The $2 trillion stimulus package signed by President Donald Trump on March 27 offers a stimulus check to qualified workers and expands unemployment benefits to some contractors.
In the real estate world, many agents are contract workers, and with brokers pausing open houses or going virtual, many are out of work. There are a variety of programs that agents may be able to access under the CARES Act, depending on their status, including unemployment benefits based on their typical salary as well as an additional $600 weekly as part of Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation.
Last week alone, Redfin furloughed 41% of its agents, and eXp laid off 15% of its entire staff.
In the midst of record-high unemployment claims and economic uncertainty, housing supply is declining now more than ever, according to a report from Redfin, as homeowners are staying put and retracting listings.
There was a 148% year-over-year increase in homes being delisted during the week ending March 29, totaling 28,140 homes pulled off the market, the report from Redfin said.
On the National Association of Realtor’s website, there is a how-to guide on how to manage working during coronavirus, including putting the home sellers and buyers first and prioritizing health and social distancing guidelines.
NAR’s Federal Advocacy team has been working closely with Congress and the Administration to ensure the interests of Realtors and their clients are protected in any federal action in response to COVID-19, in addition to minimizing transaction disruptions during these very difficult circumstances, the website said.
In a call with HousingWire, NAR President Vince Malta said that some agents are being denied unemployment simply because the respective states are not prepared to handle the traffic quite yet.
“Some states are still not set up for handling these claims for independent contractors and the self-employed, and there’s some confusion; right off the bat, they feel that they’re not covered,” Malta said. “But, under the CARES Act, they are covered. The other question is whether they should file for unemployment at all, because under the Small Business Administration, they’re allowed other assets. I think the way this program is set up as a whole, is to try to keep people employed so they don’t have to avail themselves of unemployment.”
But, what if an agent’s employer applies for the paycheck protection program, can that employee still apply for unemployment?
“Yes, they could, but it’ll probably affect the amount that the employers are going to receive if the person’s claiming unemployment,” Malta said.
In addition to any relief Realtors might get under the CARES Act, NAR also has reserves set aside to help members in this time of need, Malta said, and has plans to dip into those reserves to make sure that NAR provides products and services for its members to get through this.
“We know right now that our members, if they’ve ever needed their trade association, this is the time, and we’re trying to do everything possible to provide them with products and services to get them through this,” Malta said. “We’re really trying to maintain the organization so that it can operate for them so they don’t have to worry about that.”
One positive thing to come out of this time is the fact that so many people have had to work remotely, Malta said.
“The silver lining with all of this is that we’re all becoming more compliant with virtual tools,” Malta said. “Our consumers and our clients have been really wanting this for a long period of time, and they’ve been getting it by and large, but now is an opportunity for us to retool and make sure that we’re providing that to clients. We’re advising people not to do in-person showings, because we want to get past this — we don’t want to contribute to the problem.”
“They’re utilizing virtual tools like never before,” Malta continued. “I’m very proud to say Realtors are adaptable and they’re adapting here. The ones that are thriving through this are really utilizing those virtual tools and providing things for clients so they could be in the comfort and safety of their homes while viewing properties. It’s a huge thing. A lot has moved in the last three weeks at an incredible pace.”
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