Even as millions of residents continue to shelter in place across California, a few industries have been identified as critical to keeping life going during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

The following real estate and real estate adjacent professionals are classified as essential by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security:

  • individuals who provide residential and commercial real estate services, including settlement services;
  • government staff who perform title search, notary and recording services in support of mortgage and real estate services and transactions;
  • workers who repair, install or service residential and commercial HVAC systems and other heating, cooling, refrigeration and ventilation equipment; and
  • workers who provide services necessary to maintaining the safety, sanitation and essential operation of residences and buildings, including:
    • plumbers;
    • electricians;
    • exterminators;
    • builders;
    • contractors; and
    • landscapers.

This list is meant to be used as guidance for individual states to make their own laws about who may continue to practice during the pandemic.

State restrictions are tighter

Here in California, at first Governor Newsom’s shelter-in-place order reflected the above Homeland Security guidelines, including residential real estate service providers under the exception. In fact, most private sources continue to espouse this is still the case, with many real estate agents continuing to give in-person home tours and interact with members of the public despite the change.

However, the most recent guidance from the State Public Health Officer excludes real estate providers, limiting related essential industries to:

  • construction workers; and
  • workers who provide services necessary to maintaining the safety, sanitation and essential operation of residences and buildings.

However, these statewide rules follow the federal government’s lead, passing the buck along to local governments.

Cities and counties across California have issued their own rules about which professionals are critical to maintaining a safe and healthy community during the pandemic. However, at the time of this writing, most local restrictions reflect those at the state level. For example, the list of essential workers related to real estate for major cities like San Diego and Los Angeles align with the statewide list, which include workers like plumbers, electricians and construction workers, but exclude real estate agents.

Check local guidance for information on what is allowed. Further, even if your city or county allows real estate service providers to continue working during the pandemic, it’s important to follow social distancing precautions, like refraining from holding open houses and conducting virtual tours and meetings when possible.

Anyone with the ability to do so can continue to work from home without physically interacting with the public. This can be done through:

  • virtual tours;
  • remote signings;
  • building out an online presence; and
  • advancing career paths by:
    • forming real estate syndicates;
    • becoming a foreclosure expert;
    • getting a mortgage loan originator (MLO) endorsement; or
    • becoming a notary public.

Related articles:

How legislation is helping brokerages, homeowners and renters during COVID-19

How legislation is helping independent contractors during COVID-19