To a great many homebuyers, a Realtor is an essential part of the process of buying real estate. But whether real estate-related businesses are considered an “essential service” in the age of coronavirus shelter-in-place orders is yet to be decided.
That’s why Texas Realtors has asked Gov. Greg Abbott to consider real estate-related businesses as “essential services” during future emergency orders. Cindi Bulla, 2020 board chair of Texas Realtors, and Travis Kessler, chief executive officer of the organization, petitioned Abbott in a letter sent today.
“We are especially focused on the county clerk services needed to transfer and record property ownership, but also those services provided by other political subdivisions such as permitting, inspections, construction, and provision of information related to title searches,” the letter says.
Keeping some level of constancy in the industry is important to not only serving clients but to also keep the Texas economy afloat. According to the National Association of Realtors and the National Association of Home Builders, Texas residential real estate contributed more than $268 billion to the Texas economy in 2018, or more than 15 percent of the total GDP.
The most glaring issue is that the novel coronavirus hit Texas right as the market began to ramp up for the spring selling season, which makes up a considerable proportion of the market’s annual volume. From February to March, U.S. home sales increase by 34 percent while prices rise and an average of 3 percent, according to NAR. In Texas, Realtors often see sales surge straight through April. That’s quite a loss for the industry, for sure.
“There remains no doubt the Coronavirus pandemic will disrupt the lives Texas residents, but impacts that would be substantial, especially those that are financial, may be lessened if essential real estate services can be continued,” the letter stated.
But as Bulla and Kessler noted in their letter to Abbot, more and more real estate-related businesses are leveraging technology to minimize in-person interaction during the home buying and selling process.
Texas has long been a leader in innovative policies and technologies that allow for real estate-related business to be conducted with limited in-person contact, such as online notary commissions and prioritization of widespread broadband access. Our members across the state are already creatively utilizing web-based technology to hold meetings, conduct negotiations, share documents, and even show property virtually. However, those innovations will be for naught if other services related to real estate transactions, such as deed recordation, become unavailable.Texas Realtors
Sound off: Are real estate-related services essential businesses?