Assuming your county recorders remain in some form of working order, it's crucial you start vetting the capabilities of your other transaction partners.
County recorders and other necessary officials offices
This one is out of our hands, and I suspect smaller counties will face more significant issues than larger counties that have already instituted much digital technology. Call your county (or counties if your selling area spans multiple counties) and find out what level of operation will remain in effect.
I think most of us made this move for having our contracts, amendments, and agreements signed digitally long ago, but if you haven't yet, now is the time.
Title companies & earnest money
Are they planning on working remotely through any shutdowns? Do they have a way to deposit earnest money digitally? My title company allows digital depositing of earnest money via the ZOCCAM app. So, no need for their offices to be physically open – only that they have employees working from home. Do they have the ability to utilize E-signing and RON (remote online notary) with lenders? I know we all have our preferred title partners, but their ability to be digital has now become more of a survival requirement than a convenience one.
We typically drop this off as a check or money order during inspection here. But if we can't meet with the inspector in the current climate, this can create an issue. Consider having your buyer drop off the option check in an envelope under a doormat. Or, better yet, use an online money transfer service like Zelle. Most banks offer it for free. Have your buyer screenshot the deposit receipt and/or have the seller send a bank statement PDF showing the deposit to submit to the mortgage company and agent as proof of option receipt.
Are your buyers working with lenders that accept E-signing and RON (remote online notary)? Some don't, though I think in the face of no deals, or virtual transactions, many will be forced into the future. But it sure would be easier to use one who currently does from the onset moving forward.
FHA and VA loans require government sign off; conventional loans do not. If you're dealing with a VA or FHA buyer, now is the time to inquire with lenders as to whether or not they see issues arising. And sad to say it, but for us listing agents, this may mean conventional loans might have less potential for shutdown issues – something to consider when a seller is comparing multiple offers with different financing types.
Down payment assistance plans require signoff from additional agencies. If you have current clients in those boats, do your best to find out the risk whether the offices who have to sign off of these special programs will have to close.
Whether or not they will be on a list of businesses shut down remains to be seen, but they can enter the house and do the inspection alone without human contact. Of course, we typically meet with them at the end of the inspection to discuss their findings. Do you have an inspector who has virtual skills? Can they use Zoom (or another video conferencing app of choice) to walk through inspection findings with clients virtually and answer questions?
Are your lenders using appraisers who work remotely vs. ones in a place of business that could be closed? Appraisal, like inspection, requires no human contact. The packet on the counter justifying the sales price we sometimes leave will need to become digital documents if they haven't already. When the appraiser calls to schedule the appraisal appointment, getting their email just became a must.
As with the inspectors, you also need to be able to get more digital if you haven't already. You can use an app like Zoom to do the final walk-through for your buyer (especially important if they are in a compromised health segment at risk for COVID-19 issues).
The banks won't close during a shutdown, but whether or not their offices will remains to be seen. Typically, most clients get a cashiers check or send a wire for their funds to close. Even if a bank allows online wires, unless the buyers send regular wires, they probably have low, default limits for performing them online (usually not enough to cover cash to close). Have them go into the banks now if their offices are still open and see what can be done to give them the ability to send a larger wire with a limit to cover their expected cash to close.
For instance, Wells Fargo provides FOBs people can use at home when making larger wires. In non-armageddon times, you can often get a raise on the single wire limit to $25,000 or more. Have the client explain the situation, and the near-future need to send funds to try and get this ability before they need it while things are still open. Even if the raised amount doesn't cover their total cash to close, they could make one wire every 24 hours until they hit the funds needed.
This is more a convenience to us thing, but make sure your transaction coordinators plan to be working during this time, and that any internal teams they have will be doing the same. Most I come across are virtual anyway, but it never hurts to check.
Photographers & sign installers
These folks also can work fairly autonomously without human contact. Make sure your partners in these categories plan to do so, and ask if they've heard anything as to whether they'll have any issues being allowed to continue to operate. Same goes for sign installers.
From a seller perspective, I've heard that some sellers are scared to have people in their homes. COVID is primarily spread through person to person contact, but it can live on surfaces for a while. While the likelihood of catching it from that is low, I can understand why some sellers might be worried. If you have nervous sellers, institute a policy where potential buyers are both required to wear gloves and instructed not to touch anything in the home. Leave hand sanitizer by the door to use when walking in – before putting on gloves. Have the sellers leave all doors inside open. You might also offer to accompany all showings to ensure this policy is adhered to.
In reverse, if buyers are nervous to walk through a home, and you're not, follow the above guidelines and do video conference showings. I've put several houses under contract for transplants from other areas using this method pre-Armageddon.
That said, no matter how digital we can be, if your seller or buyer is in a high-vulnerability category, it may be best to suspend their home sale or search, if possible, until things die down. In this scenario, it may be wise to get an extension on your listing agreement or BRA that extends it at least three months past the current date.
Just sharing a little of what I've been doing and addressing to try and (hopefully) do business with as little interruption as possible.