Three days ago, the California Association of Realtors announced that residential and commercial real estate were now officially essential services, much to the delight of realtors across the state. That privilege, however, comes with a hefty list of best practices guidelines.
On March 20, during all of the madness and uncertainty caused by the coronavirus pandemic, the tried and true cornerstones of the realty business — home showings and open houses — were axed. All face-to-face sales were also put on hold. Realtors were forced to find creative ways to work around the ban and took to platforms like Instagram and Facebook Live to show off homes. But on March 28, the Department of Homeland Security issued a statement that included residential and commercial real estate, including settlement services, as part of the country’s “Essential Critical Infrastructure Workforce,” along with other sectors in the economy such as food and agriculture and emergency services. Although the list was simply advisory in nature and not meant to set a federal standard, the statement is being used to determine states’ essential services.
But that doesn’t mean it’s all business as usual. Among the various guidelines given are that all activities should attempt to be completed electronically, and showings still ought to be done virtually, if possible. And open houses are still very much off the table — so those IG Live realty shows won’t be going away anytime soon. But, if a serious potential buyer decides that they absolutely must see a home in person, only one agent and two visitors from the same household may be in the home at one time. Sellers, on the other hand, are not allowed in the house during a showing. Realtors will be required to wear gloves and to disinfect any doorknobs, keys and locks and are expected to touch, and to warn clients to touch, as few surfaces as possible. But city and county regulations will still take precedence over state and federal guidelines at the community level, so showings may still be out of the question in certain areas of California.
The CAR is also quick to caution realtors with holding too cavalier of an attitude: all participants in a showing should err on the side of caution and all CDC regulations must be followed — or else.
“Notwithstanding this new development, all real estate licensees must take into account the health and safety of their clients and fellow licensees, and follow the existing protocols for protecting against the spread of COVID-19,” the CAR said in a statement. “If such health safeguards and protocols are not followed, the rule for the state could easily change to stop or restrict all real estate activity. To that end, in conformity with current health guidelines, real estate licensees should follow all CDC and local health mandates.”