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Real estate listed as an "essential service" but local rules must take precedence

By Mike Wheatley | April 3, 2020

Real estate has been included on the Department of Homeland Security’s list of essential services deemed critical to public health and safety.

However, some state and local officials have been issuing guidelines that could make it difficult for many professionals to conduct normal business operations, and those mandates should take precedence over federal guidelines, experts say.

In areas where real estate services are continuing, many brokerages have cautioned agents to act responsibly and practice social distancing as much as possible.

The Homeland Security’s guidance states that “residential and commercial real services” are listed on a 15-page document outlining essential services during the coronavirus outbreak. The services include settlement services, plus government offices that carry out

tasks such as title searches, notaries, mortgages and recording services, and construction.

“This list is advisory in nature,” the guidance noted. “It is not, nor should it be considered, a federal directive or standard.”

As such, Katie Johnson, general counsel and chief member experience officer for the National Association of Realtors, says agents should follow guidance set by their county, city and state governments ahead of any federal advice.

“It is imperative you adhere to the orders of your local jurisdiction,” Johnson said. “Being deemed an essential service means that you have a special responsibility and opportunity to continue operations if you choose to but not if you don’t. It means you have the special responsibility and mandate to adhere to your state’s executive order regarding ‘essential services.’”

Realtors also have a responsibility to adhere to all health and safety precautions mandated by local government that may apply to their business activities, which includes in-person property showings and other in-person meetings.

“We all have a special responsibility to lead by example, to do what we think is best for our communities and ourselves, and to do what we think best for the reputation of the industry,” Johnson said.

Mike Wheatley is the senior editor at Realty Biz News. Got a real estate related news article you wish to share, contact Mike at [email protected].
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