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Vermont Real Estate Industry Adapts to COVID-19 Restrictions

Despite urging from brokers and industry groups, at the start of the outbreak Governor Scott did not give Vermont’s real estate agencies an exemption from the state’s Stay Home, Stay Safe order.

However, on April 17, as part of Governor Phil Scott’s Phase I of Restart Vermont, real estate agents and real estate attorneys have been permitted to begin business again. Only two persons may be present: the agent or attorney and the client. Individuals must follow all health and safety guidelines, including wearing masks and social distancing.

With the easing of restrictions, agents may be able to bring prospective buyers to properties on the market, depending on the seller’s comfort level. This benefits local buyers, as Vermont still maintains a 14-day quarantine requirement for people traveling from certain states. Buyers can still preview properties on-line through photographs and virtual tours. Town offices are now allowed to open again, and real estate attorneys may do title work in the town offices, so long as only the clerk and the attorney are in the office adhering to the two person rule.

Restrictions are expected to remain in effect until at least May 15, and real estate agents are finding ways to adjust to the rules prompted by the COVID-19 pandemic. If you are looking for a new residence or you have a property up for sale, here’s what you should know about current real estate practices in Vermont:

  • Technology can fill some gaps — Tasks linked to property transactions are allowed if they can be conducted by phone, email or online conferencing. Rather than gathering parties together for a closing at a law firm or title office, parties can sign documents on video and then exchange the papers.
  • A power of attorney can be designated for closing — You can designate your lawyer or other qualified person to serve as your agent in a closing by power of attorney. Any documents that need to be signed can be done in the privacy of your home so you and others can remain safe by limiting travel and in-person interaction.
  • “For sale by owner” transactions fall under the order — In an April 10 announcement lengthening the quarantine period, the governor clarified that the restrictions include property sales where the owner chooses not to use a real estate agent. So a seller cannot evade quarantine restrictions by creating a “for sale by owner” listing. It is unclear at this time how Governor Scott’s April 17 amendment will apply to for sale by owner showings.

Despite the upheaval caused by the coronavirus and its ripple effect on the economy, Vermont realtors report that demand is still high for properties in the state. COVID-19 regulations that put restrictions on lodging establishments are being eased in the next couple of months, and lodgings are permitted to take reservations again starting on June 15. Whether you’re looking to buy or sell property, it might be worthwhile to see what type of information can be exchanged through online communications and video. An attorney familiar with the local real estate landscape and with the latest legal developments can make sure you’re ready when the time comes.

Since 1983, Wagner Law has provided effective counsel for a wide range of Vermont real estate concerns, including transactions, title issues and property disputes. To schedule a consultation with an experienced attorney, please call 802-349-1675 or contact us online. Our office is in Middlebury.

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  • Middlebury Vermont Office
    62 Court Street
    Middlebury, Vermont 05753
    Phone: 802-388-4026
    Fax: 802-388-2021