Are Realtors Essential? Wisconsin Says OK, Others Say No

Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers issued a “safer at home” order that prohibits non-essential travel and closes non-essential businesses for a month, effective Wednesday morning at 8 a.m.

Unlike other states, such as California, Pennsylvania and Washington state, real estate offices are permitted to continue operating under Gov. Evers’ orders, according to the Wisconsin Realtors Association. The different approaches reflects the differences among states in other industries as well, including construction.

“Under the order, real estate brokerage services and most services related to real estate transactions are currently allowed to continue during the duration of the executive order,” WRA said. “However, you’re not required to provide these services during the order. If you decide to provide these services, you must continue to maintain social distancing requirements, follow reasonable health and safety protocols, and follow all other public health recommendations.”

As of Tuesday, the CDC reported that there 416 confirmed cases in Wisconsin.

Different States, Different Approaches

Real estate brokers are not included in New York’s list of essential employees, and Gov. Andrew Cuomo banned brokers from showing homes. California ordered realtors’ offices closed, and the California Association of Realtors told their members to halt all operations.

“Realtors should cease doing all face-to-face marketing or sales activities, including showings, listing appointments, open houses and property inspections,” the organization said. “Clients and other consumers are also subject to these orders and should not be visiting properties or conducting other business in person.”

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee issued his “Stay Healthy, Stay in Place” executive order Monday night. The Washington Realtors Association said the order does not allow any real estate activities.

As for Tuesday, there were 2,221 confirmed cases in Washington state, the CDC said.

“The Governor’s order lists “essential businesses” that are allowed to continue operating notwithstanding the “Stay Home” order. “RE Brokerage Services” is not in that list,” the Washington association said. “This means that RE Brokers are not allowed to continue conducting business except remotely, from their homes.

“Physically touring houses, with buyers, is not considered an “essential business.” Effective Wednesday, March 25 at midnight, physical home tours should cease for the duration of the “Stay Home” order, currently scheduled to last for two weeks. Brokers can continue to conduct all business remotely, from broker’s home.”

And Then There’s Florida

Meanwhile, Florida Realtors advises members that it “is monitoring all official state communications regarding the virus and will pass along relevant information as it is received.” It then has links to CDC, state and other advisories, followed by a statement from Florida Realtors President Barry Grooms:

“In times of stress and uncertainty, our Florida Realtors’ family stands strong together, ready to support each other and their communities,” he said. “As coronavirus continues to be a developing concern in Florida and across the globe, know that your Florida Realtors Leadership Team has been in constant contact with local associations and the National Association of Realtors® (NAR) to safeguard the continuity of service.”

But can realtors show houses?

Yes. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who was criticized for being slow to close down tourist attractions over spring break, says he wants business closing decisions to be made on a county-by-county basis.