State says real estate industry is an essential business during shutdown

Posted On Thu, April 2, 2020 By

Posted On Thu, April 2, 2020 By In Policy, real estate trends

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Some real estate industry work is considered essential and can continue during the coronavirus outbreak, New York State announced on Wednesday. The reversal in policy, first spotted by the Real Deal, means real estate agents can now host in-person residential and commercial showings, as long as social distancing measures are taken (open houses are still prohibited). However, the Real Estate Board of New York quickly reached out to brokers and advised them against in-person showings.

In an official notice to the New York State Association of Realtors, the Empire State Development said residential and commercial showings, home inspections, residential appraisals, and back-office real estate work are all considered essential under Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s “pause” directive, which shuttered 100 percent of all non-essential businesses last month.

“Our industry has been given a great responsibility in this time of crisis to help meet the needs of New York’s residential and commercial property buyers and owners, and the overall welfare of the local and state economy,” Jennifer Stevenson, the president of NYSAR, said in a statement.

“But our priority must be to the safety of our customers, clients and indeed for ourselves, as we all continue to practice socially responsible distancing that is helping to flatten the curve during this national health crisis. Our mantra must be ‘safety first, work second.'”

Essential businesses must comply with guidance provided by the Department of Health on maintaining a clean and safe work environment. And the state is still encouraging agents to conduct virtual showings and work remotely.

After news broke of the rule change, the Real Estate Board of New York cautioned agents against hosting in-person showings. In an email, REMBY President James Whelan told members that “all previous executive orders and guidelines remain in effect” as the new guidance was not officially published by the state, according to the Real Deal.

Eddie Shapiro, president and CEO of the brokerage firm Nest Seekers International, said the good news comes with challenges for the industry. “On the one hand, this is indeed great news. On the other hand, there are still great challenges we continue to face with many, if not most, buildings individually not allowing access and showings,” Shapiro said in a statement. “Shelter in place instructions also continue to be a struggle both mentally and physically for agents, as well as prospective buyers.”

“Our back offices never actually closed, they were available both virtually and from home. But this decision is definitely a step in the right direction. Moving forward we will be keeping in mind the safety of our agents and our clients first and foremost. We are proceeding with an abundance of caution as we try to navigate these times.”

[Via The Real Deal]

Editor’s note: The post was updated to include a statement of REBNY.

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