Covid-19, housing an essential right

APEMIP (Association of Real Estate Professionals and Companies of Portugal), together with several real estate mediation companies, called on the Government to reconsider "the position regarding the authorization of face-to-face visits by real estate professionals"

Luís Lima, the president of APEMIP , came to resume agreement with the confinement measures decided by the Government, in the context of the State of Emergency and the current pandemic, with a view to stop the contagion of the virus and protect the health and life of the Portuguese.

Luís Lima, President of APEMIP (Association of Professionals and Real Estate Companies in Portugal) However, he recalled that access to housing is an essential right of citizens, constitutionally defended and warned of the impending tragedy that some professionals in the real estate sector may experience if other measures are not taken.

Thus, APEMIP issued a statement requesting the Executive of António Costa to review the possibility of making visits to properties with prior appointment:

There is no reason not to allow real estate companies to continue to do their job. We can have the door closed and work with an appointment, ensuring as we have done so far, compliance with all hygiene and safety rules. Teleworking does not solve our problem and we do not have alternatives like 'takeaway' at our disposal. In real estate, the business is conducted with people and involves visits to real estate. Digital media are not enough to overcome this obstacle, as nobody buys a house without visiting it in person.

How can buying a car be considered more essential than buying or renting a house? It is not a question of some being more or less important than others, but of justice. Real estate cannot continue to be the poor relative of the economy. We have to remember that it was this sector that leveraged the economic recovery ?!

Furthermore, Luís Lima stated some incongruities of the measures imposed by confinement to this sector, and took the opportunity to recall that the restrictions may constitute "a true invitation to conclude business in parallel and to illegal mediation":

It does not make sense for expert appraisers to continue to make assessments, for banks to continue to make loans, for notaries to continue to write deeds, for homeowners to be able to sell houses in a private capacity , for builders to continue working and even to sell property, when the big sales force is at a standstill.

Luís Lima is also concerned about the survival of companies in the sector, arguing that this new confinement has an even worse impact than the first:

If in the first confinement the companies managed to reveal some resilience and overcome that moment, this time it will be very difficult for the real estate companies to survive , since the existing working capital has been running out over the past year. On the other hand, uncertainties and job instability also start to affect families, who prefer to postpone decisions as important as the purchase of a house , which has resulted in a decrease in demand that has started to be noticed since September , and which should be accentuated with this new confinement.

Open Letter to the President of the Portuguese Republic, Prime Minister and Deputy Minister and Economy

Following the statement from the Association of Real Estate Professionals and Companies of Portugal, several representatives of the sector came together, under the purview of APEMIP, to write an open letter regarding the new confinement. Read the letter here:

His Excellency the President of the Portuguese Republic,
His Excellency the Prime Minister,
His Excellency the Deputy Minister for the Economy,

The situation that our country is going through is terrible and unprecedented. The real estate sector is absolutely sympathetic to the Government's actions to fight the pandemic and defend citizens. We know and realize how difficult it is to find the balance between effective sanitary measures and the maintenance of economic activity.

In our daily activity, we strive to ensure compliance with all health protocols, ensuring the safety and protection of all our employees and customers.

With the announcement of a new confinement, which started on January 15th, we could not help but be surprised by the impediment to the maintenance of real estate brokerage activity, especially if we consider that all other steps in the chain are allowed: appraised experts continue to make assessments, the financial sector continues to make housing loans, notaries continue to write deeds, homeowners can privately sell houses, builders can continue to work and even sell.

This situation is also a real invitation to conclude business in parallel and illegal mediation.

The break of this link between clients and real estate mediation blocks sales and leases and may plunge some of our citizens into situations of anguish and fragility, as we cannot forget that the house is closely linked to the course of people's lives.

It is essential to understand that the demand for housing results from family changes - marriages, divorces, youth emancipation, births, deaths, inheritances and professional mobility - that continue to occur, even in times of pandemic.

In addition, the realization of a real estate transaction is a complex, time-consuming process, which involves the involvement of several areas - legal, procedural, financial, mortgage, commercial, among others - and which requires specialized monitoring and advice to consumers. In addition, even though the fact of selling, buying or renting the house is part of a strong emotional component, either for the reasons already described, or because, for the overwhelming majority of families, the house is the most important acquisition of their lives.

Therefore, real estate consultants assume a fundamental role in this process, and at a time when the levels of insecurity and uncertainty have never been so great, we cannot fail to support Portuguese families by providing them with the specialized assistance they need so much.

In real estate, businesses are conducted with people and involve visits to properties. Digital media help a lot, but they are not enough to overcome this obstacle, because nobody buys a house without visiting it in person.

We, agents in the sector, are truly concerned with our agencies and their employees, but also with the citizens who seek and need housing solutions and specialized advice from real estate consultants.

We therefore call for a reconsideration of the position regarding the authorization of face-to-face visits by real estate professionals , in view of what is the general interest and the guarantee of compliance with the constitutional right to housing, but also in view of the imperative to support Portuguese families to access the housing solutions they need.

Aware that we are on health issues, we are available to further strengthen the protocols implemented by DGS to avoid any contagion, by limiting the number of visits and visitors through the mandatory prior booking, the total cleaning of the facilities at each visit, and imposing that all our employees download and use the “STAYAWAYCOVID” application.

Our desire is to be able to exercise a profession that is essential for all citizens, in the best possible conditions, ensuring that real estate will, as always, be one of the main driving forces of the country's economic dynamism.

Lisbon, January 19, 2021
President of APEMIP, Luís Carvalho Lima

Mediating the purchase and sale of houses in times of covid-19

Real estate mediation in times of pandemic Covid-19

Since the Covid-19 pandemic arrived in Portugal in March 2019, the real estate mediation sector has consciously adhered to the guidelines recommended by the DGS and has taken rigorous measures to stop its spread. Many of us have always tried to go the extra mile in terms of security, whether personal or our customers:

  • Developing mediation and fundraising activities through digital media ;
  • Betting on new technologies in order to facilitate visits to the property (Virtual Tour and 3D, offline and live videos ) ;
  • Enabling the signing of fundraising contracts and promises to buy and sell, virtually;
  • All correspondence, contracts, documentation or proposals are exchanged by email;

In times of pandemic, the recommendation is to stay at home, telecommuting , respecting confinement and developing the activity through digital media. However, there are exceptions, whenever the visit of the buyer to the property becomes indispensable, the forms of virtual approach are exhausted and when this is the only determining factor for the urgent purchase. Visits were always carried out taking into account the security protocolrecommended.

Thus, in relation to customers and visits to properties:

  • Purchasing customers are well qualified , in terms of their motivation and financial capacity, in order to avoid unnecessary visits;
  • The visit is made with a maximum number of 2 people, plus the real estate consultant ;
  • Visits to buyers who are part of the risk group defined by DGS (over 70 years and / or with risk diseases) are not allowed;
  • In case the property is inhabited, ensure that all interior doors, shutters, blinds, wardrobe doors, kitchen furniture have been opened and the lights on by the owner, resident or consultant , prior to the visit ;
  • Use of disinfectant gel for hands, use of clinical mask / N95 , use of gloves and disposable protections on shoes ;
  • Distancingsocial, avoiding touching objects inside or outside the house and airing the property before and after the visit;

Regarding property owners:

  • Visits to properties whose owners are part of the risk group defined by DGS are not permitted ;
  • Before leaving, the owners must open all interior doors, shutters, blinds, wardrobe and kitchen furniture doors and turn on the lights.
  • In case the consultant is accompanied by the owner (s), he must remain outside the property during the visit;
  • The owners will take note of the visit report via email.

Housing as a constitutional right and access to an essential good

In the open letter now addressed to the President of the Republic, Prime Minister and Minister of the Economy, the subscribers defend that the sector can work in person, guaranteeing the fulfillment of the constitutional right to housing, but also due to the imperative to support Portuguese families. access the housing solutions they need.

I recall that Article 65 of the 1976 Constitution describes the right to housing as fundamental in the following ways:

  1. Everyone has the right, for themselves and their family, to a housing of adequate size, in conditions of hygiene and comfort and that preserves personal intimacy and family privacy.
  2. In order to ensure the right to housing, the State is responsible for:
    1. Program and execute a housing policy inserted in plans for general reorganization of the territory and supported by urbanization plans that guarantee the existence of an adequate transport network and social equipment;
    2. Encourage and support initiatives by local communities and populations aimed at solving their housing problems and promoting self-construction and the creation of housing cooperatives;
    3. Stimulate private construction, subject to general interests.
  3. The State will adopt a policy aimed at establishing an income system compatible with family income and access to own housing.
  4. The State and local authorities will exercise effective control over the real estate stock, carry out the necessary nationalization or municipalization of urban soils and define the respective right of use.

The constitutional text places housing in the group of essential goods for a decent life. It was based on this concept that other goods and services were considered a priority and subject to special protection under the exception measures in force in this State of Emergency, such as food, medicines, water, electricity, gas, etc.

Thus, some common sense is required, remembering that this sector has been one of the ones that has most diligently complied with safety standards, for the protection of all. Good health and protect yourself!

Updated on: 
20. January 2021
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