Somewhere in the South Pacific sits a tropical island with beaches, jungles and a lagoon (not the amusement park in Farmington). Some years ago, a tiny ship was tossed about in a storm and landed on this island. Fortunately, no lives were lost. However, all seven individuals aboard had to learn to fend for themselves for the next 15 years until they were rescued by the United States Coast Guard in the made-for-TV movie “Rescue from Gilligan’s Island.”
Should you want to visit this paradisiacal island, alas, you cannot. It is uncharted territory, much like the territory we are conducting business in during this time. Although we have not been lost at sea by a typhoon, we have been tossed about by COVID-19 and earthquakes. We have found ourselves on uncharted land. As a result, we are having to create new tools for navigation.
Last week, the Utah Association of Realtors created a COVID-19 addendum. The addendum was announced on the MLS one week ago. Just days before that, I had a seller ask me to address this very thing in an addendum. He wanted to be sure that if he or his wife contracted the virus or were quarantined due to exposure they would be able to delay closing. This is not something we have ever had to address. It is unprecedented. Yet, here we are. So, for the first time in my career, I sent over an addendum that addresses a virus.
When I received notice of the formal state written addendum, the COVID-19 Addendum to the Real Estate Purchase Contract, I was pretty excited. Although not mandatory, I thought this would be something we would all be using frequently in the coming weeks to protect our clients.
The addendum consists of four bullet points. The first is labeled COVID-19 Delays. This addresses the delays that may occur in performing contractual obligations due to COVID-19, which include but are not limited to; 1) confirmed diagnosis; 2) mandatory or self-imposed quarantine; 3) hospitalization; 4) travel restrictions; 5) loan processing or underwriting delays; 6) escrow delays; 7) anything else.
The additional three sections address automatic extension of deadlines, including up to 30 days upon written notice before a settlement deadline.
While this sounds all inclusive (it is), and it was certainly timely (perhaps hasty), there also appears to be gaps that could incur even bigger problems if left unaddressed. This can be illustrated by relating what happened next, from the aforementioned transaction.
The seller referred to previously is not my client. I am representing the buyers of his property. He is selling this property himself and felt he didn’t need the guidance of an experienced Realtor.
He called me yesterday to inform me that he was made aware that there is a new addendum out now that addresses COVID-19. I acknowledged that was true. He then told me that they wanted to “invoke” that addendum and extend the contract 30 days. This concerned me. I immediately asked him if he was experiencing symptoms or thought he had been exposed. He assured me that he had, most likely, not been exposed, as he hadn’t gone anywhere in the last several days, and he was not experiencing symptoms. He simply didn’t want to move twice. His new home wouldn’t be ready for 30 more days and he wanted to stay in his current home until then.
After informing him that he cannot “invoke” an addendum that hasn’t been signed by either party, I let him know that a 30 day extension would be a problem. The buyers have an interest rate lock that would expire. To extend that lock would be costly. Not to mention, the buyers of my buyer’s home are coming from out of state and have already packed and booked their move with a moving company. They need to be out of their rental on closing day. They also have a rate lock that would be costly to extend; plus, they have nowhere to go when they get here.
That being said, every problem has a solution. We will find a way to make this work for everyone, but it is possible that these sellers will need to move twice. Either way, I, for one, was relieved that we had not “invoked” the COVID-19 addendum, which does not address the unintended consequences of the delay. I would hope that as humans, buyers and sellers can see the legitimate issues and needs surrounding specific COVID-19 delays and address them with compassion and humanity.
When it’s all said and done, I’m going on a hunt for an uncharted desert isle.