As the world grapples with the impact of COVID-19, Black Knight, Inc. has assessed many of the potential effects of the pandemic on the real estate and mortgage industries. Leveraging Black Knight’s extensive property, home price and loan-level mortgage data, proprietary analytics, as well as third-party information, the company has released an extensive white paper that provides an in-depth evaluation of the impact the extended disruption of the COVID-19 pandemic may have on the housing and mortgage industries.

“These are unprecedented times, for the world as a whole and for the real estate and mortgage industries specifically,” said Black Knight CEO Anthony Jabbour. “Given Black Knight’s leadership position in the industry – and our extensive data, research and analytics capabilities – we felt compelled to assess this situation for our clients and the markets we serve. The true effect of the nation’s response to the pandemic, including social distancing and shelter-in-place orders in some areas, remains to be seen. One thing is certain, though: the regulatory and operational issues this situation presents are significant. Our clients are already working to assist consumers under the new regulatory requirements of the CARES Act, and will be required to make additional changes to effectively deal with other rapidly growing business challenges.

Many aspects of the real estate and mortgage process, including property showings, listings and sales – as well as critical services, such as inspections and appraisals – are already being affected due to social distancing. Disruption to many necessary aspects of real estate closings, including the fact that many county recorder offices are now closed, is exacerbating the issue. Market and rate volatility are bringing additional uncertainty to the housing market, home affordability, refinance incentive and portfolio retention risk. More than 10 million Americans have filed for unemployment in the weeks since COVID-19 was labeled a pandemic. These rising unemployment rates have already resulted in a surge of COVID-19-driven forbearance requests and associated operational challenges, and increased mortgage defaults are likely. Further, as potentially millions of Americans seek forbearances from their mortgage lenders, servicers will ultimately wrestle with many billions of dollars in principal and interest payment advances that need to be made to investors every month.

The thorough, informative white paper also details the existing technology solutions that can help address many of the negative effects of the pandemic on the real estate and mortgage markets. Black Knight’s years of investment and innovation in digital mortgage technology – as well as automated and remote valuation technology and eClose solutions – allow a majority of the mortgage application, underwriting and closing processes to happen online and remotely. Likewise, technology solutions such as Black Knight’s Loss Mitigation module of its industry-leading MSP servicing system will be essential in systematically identifying and engaging borrowers who are eligible for forbearance programs, as well as a variety of loan modification options and post-forbearance workout plans. Black Knight has issued an additional white paper for its MSP clients that details the way the system can help servicers manage specific challenges resulting from this crisis.

“Black Knight moves forward in these uncertain days with an even greater sense of urgency to support our clients,” Jabbour continued. “Our commitment to them remains our top priority. The right technology partner is critical in times such as this. As our clients’ business partner, it’s essential for us to provide them both a truly holistic view of the mortgage and housing lifecycle and near real-time data and actionable intelligence for effective decision-making. Black Knight remains dedicated to being that partner for all of our clients, across the entire real estate-mortgage continuum.”

Much more detail on the impact of COVID-19 on the mortgage and real estate industries, as well as challenges and solutions relevant to individual market segments, can be found in Black Knight’s special briefing. The company’s white paper is available to download for free at this link.

As this crisis remains a very fluid situation, with changes occurring on a daily basis, Black Knight will continue to monitor the industry impact and implications and provide supplemental updates via Vision, the Black Knight blog. Those interested in staying up-to-date on industry developments are encouraged to visit the blog for more information in the coming days and weeks.


The Treasury Department released the application for the SBA 7(a) Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans, which can help small businesses maintain employment through loans that are forgivable over time under the mandated circumstances. They also released a summary guide of the program to help borrowers understand the program’s rules.

  • Small businesses and sole proprietors can apply beginning this Friday, April 3

  • Independent contractors and the self-employed can apply beginning next Friday, April 10

Applications should be sent directly to Small Business Administration (SBA) lenders, which can be found using a search tool on SBA’s website.

The Paycheck Protection Program is a new program created by the just-passed CARES Act to provide small businesses (500 employees or fewer), sole proprietors, and the self-employed/independent contractors impacted by COVID-19 with loans of 2.5-times their average monthly payroll expenses (up to $10 million) to cover payroll, mortgage interest, rent and utilities for an 8-week period during the crisis.

Employers who maintain payroll levels of at least 75% of their average, and the same number of employees, are eligible for loan forgiveness.

You can learn more about the loan program in NAR’s CARES Act FAQ document and the CARES Act Summary.

“There are still some questions as to whether a small business should include independent contractors in its employee numbers and payroll costs,” says NAR’s Senior Policy Representative, Commercial Issues Erin K. Stackley, Esq. “What we know for certain is that independent contractors can apply for their own 7(a) PPP loans. (NAR is) seeking clarity on that question from the Treasury and the SBA and will have the answer soon.”

NAR will be posting a SBA-Program specific FAQ focusing on the 7(a) PPP loans and the Economic Injury Disaster Loans, which you can apply for here. Businesses can apply for both, but the funds cannot be used for the same purposes — the $10,000 advance grant is not forgiven if you also receive a forgivable PPP loan.

Find NAR’s SBA CARES Act FAQs here.
More information can be found here.

According to Washington REALTORS®, this information is based on clarification requests that were submitted by photography and staging companies to the Governor’s office. Those companies have requested that we forward this clarification to our members. See below for the revised FAQ document provided by Washington REALTORS®.


Can professional photographers take photos and create virtual tours during the Stay Home, Stay Healthy Order? (NEW April 1, 2020)

Yes. Information concerning real estate services indicates that professional photography for listings is now permitted. Like all other in-person activities, photos and virtual tours must be by appointment, a total of no more than two people may be at property at any one time, and those two people must adhere to strict social distancing guidelines established by the CDC. Sellers should vacate the property prior to any photography activities.

Note that creating virtual tours is an effective way to allow buyers to view the property without the need for an in-person showing.

Can stagers stage homes and remove furniture from a listing during the Stay Home, Stay Healthy Order? (Revised April 1, 2020)

Yes. Information concerning real estate services indicates that staging a home and removing staging items is now permitted. Like all other in-person activities, staging activities must be by appointment, a total of no more than two people may be at property at any one time, and those two people must adhere to strict social distancing guidelines established by the CDC. Sellers should vacate the property prior to any staging activities.

REALTORS® urge professional photographers and stagers to strictly comply with the requirements of Governor Inslee’s Real Estate memo to provide services remotely whenever possible, have only two persons on-site for a necessary purpose, and maintain social distancing at all times.