Is Real Estate Essential?

Need I answer?  Given the title of this site and if you have been here before you probably are aware I’ve been in the real estate business ever since graduating high school some 41 years ago, I’m going to guess you know I’m going to say “of course it is”.  On a more serious note though, my headline poses the question in light of the current Coronavirus pandemic which has resulted in a stay at home order for several counties in Missouri and, effective tomorrow night at midnight, the entire state of Missouri.

One of the exceptions in all of the stay at home orders has been for people working in “essential services” which in some of the orders is defined in detail and others in a more general fashion.  In determining whether a business is essential there are many easy ones to figure out such as anything related to the medical or health industry, public safety, sanitation, etc.  However, when it comes to other businesses such as those related to residential real estate such as agents, appraisers, home inspectors, loan officers, etc, it’s not always so clear.  Locally, within the St Louis area whle real estate may not have been named specifically as an essential service, after legal review and discussion within the industry, it has been determined that real estate activities do in fact fall within the definition of essential services.

State of Missouri Stay at Home Order allows for real estate activities…

The stay at home order issued by the State of Missouri allows an exception for essential services but instead of defining what is included in those services, it defers to the guidance issued by the U.S.Department of Homeland Security.  Included in the guidance as “essential functions” are “residential and commercial real estate services, including settlement services.”

Safety first…

Throughout the real estate industry, there has been much attention given to what functions can be safely done if CDC and other health and safety guidelines are adhered to, such as private showings of homes, and which ones should not be done such as a traditional open house with groups of people coming through.  With these practices in place, along with utilizing technology for things such as virtual showings, agents have been able to serve their buyer and seller clients and facilitate sales.

Why it’s important…

I believe the inclusion of real estate activities as essential makes sense.  For one, we are talking about a large segment of the population that is all, for the most part, small businesses as each real estate agent are their own business.  They don’t get paid if they can’t carry out their real estate business, there are no salaries for agents. In addition, it’s not just the agents, it’s all the other professions involved in the transaction, building inspectors, lenders, title companies, survey companies, warranty companies, home repair, staging, movers and so on.  So if we shut down residential real estate entirely we are shutting down a huge part of our economy and likely putting a ton of small businesses out of business.

Also, it’s more than just the livelihood of those involved.  While some buyers are going to retreat from the market for now and wait until later, there are others that have reasons they need to move and want to buy.  For example, there are still people getting married, moving into or out of town for a job, have growing families or other needs or motivations causing them to want to move now.  For sellers, some may prefer to wait but for others, particularly those suffering financially from a job loss or business closing may be under the gun to get their home sold and really can’t wait.

So, just like workers in other essential services that are there to provide those needed services to their customers and clients, real estate agents are here to do the same for those people that do need to transact business during these challenging times.

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