Q. What does Executive Order 53 say about real estate?
A. Executive Order 53 says that while business operations offering professional, rather than retail services, like the real estate industry, may remain open, they should utilize teleworking as much as possible. When telework is not feasible, professional service businesses must adhere to social distancing recommendations, enhanced sanitizing practices on common surfaces, and apply the relevant workplace guidance from state and federal authorities.
Q. What does this mean for your business?
At this time, REALTORS® should be conforming with all requirements like other professional service businesses. This means that gatherings of more than 10 are banned, individuals should maintain at least 6 feet between one another, and increased sanitization should be done. To the extent possible, you should limit the number of individuals coming to your office. Try to meet with clients virtually as much as you can. Unlike other states where the governor has spelled out in detail what is and is not allowed, Virginia has left this more open. This ambiguity can benefit the industry if the industry continues to be responsible and take precautions.
Q. Is real estate an essential service?
A. It is unclear whether the Governor considers real estate an essential service at this time since the focus of essential/non-essential in Executive Order 53 was on retail businesses and not essential vs. non-essential professional service businesses. All professional service businesses, which includes real estate, may remain open with an emphasis on telework, social distancing recommendations, enhanced sanitizing practices, and the limit on gatherings of 10 or more individuals.
Q. Do we have to close our office?
A. At this time you do not need to close your real estate office, but you must implement procedures to ensure that you are in compliance with the governor’s executive orders. This means that you may not have groups larger than 10 people congregating, you should encourage telework, and when telework is not possible, follow other guidelines listed above. If you have large numbers of clients coming to your office, they should be shown to a conference room or office quickly so there are not groups of people congregating in the lobby or waiting area. If you have a large number of agents, you should not have meetings where all agents are encouraged to be there in person. Instead, you should hold sales meetings using technology that allows agents to participate remotely. Additionally, if you plan to keep your office open, you must implement procedures to disinfect surfaces more frequently.
Q. Are open houses still allowed?
A.Virginia REALTORS® strongly recommends that members stop holding in-person open houses. There is nothing in the Governor’s statement that addresses directly open houses, but it will be nearly impossible to ensure that all requirements of Executive Order 53 can be met with open houses. Continued operation of open houses could draw unnecessary negative attention to the industry. If agents continue to hold open houses which could violate the Governor’s most recent executive order, a new Executive Order could be issued addressing the real estate industry, not only banning open houses, but suspending all showings.
Q. Are individual showings allowed?
A. Yes, there is nothing to indicate that individual showings should be stopped at this time, but agents should work with their clients to limit the number of properties buyers see. While in previous months, buyers would often look at dozens of houses to see different features, or if a house was on their “maybe” list, restricting in-person showings to buyers who will be writing an offer on the property will help to reduce potential exposure and demonstrate that the industry is voluntarily working to protect the public.