TX Realtors Ask Gov. Abbott To Consider Real Estate Services as Essential Amid Coronavirus Shutdowns

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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?

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Joanna England

If Executive Editor Joanna England could house hunt forever, she absolutely would. Instead she covers the North Texas housing market and the economy for CandysDirt.com. While she started out with the Real Estate Center at Texas A&M University, Joanna's work has appeared in The Dallas Morning News as well as several local media outlets. When she's not knitting or hooping, or enjoying White Rock Lake, she's behind the lens of her camera. She lives in East Dallas with her husband, son, and their furry and feathered menagerie.

Reader Interactions

Comments

  1. Bart Thrasher says

    These are trying times for sure! Thank you Joanna, for pointing out that RE services are not yet considered an essential service. Title Companies, however, are yet they will not be doing much business if realtors are not bringing them contracts.
    I look forward to hearing what the outcome is!

  2. Cricia says

    I am trying to buy a home. Thank God my husband’s job is considered “essential,” as he works in infrastructure. We have been trying for months to get mortgage company that will approve him with his TPS (Temporary Protected Status) situation, and have yet to find one. Does anyone happen to know of a mortgage company that works with this?

    • mmJoanna England says

      That’s a good question, but all mortgage companies are putting in crazy hours because of all of the new buyers and refis with these crazy-low rates.

  3. catie says

    Are ‘New Home Sales’ considered an essential service?
    i.e. Home builders such as Perry Homes, Pulte, Darling Homes, etc.

    • mmJoanna England says

      That’s a good question. In the state right now, there are no restrictions on what is considered “essential,” however different counties have made determinations on their own. I think it depends on where the project is.

      • catie says

        The development project in question is located in McKinney, which is in Collin County.

        Currently, their sales employees are all required to have the models open, however, it’s by appointment only. All doors are kept locked and salesmen are required to screen any visitors wishing to come into the model home; it’s also worth mentioning these new home salesmen are not qualified health professionals to screen visitors for COVID-19.

        Most if not all showings or tours have gone virtual or rescheduled for a later date since we’re now entering an unprecedented economic standstill.

        Further, this homebuilder issued what seemed to be a ‘shelter-in-place’ pass for their employees to be exempt from any travel restrictions. Which raised a red flag in regards to whether this travel exemption pass has any legal standing.

  4. Anita Lloyd says

    Hello, I am an agent in Harris County and the way I read this:
    xvi. Professional services. Professional services, such as legal or accounting services, insurances services, and “real estate services” when necessary to assist in compliance with legally mandated activities or to further Essential Businesses, Essential Government functions, or Critical Infrastructure

    I feel it means, once we are bound by a legal contract, we can continue the process to completion of the transaction.. I am not sure we are essential for showing houses to home buyers. Any assistance on understanding this would be greatly appreciated.

  5. Mark Elliott says

    Real Estate is not an essential service. Please think of your health, your family and friends are far more important than showing a house or inspecting a house and if you do not carry out showing or an inspection no one is going to die. However, if you become infected you spread the virus to 2.4 people (This is Ro =2.4, the infection rate coefficient). One person with the virus, over 30 days that could cause thousands to be infected. Look at what is happening in New York, they are storing the dead from the virus in refrigerated trucks because they have so many. Choose life! Not money.

  6. Chandler Crouch says

    Thank God the board of Realtors is advocating for this. I’m pretty sure right behind medical and food, shelter is essential.
    Imagine the family that must sell because they can’t pay their bills, and now this. They’d be forced to pay what they can’t afford.
    Or the Tenant whose job relocated and needed to move but was waiting until the end of the lease. They’d be forced to re-sign a lease.
    What about the family that sold their house but haven’t found a new one.
    When the government tells you to stay home, but you have no home. The govt can’t simultaneously prevent you from finding a home. It’s like pressing on the gas and brake at the same time.
    I sure home the Board of Realtors keeps up the fight. The last thing we need is for medical, food, or housing to stop.

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