The real estate industry is officially essential under Governor Andrew Cuomo’s PAUSE order, but with a few important caveats.
The Empire State Development Corporation, the economic arm of New York State, shifted focus on the real estate industry during the COVID-19 crisis, just over two weeks after Cuomo ruled it non-essential. ESD guidelines still encourage realtors to “maintain social distancing where possible,” but notes that viewings (for residential and commercial properties), inspections and appraisals may resume.
What this doesn’t mean is that traditional visits – open houses, or even having an agent bring a client home for an individual appointment – should continue, as previously reported. .
“Being an ‘essential’ industry doesn’t mean business as usual – business can only be conducted if social distancing and other public health protocols are followed and everyone should do all they can to help stop the disease. spread, ”an ESD spokesperson said in a statement. “For real estate, that means brokers can only do business in their offices or show properties virtually, and everything else is off limits.”
The New York State Association of Realtors has released what it says is ESD’s official notice regarding the real estate industry, which reads:
Critical businesses must continue to adhere to the guidelines and guidelines for maintaining a clean and safe working environment issued by the Department of Health and every business, no matter how essential, is strongly urged to maintain social distancing as far as possible.
The following functions of real estate agents and / or real estate agents (sic) are considered essential: presentation of residential houses and commercial offices; home inspections; and residential appraisers.
Back office real estate work is considered essential, but please use telecommuting or work from home procedures whenever possible.
“Our industry has been given a great responsibility during this time of crisis to help meet the needs of New York City residential and commercial property buyers and owners, and the overall well-being of the local economy and community. State, ”NYSAR President Jennifer Stevenson said in a statement. . She also noted that “[o]your mantra should be “safety first, work second”.
It is not known how the brokerage houses in New York will respond to the new ruling. In an email to its members reviewed by Curbed, the New York Real Estate Board noted that ESD’s new guidelines are not final and that “[a]All previous decrees and directives remain in force.
In a statement, James Whalen, chairman of the New York Real Estate Board, said, “We understand that these guidelines were not issued by ESDC and are not final. The health and safety of New Yorkers must remain paramount. ”
“A lot of buildings don’t want so-called strangers to enter and leave the property and so do a lot of our individual clients. People aren’t comfortable sharing space in this environment and that’s understandable, ”says Bess Freedman, CEO of Brown Harris Stevens. “Almost every facet of the buying, selling and renting process can be done virtually at this point and that’s what we tell our agents and customers. The more we can flatten the curve, the faster we can resume our usual activities. “
Many brokerages had already started working remotely and changing their in-person approach to the digital world: Compass sent instructions to their brokers on how to do virtual open houses via Instagram, Facebook Live, and YouTube; Ideal Properties Group and Nooklyn have launched virtual exhibition platforms; and Elegran started making requests, signing leases, and paying online while offering virtual reality tours (like this one).
Still, the market has taken some notable hits. During the week of March 16, when New York City began shutting down with a series of government-mandated closures, nearly 450 listings were taken off the market, according to analysis from UrbanDigs, a Manhattan real estate data. Signings of contracts have been cut by almost half, from 214 to 109 compared to the same week last year, and the number of ads posted has fallen by 79%.
The new ESD guidelines may help give the real estate industry a boost, but some agents have also expressed concern over the new decision. “It makes sense that real estate is seen as a critical asset, but I don’t know how many sellers will want strangers six feet apart with or without masks and gloves in their homes,” says Wendy Arriz , real estate agent at Warburg Realty.
“I wouldn’t advise any of my sellers to sign up now,” Arriz said. “The goal is to flatten the curve and protect everyone, including real estate agents, right? ”
Additional reporting by Caroline Spivack and Valeria Ricciulli.