REBNY considers lending cash to brokers affected by coronavirus

Talks underway about using Member in Need fund to help agents

Mar.March 19, 2020 01:00 PM
From left: BHS' Bess Freedman, Halstead's Diane Ramirez, Cororan's Pam Liemban and REBNY's James Whelan (Credit: Getty Images

From left: BHS’ Bess Freedman, Halstead’s Diane Ramirez, Cororan’s Pam Liemban and REBNY’s James Whelan (Credit: Getty Images)

The Real Estate Board of New York might tap its Member in Need fund to support agents affected by the coronavirus pandemic.

During a virtual panel discussion moderated by The Real Deal Wednesday night, Corcoran Group CEO Pam Liebman said the board was considering whether the fund — designed to support agents who are in financial need because of unexpected illness or hardship — could be deployed in the pandemic.

Elaborating further, Halstead Real Estate CEO Diane Ramirez said the arrangement would basically be a “loan against business.”

“So, if you have a deal that’s delayed and closing … hopefully [the agent] will be able to go to REBNY In Need to be able to do something to to hold them over,” she said.

A spokesperson for the board said in a statement that the Member in Need Fund “will continue to provide grants to members facing financial hardship”.

“We are working closely with board members to come up with additional ways to provide maximum assistance to members during this crisis,” they added.

Like many other businesses, real estate brokerages across New York City are struggling to deal with the economic fallout of the virus, which has led several firms to shut their offices, and created a split over whether in-person showings should proceed.

In a letter Thursday to Reps. Nancy Pelosi and Kevin McCarthy, Compass CEO Robert Reffkin asked Congress to include independent contractors in a major economic stimulus package.

On Wednesday, the National Association of Realtors said it was also advocating for relief. “Last week, we urged congressional leaders to include robust protections for small business owners and the self-employed in this bill,” Shannon McGahn, NAR’s senior vice president of government affairs, said in a statement. “This bill does both, and with the structure of the tax credits, financial relief will come quickly.”

Brokerage firms are also looking at internal options to support their agents, Liebman said.

“We have Corcoran Care, which raises over a million dollars a year,” she said. “We’re looking at whether some of that money can be redeployed.”

“It’s a work in progress, changing day to day, but I’m sure every one of us is looking at it.”

Howard Lorber, executive chairman of Douglas Elliman, said his firm was looking at waiving and deferring agent fees during the pandemic.

On the topic of the REBNY fund, he added that Elliman already has a similar system in place.

“If someone needs money and they have a signed contract, we lend them money,” he said.

Write to Sylvia Varnham O’Regan at [email protected]

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