In-person home showings will continue to be banned in Philadelphia and its collar counties, as Gov. Tom Wolf plans to veto legislation Pennsylvania lawmakers passed Thursday to reopen the real estate industry statewide, according to a Wolf spokesperson.
The governor had denied business shutdown waiver requests from the real estate industry, which argues that providing shelter is essential and the inability to conduct business in person is an unnecessary roadblock.
Pennsylvania is the only state to continue to call real estate activity “nonessential” during the coronavirus pandemic and restrict in-person transactions for a majority of residents. Only real estate agents in counties in the yellow phase of reopening can resume certain in-person activity for new transactions. More than half of Pennsylvania’s counties are now in the yellow phase, with more to follow. But the Philadelphia region is not close to moving out of the red phase.
Real estate professionals have been relying on virtual tours of properties and workarounds to close sales, which have dropped during the pandemic.
The bill requires the state to issue a waiver to its business closure order for real estate activity that can adhere to guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. State Rep. Todd Polinchock (R., Bucks) introduced the legislation, which headed to the governor’s desk after the House passed it Thursday.
“I cannot thank the members of the House and Senate enough for responding to this issue with urgency and recognizing it as the true crisis it is,” Polinchock said in a statement following the bill’s passage. “It is well past time we give the people of our commonwealth back the access to housing, which never should have been taken away in the first place.”
The Pennsylvania Association of Realtors has been lobbying on behalf of its 35,000 members to change the industry’s status, saying shelter is always essential.
“We’re seeing many Pennsylvanians who are facing tremendous difficulties and financial hardships due to this shutdown,” Bill Festa, the association’s president, said. “It’s outrageous that a majority of Pennsylvanians continue to be unnecessarily restricted from purchasing or selling a home.”