pandemic Roadmap to safely re-open all businesses and institutions stages. Meanwhile, San Mateo and Santa Clara counties, along with the four other Bay Area counties of Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, San Francisco, have announced they will ease some of their Shelter-in-Place (SIP) restrictions effective Monday, May 4. With regard to the practice of real estate, the Santa Clara County Public Health Order states (SILVAR has confirmed that the same applies to San Mateo County):

“Service providers that enable real estate transactions (including rentals, leases, and home sales), including, but not limited to, real estate agents, escrow agents, notaries, and title companies, provided that appointments and other real estate viewings must only occur virtually or, if a virtual viewing is not feasible, by appointment with no more than two visitors at a time residing within the same household or living unit and one individual showing the unit (except that in-person visits are not allowed when an occupant is present in a residence);

Previously, private showings and walk-throughs were not allowed when an occupant was living in the residence. This mirrors prior direction for limited photography/videography, inspections, and necessary work to close a transaction, while generally limiting it to no more than three people at a property at one time.

The following guidance for showings of properties continue:

  • No open houses.
  • Virtual showings are highly encouraged. If a virtual viewing is not feasible, then an in-person viewing of the property may be done by appointment only.
  • During the in-person showing of the property, all social distancing protocols must be practiced, and protective measures, such as the wearing of gloves, cloth face coverings, and not touching of surfaces and maintaining a distance of six feet between each other must be followed.

For more information on this announcement, visit the Silicon Valley Association of REALTORS® website at http://www.silvar.org.

Every year in the month of April, REALTORS® observe the anniversary of the passage of the Fair Housing Act of 1968 and use the time to educate consumers about housing discrimination and segregation, and to recommit to expanding equal access to housing. April this year has turned out to be different due to the COVID-19 outbreak, but NAR reminds members Fair Housing Month can be celebrated at home. Education, reflection, and discussion are meaningful efforts members can still undertake while practicing social distancing.

To mark the event, NAR is sharing curated lists of books, videos, podcasts and other resources for members to educate themselves throughout the month. NAR urges members to use this time to read, watch, listen, think, discuss and strengthen their fair housing knowledge and leadership with these tools.

As stewards of the right to own, use and transfer private property, REALTORS® reconfirm their commitment to upholding fair housing law and offering equal professional service to all in their search for real property. “Even amid the coronavirus pandemic, REALTORS® are using virtual tools to help homebuyers search for a home so they can achieve their dream of homeownership,” said Mary Kay Groth, president of the Silicon Valley Association of REALTORS® (SILVAR).

At the federal level, NAR is advocating for a federal minimum standard for remote online notary. NAR also worked on further tax extensions for 1031 like-kind exchanges and opportunity zones, and wants to make sure the much-needed forbearance measures do not unintentionally lock up the mortgage marketplace.

As a designated U.S. Census Bureau national partner for the 2020 Census, NAR is urging its 1.4 million REALTORS® nationwide to help drive Census participation in their respective communities. The good news is over 70 million households have responded to date, representing over 48 percent of all households in America (52% in California), using the Census Bureau’s new online option.

Roughly $1.5 trillion is allocated to states and localities annually based off census results to fund roads, public transportation, hospitals, schools and other infrastructure. More specifically, this year’s results will influence the allocation of $93.5 billion to Federal Direct Student Loans, $19.3 billion to Section 8 Housing Choice Vouchers and $12 billion to the National School Lunch Program.

Census data is also used to draw district lines to determine appropriate Congressional representation for the next decade. California is one of 10 states likely to lose a congressional seat since more people left California than moved in over the course of a year. If California loses a seat in Congress, the state’s number of seats in the U.S. House of Representatives will drop from 53 to 52 and it could cost the state billions of dollars in federal funds.

Groth urges those who have not to please respond to the Census. “If you are unable to respond online, a paper questionnaire can be mailed to you by calling toll free 1-844-330-2020. I assure you the Census Bureau will never ask for bank account or social security numbers, donations, or anything on behalf of a political party. Strict federal law protects the confidentiality of Census responses.”

Dear fellow REALTORS® and SILVAR members,

As I write this from my home office, I realize some of what I say could be old news by the time this is published, but I will press on.

As you know, Real Estate has been deemed an essential business during the COVID-19 crisis.  The reaction to this has been mixed. Initially, REALTORS® felt this was a good thing, but it has caused confusion since we live in an area that is under the stricter rules mandated by the various County Health Departments.

The California Association of REALTORS® has been criticized for putting out conflicting information and guidelines, but it has been very clear, as has SILVAR, that our local rules are different, and we must adhere to them. No Open Houses … residential viewings must only occur virtually or, if a virtual viewing is not feasible, by appointment with no more than two visitors at a time residing within the same household or living unit and one individual showing the unit. In person visits are not allowed when the occupant is still residing in the residence.

Doesn’t that seem extreme, you say. Let’s consider what the ordinance says: The intent of this Order is to ensure that the maximum number of people shelter in their places of residence to the maximum extent feasible to slow the spread of COVID-19 and mitigate the impact on delivery of critical healthcare services to those in need.

When assessing if what your are doing for you and/or your clients, the above isn’t just a guideline; it is the law. Yes, transactions are being closed, movers are still moving (based on guidelines that allow this), but it is our responsibility as REALTORS® to be an example of following our Code of Ethics Preamble for “the preservation of a healthful environment.”

Since COVID-19 and its impact on us, I think it’s safe to say we all agree on many things – this is unchartered territory, we miss our colleagues and face-to-face interaction, we have a heightened level of anxiety for the future. We can adapt to new situations quicker than we may have though – we can spend more time with family, we can appreciate the beauty of where we live, and there are many other things we can add to the list. 

Like many, if not all of you, virtual meetings have become the norm. For me, today was another example of seeing friendly faces on my computer screen that I would normally be sitting in a room with and having a discussion that resulted in the same outcome – discussion, review, discussion and eventually a decision. As efficient as that may have been, I missed being together. That has been the reality for many over the past several weeks. And it will continue until our Shelter in Place order is lifted.

When we have come out on the other side of this crisis, there are many thoughts we will have in hindsight. One that I heard recently is the question, “Did I do enough?” If we keep that in perspective, we can’t help but make this crisis and adversity a time to grow. Be safe, stay healthy and keep pressing on.

Mary Kay Groth
2020 Silicon Valley Association of REALTORS® (SILVAR) President

The coronavirus is directly impacting families in the Bay Area as state and county have ordered residents to stay home, except those who must provide essential services. Silicon Valley Association of REALTORS® (SILVAR) President Mary Kay Groth offers these tips for families and Realtors coping with the new normal in their lives.

Don’t panic
“Although the news is distressing, we should do our best not to panic,” says Groth. “We should stay informed with the latest news and be smart about taking precautions to prevent the virus from coming into our home and infecting our family.”

The Stay in Place directive is a good thing, says Groth. “It definitely means pausing our daily activities, but it is the right thing to do. Social distancing is one of the best tools to minimize exposure to and spread of the virus.”

Stay connected
Families can still connect with friends and relatives. “Staying home does not mean cutting ties with everyone. Thankfully, technology allows us to connect in many different ways. In addition to phone calls, text messages, emails, connect through FaceTime, Zoom, Messenger and other apps,” suggests Groth.

With schools closed, Groth encourages parents to talk to their children about the COVID-19 virus. “Young children may not understand what is happening. Parents need to assure them that all will be well and that staying home keeps them safe while doctors fight the virus,” says Groth. “We need to look at the situation positively, as an experience that can bring you and your children closer together.”

Additionally, multi-generation families should try to maintain as much distance as possible in order to keep safe. Designate a special room for older family members, especially grandparents, if you can, so they’ll have their own space, where they can feel safe and comfortable.

Maintain good hygiene habits
Even if you are home, continue to wash your hands and sanitize all points of contact, like counters, tables and doorknobs. Health care providers stress the most important thing you can do is wash your hands thoroughly for at least for 20 seconds.

Do home maintenance work
Take care of home maintenance tasks you have put off, like replace a light bulb, fix a leaky faucet, clean the garage, file papers, or trim bushes and plants.

Exercise
If you get cabin fever, walk around your neighborhood, but keep your distance from others by staying six feet away from other individuals.

REALTORS® can still work
Even if client-facing activities are at a pause now, work need not stop for REALTORS®, says Groth. “REALTORS® can organize their data base and stay in touch with their clients by email, text messages and phone calls. Check in with your older clients, see how they are doing. Many would welcome a friendly phone call from you.”

Groth urges REALTORS® to continue learning. “Check MLSListings’ on-demand videos and webinar classes. This is also a good time to take the California Association of REALTORS® 45-hour online continuing education courses for license renewal, which is a free member benefit.”

“The market was solid before this outbreak, we will get through this and families will be stronger after we weather this crisis together,” said Groth.

As the coronavirus (COVID-19) continues to evolve, REALTORS® expect the outbreak to negatively impact their business, primarily in the areas of home sales and time on market. Flash pulse surveys by both the California Association of REALTORS® and the National Association of REALTORS® imply, at least in the short-term, that home sales will be down compared to what would have been the case due to the spread of coronavirus.

According to the C.A.R. flash pulse poll conducted March 6-9 via email, due to the coronavirus outbreak half of California REALTORS® expected there will be a negative impact on home sales and 49 percent said time on market will be impacted. Conversely, 36 percent said they expect there will be no impact on home sales or time on market (38 percent).

Other areas that REALTORS® said would be negatively impacted were home prices (40 percent), closing (38 percent), supply (37 percent) and market competition (28 percent). More than one-half (55 percent) said there would be no impact on market competition, closing (53 percent) or price (45 percent). More than one in four REALTORS® (26 percent) said they had clients who put their home purchase or home sale on hold, and more than one-third of REALTORS® had clients asking them coronavirus market-related questions.

With the situation still uncertain and changing rapidly, Joel Singer, CEO of C.A.R., said, “It is a logical reaction to this reality that the global economy will be slowing in historically unprecedented ways for some period of time.”

NAR conducted a similar pulse survey of members on March 9-10, 2020, a week after C.A.R.’s pulse survey. NAR’s Economic Pulse Flash Survey found among REALTORS® who responded, 37 percent said lower mortgage rates excited homebuyers much more than the stock market correction, yet almost eight out of 10 (78%) said there has been no change in buyer interest due to the coronavirus. Sixteen percent said buyer interest has decreased due to coronavirus, with members in California and Washington State citing larger decreases in buyer interest, 21 percent and 19 percent, respectively.

Nearly nine in 10 members (87%) said coronavirus has not affected the number of homes on the market. In Washington State and California, 5 percent and 4 percent of members, respectively, reported homes were removed from the market.

“Given that a home transaction is a major commitment, the uncertainties on how the economy will play out and the spread of the virus itself are barriers to homebuying and selling. The stock market crash is no doubt raising economic anxieties, while the coronavirus brings fear of contact with strangers,” said NAR chief economist Lawrence Yun. “At the same time, the dramatic fall in interest rates may induce some potential buyers to take advantage of the better affordability conditions. It is too early to assess the likely impact as to whether lower interest rates can overcome the economic and health anxieties.”

Due to coronavirus concerns, C.A.R. and NAR have cancelled meetings and suspended non-essential volunteer and staff travel for association business. Also cancelled is the annual REALTOR® Legislative Day set for April 28. Legislative Day is the one day each year when over 2,000 California REALTORS® travel to Sacramento to meet their respective legislators and discuss real estate-related legislation that could impact property rights, their clients and their business.

In accordance to the March 17-April 7, 2020 Shelter in Place directive, the Silicon Valley Association of REALTORS® (SILVAR) office in Cupertino will be closed. Staff will do their best to serve members while working remotely. Members can email membership@silvar.org with questions.

“Our primary concern is the health of our members and staff. This is the “new normal.” When the Shelter in Place order is lifted, all broker tours, open houses and showings will resume,” said SILVAR Executive Officer Paul Cardus.



The seven leading MLSs in Northern California, including MLSListings, announced the creation of have formed NorCal MLS Alliance, a data share collaborative which will ensure real estate professionals in Northern California have the greatest access to MLS data in and near the areas they do business. This move will give subscribers greater access to listing data for all major Northern California counties via Matrix. Initial implementation is slated for Q3 2020.

Three different MLS systems serve the seven MLSs in the NorCal MLS Alliance: Matrix (CoreLogic), Paragon (Black Knight), and Rapattoni. Each MLS has thousands of agents using their system. With the creation of NorCal MLS Alliance, each of the three systems will have all of the data in their respective data base. This means MLSListings subscribers will be able to seamlessly access this new, larger set of data via Matrix, their home system, without having to change to a different and unfamiliar system (i.e., no more switching systems from Matrix to Paragon to Rapattoni). Agents will continue to use the same system they are accustomed to, but with substantially more listing data from a much wider geography. NorCal MLS Alliance’s collaborative data sharing initiative will provide brokers and agents with a single set of listing data that will cover most of Northern California, from the Bay Area to the Central Valley to the crest of the Sierra Mountains. To REALTOR® members of the Silicon Valley Association of REALTORS® and other MLSListings subscribers, this means MLSListings will be adding San Francisco, North Bay, and Central Valley counties to the data shared with the East Bay, enabling agents to enter listings and search data covering 22 Northern California counties and reaching over 60,000 real estate professionals.

Plans are to implement Phase 1 with shared system data to include the six Bay Area MLSs (SFAR, BAREIS, bridgeMLS, CCAR, BayEast and MLSListings) by the third quarter of 2020, with continued access to Metrolist data through the current reciprocal system that is already in place. Phase 2 of the project, which will further integrate and interconnect data from the nine-county service area of MetroList with the Bay Area systems, is set for 2021.

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