The nature of any property investor’s job — or that of an agent, broker or other real estate professional — is to be on the move: looking at listings, learning about different markets and keeping up-to-date on industry events.
However, with the uncertainty surrounding the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), some may be more hesitant to travel now than usual. If you’re considering cancelling plans due to coronavirus, some parts of your travel may be more easily refundable than others, depending on when you booked, where you’re traveling and what services or carriers you’re using.
Most easily refundable: rental car and hotel reservations
Most rental car reservations can be cancelled for a full refund if you do so at least 24 hours before your reservation. So, this should be the least of your worries.
Similarly, if you booked a room with a standard hotel, you should be able to change your reservation up to 48 hours before your check-in time, and with some more lenient companies, you may even be able to cancel 24 hours in advance. The exception is if you paid up front for a discounted rate, in which case, you may not be eligible for a refund.
If you booked a room through Airbnb, Vrbo or other short-term rental companies, your timeline for cancelling will vary depending on the host — some have more flexible cancellation policies than others. However, if you booked through Airbnb, specifically, you may be in luck, since coronavirus falls under their extenuating circumstances policy, which states that you can receive a refund during an epidemic disease or illness that suddenly affects a region or group of people, after your case has undergone review.
Less easily refundable: airfare
Typically, airlines are pretty strict about flight cancellations or changes. Among U.S.-based carriers, you’re usually only allowed to change a flight within 24 hours of purchasing. However, because of coronavirus’ expansive spread, many airlines have suspended service to and from certain areas and are allowing customers more flexibility to change flights. Because United Airlines suspended service to China through April 30, 2020, for instance, the airline is waiving change fees and allowing refunds for travel to or from select cities. Similarly, in regions most affected by coronavirus, like China and Italy, airlines are waiving change fees and fare price difference when you change a flight but remain in the same cabin class.
Some domestic carriers like JetBlue are also waiving change and cancel fees on bookings made between February 27 through March 11 for travel through June 1. The best course of action when considering changing any flight plans is to first contact the airline, tour provider or travel agent you booked with for the most recent information and airline travel alerts.
More cautious travelers who are currently in the process of making travel plans, might consider paying more up front for fully refundable travel bookings because of the quick-changing nature of coronavirus, which will allow for more options if you want to change plans later.
Other refund options: credit card and travel insurance policies
Select credit cards — particularly those that are travel rewards cards — may reimburse otherwise non-refundable travel purchases.
If the airline carrier cancels travel, most credit card companies will not cover claims. However, if you, your travel companion or an immediate family member falls ill due to coronavirus or you receive a physician-imposed quarantine, most credit cards will cover refunds requested because of these circumstances. Again, the best thing to do is contact your credit card company directly to find out what they will cover.
As Alliance Travel Insurance clarifies, most travel insurance plans will not cover losses caused directly or indirectly by an epidemic. However, some travel insurance companies are temporarily offering refunds for travel insurance purchases if the carrier cancelled a flight due to coronavirus.
And, depending on the policy, you may be covered for limited travel and medical expenses in coronavirus-affected areas if you bought coverage before the “known date” of coronavirus, January 22, 2020. In this case, losses from flight delays caused by the carrier or medical quarantine, emergency medical treatment, emergency medical evacuation, losses or forced evacuations caused by a government-imposed quarantine or a missed scheduled port of call for cruise lines could qualify for reimbursement.
Another travel insurance option is “cancel for any reason” coverage, which allows for a refund even if the carrier you purchased tickets with hasn’t yet cancelled their travel schedule. But this option is quite pricey — it can cost up to 75 percent of the standard policy price — and travelers considering purchasing it should be sure to check with the insurance company about specific coverage terms to be sure it covers epidemics and if there are specific rules about cancelling a trip a certain number of days in advance.
There are many exciting real estate events coming up in the next few months across the country, and as of now, none on Inman’s calendar for March and April have been cancelled or rescheduled as a result of coronavirus.