Residential Real Estate Added to Federal Advisory List of COVID-19 Essential Services

On Saturday, March 28th, 2020 - the Director Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security released an updated advisory memorandum on the identification of essential critical infrastructure workers during COVID-19 response.

Read the full memorandum here.

The document specifically highlights that the memorandum is designed to be "advisory in nature. It is not, nor should it be considered, a federal directive or standard." Bold print in the document further clarifies that individual jurisdictions should add or subtract essential workforce categories based on their own requirements and discretion.

That said, California and many other states are currently using the list released on March 20th to determine essential service providers exempt from statewide stay-at-home and shelter-in-place orders. It's anticipated that many will soon adopt the revised list. 

Residential Real Estate Details
The document is breaks essential services down into categories; one of which is "OTHER COMMUNITY OR GOVERNMENT-BASED OPERATIONS AND ESSENTIAL FUNCTIONS". Under that section, two vital facets of real estate are listed as essential: 

•   Staff at government offices who perform title search, notary, and recording services in support of mortgage and real estate services and transactions. 

•   Residential and commercial real estate services, including settlement services. 

While the revised guidance does not specifically list out each and every provider under "residential and commercial real estate services", the category is broad enough to cover many, if not all, real estate vendors.

How This Affects Your Business Today

It's important to note that this updated list does not mean we all go back to business as usual. Associations, including the California Association of REALTORS®, are still advocating for no open houses and virtual showings whenever possible. C.A.R.'s chief economist, Leslie Appleton-Young clarified on Facebook, “Of paramount importance is that any activities be undertaken with the strictest adherence to health and safety guidelines.”  C.A.R. also just released best real estate practices for agents.

Cynthia Cummins, Founder of Kindred SF Homes, adds, "There's essential and there's ESSENTIAL. I don't have any clients for whom selling or buying rises to the level of life-or-death urgency so -- like many of my colleagues -- we're erring on the safe side and that means adhering to the shelter-in-place order. No open houses and no in-person showings. It's just good for business to wait until we again have an enthusiastic audience for seeing property!" 

With that in mind, being listed as an essential service should make it easier for agents to schedule and complete essential steps in the home purchase and sale process, such as appraisals. 

Anna Bellomo, Founder of District Homes, agrees. She says, "Because the East Bay has more restrictive rules on what's considered essential, I feel like we are pretty much where we were before the Federal memorandum came out. At least for now."

Please continue to use your best judgment and follow all CDC/local health agency recommended precautions. Also, make sure to stay up-to-date on your county, city, and community-specific guidelines, which overall this broader advisory text. We'll continue to bring you updated information as it becomes available.

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