Are Real Estate Agent Activities Essential Services?

Real Estate Agent with Get Results Team...Just Call (408) 252-8900! . DRE #00901962 . Licensed to Sell since 1985 . Altas Realty DRE# 00901962 Lic.1985

Does anyone know if real estate agent activities representing sellers and buyers are considered "essential services" legally in view of the COVID-19 social distancing and "shelter in place" orders?

FYI, I sent this question in to our trusted California Association of REALTORS Legal Hotline just a few minutes ago, and will share the answer I receive from the attorneys.

Whether it's showing houses to buyers, holding open houses, meeting with current and potential sellers, buyers, investors and landlords, as well as vendors such as pest control, roof and home inspectors, it would be helpful to know we are acting in compliance with the law. 

Housing and shelter are definitely important needs. How can anyone "shelter in place" if they currently have no shelter? We know selling a house and buying a home are stressful activities already. Now complicating the government mandating no social gatherings to slow this pandemic, we see the closing of our broker's office except for absolutely essential in-person meetings and the temporary closing of our Santa Clara County Recorders Office.

All accurate and credible information from knowledgeable sources welcome.

Thanks for reading "Are Real Estate Agent Activities Essential Services?"

UPDATES since 3/17/20

The Local MLSListings suspended the accrual of all DOM (Days On Market) Through April 7, the current expiration date of Silicon Valley's "Shelter in Place" order. It also cancelled all scheduled and future agent tyours and open houses.

Local MLSListings Cancels Open Houses, Agent Tours

Read what CAR attorney's interpretation of California's "shelter in place" order here at

CAR Attorney: RE Agent Activities Not Essential Services

Please go to for breaking news updates affecting REALTORS, including mandate for agents to cease engaging in face-to-face meetings, and the appeal to Congress for forgiveable SBA loans to REALTORS to help tide agents over during the "shelter in place" mandate.

Readers have alerted me that unlike California, some states, such as Illinois have determined that real estate agent acitivites are "essential services"; I'm curious to know how other states are handling this. 




Posted by

Aloha & God Bless You, 

Michelle Carr Crowe Just Call 408-252-8900 sign image


Michelle Cherie Carr Crowe Real Estate Team

Real Estate Agent . Author . Coach

DRE #00901962 . Licensed to Sell since 1985

P: Just Call ... 408-252-8900
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Michelle Cherie Carr Crowe and her "Get Results Team" (established by the late legendary Silicon Valley super agent Judy Carr) are known as the "Lynbrook and Cupertino Schools Experts." Coaching clients to success is Michelle's passion, making her and her team creative catalysts for positive change in people's lives. She is a Silicon Valley-based multi-million dollar real estate consultant, author, coach and trainer who works by referral only.

Her designations have included: Accredited Buyers Representative (ABR), Accredited Consultant of Real Estate (ACRE), Accredited Luxury Home Specialist (ALHS)Accredited Staging Professional (ASP)Certified Distressed Property Expert (CDPE),  Property Marketing Expert (PME), Real Estate CyberSpace Specialist (RECS), and Senior Real Estate Specialist (SRES).

Michelle is an internationally-published freelance writer with over 1,200 traditional articles published in print and online, co-author of two books on Silicon Valley-specific real estate as well as over 68,000 blog posts on Blogger, ActiveRain, Examiner, FaceBook, Realtor, Trulia, RealBird and others. She enjoys reading, traveling, animals, nature, family, dancing, staging, consulting, coaching and praying. Check out her blog at or visit her online at For RE$ult$ ... Just Call ... (408) 252-8900.


Comments (30)

Scott Seaton Jr. SLS Home Insp
SLS Home Inspections-Kankakee Will Iroquois Grundy Counties - Bourbonnais, IL
The Home Inspector With a Heart!

Here in Illinois we are considered essential services. That being said, I am only scheduling inspections for vacant peoperties to keep my team safe but also to keep the clients safe during this stressful time. 

Mar 22, 2020 05:09 AM
Scott Godzyk
Godzyk Real Estate Services - Manchester, NH
One of the Manchester NH's area Leading Agents

I can not wait to hear what the answer is "legally" considered. I am against open houses during these times though. I am still listing and showing although a lot slower than this time last week,

Mar 22, 2020 05:40 AM
Andrew Mooers | 207.532.6573
Northern Maine Real Estate-Aroostook County Broker

Managing rental properties, finishing sales in the pipeline needs to go on. Estate sale homes that are empty need a family coming out of a multi unit apartment to fill them. Low rates, I guess. Cheap gas? You bet. Keeping listing and selling but if you do not use video, you better be "showing" your properties with video, not in person only. One by one showing prospects is slow, dangerous and you only deal with one prospective buyer at a time. Video clones you... works round the clock and is your showing exponentially reaching further with frequency. Who does not want that?

Mar 22, 2020 06:20 AM
Kris Collis, Associate Broker
Smart Way America Realty - East Stroudsburg, PA
Professional Results you Expect 570-801-5525

In PA, some title companies are moving forward on closings.

PAR is advocating state legislature for electronic notarization of documents, and to allow self-employed individuals to collect unemployment compensation during emergency situations....

also urging legislators to consider...a rental assistance fund, a mortgage assistance fund and grant extensions to building permits. 

Mar 22, 2020 07:57 AM
Shirley Coomer
Keller Williams Realty Sonoran Living - Phoenix, AZ
Realtor, Keller Williams Realty, Phoenix Az

Here in Arizona, we do not have the mandates we are seeing in California, Illinois, NY, Etc.  There are folks who have leases expiring or have sold their home who need to find another place to live.  Hopefully, we are considered essential.  We are all taking the usual precautions with hand washing, sanitizer, etc. (hard to find in the Phoenix area).  I think this will probably vary by state.

Mar 22, 2020 08:10 AM
Linda Metallo DiBenardo
RE/MAX Impact, Lockport, Illinois - Lockport, IL

In Illinois, YES real estate is considered an essential service.

Mar 22, 2020 09:10 AM
Sam Shueh
(408) 425-1601 - San Jose, CA
mba, cdpe, reopro, pe

Corelogic stated it is a lender and expect contractors to due delingence to go to properties talk to owners.  I told them I am not in finance business get someone else... 

Mar 22, 2020 11:57 AM
Don Baker
Lane Realty - Eatonton, GA
Lake Sinclair Specialist

my broker (and my wife) has taken a stand to do as little as possible.  No new CMAs, if they don't want to wait call someone else, walk throughs and inspections can proceed, practice distancing from other people, no driving clients at this time, And the attorney we use is allowing "car closings" if clients request they can remain in their cars with their package brought by one attorney to them for signature and explaination.  We haven't stopped business, but it's certainly different.

Mar 22, 2020 01:01 PM
Hella M. Rothwell, Broker/Realtor®
Carmel by the Sea, CA
Rothwell Realty Inc. CA#01968433 Carmel-by-the-Sea

C.A.R.'s Guidance on Governor's Stay-at-Home Order


Updated March 20, 2020




“Yesterday Governor Newsom and the State Public Health Officer issued Executive Order N-33-20 requiring all Californians to stay home except as needed to maintain continuity of operations in 16 infrastructure sectors. This supersedes all existing local city and county orders that are less restrictive. The real estate industry is not exempt from this prohibition except as needed to maintain “continuity of operation … of … construction, including housing construction.” Therefore, REALTORS® should cease doing all face-to-face marketing or sales activities, including showings, listing appointments, open houses and property inspections. Clients and other consumers are also subject to these orders and should not be visiting properties or conducting other business in person. 


Property management and repair work, which generally involves maintaining sanitary and safety conditions is permissible. Additionally, many other aspects of the real estate industry can continue to occur without in-person contact, including documentation and signing, and in many circumstances, closings. Other activities may also be managed remotely, though there may be some difficulties.”




Impact on MLS Statuses, Showing Instructions and DOM


In light of the Governor’s order on March 19, 2020, it would be appropriate for the MLS listing status to be changed by the listing agent to hold or withdraw— but if the listing agreement is still in effect, one would not select cancelled.



Also, it would be reasonable under the circumstances, if so desired, for an MLS in its discretion to alter its usual showing instructions and/or DOM approach, either by taking a unilateral approach systematically in the MLS or simply to offer participants the option to alter their status designation into a field that suspends the clock, ex: hold or the like in one’s system. An MLS could also decide to make no changes to its offerings because it's a given that all California listings are subject to this same order of March 19, 2020, such that those active during this time would be assessed in the same light.



If an MLS does alter or suspend the DOM, keep in mind, however, portals like Zillow, and others that also calculate their own DOM might not be changing their DOM calculations. That raises the concern of having two differing, publicly available DOM sources, possibly causing the buying public to lose confidence in the MLS reporting and/or creating potential liability situations for agents for inaccurate reporting. Thus, if an MLS does decide to pause the DOM calculations, best practice would be to keep measuring things both ways so that future evaluation of this current marketplace will be possible. When this is all over, it will still be important to keep an accurate tracking of what happened, so even if the DOM clock stops, the CDOM clock should keep going so the total picture is still there.



Also, the following Inman article may be of interest regarding what some other MLSs are doing:



Based on that which is set forth above, the MLS has various options to consider depending on what works best locally and within the fields and functionality of its system.




Disclosure of Potential COVID 19 Exposure


What to do if an agent learns that a visitor to the property, including potentially another agent, tested positive to COVID 19 — is disclosure required or recommended?



This information would be material to anyone at risk for potential exposure but raises the question of whether it’s a property concern or a people concern. Is the concern that the property site itself might have been or is contaminated? Or is the risk of having been around a particular person? And was this person on or offsite from the property?



Legally, known material conditions related to the property should be disclosed. Per the CDC, it’s possible the virus can spread from contact with infected surfaces or objects on a property, meaning a person could get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes, but this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads. However, the more relevant aspect to potential exposure pertains to the timing of contact with the property and the infected person and any others who came for a period thereafter. This is not purely or a per-se property condition. But to be on the safe side, a disclosure could be made. Disclosing through the MLS would not be the most effective way to communicate this information because (a) no further showings should be ongoing under the order of March 19, 2020, and (b) the concern at issue is backward-oriented and person-focused (and not a permanent property condition) for those potential visitors and/or agents identifiable from lockbox or other records as having been at the property during that time period with the exposed person. Notice could then be given in a targeted way.   



If making a disclosure, it should be done in a generic way so as not to invade privacy or implicate personal information. This would mean not using names but a general description along the line of “a visitor to the property on Xdate has tested positive for COVID 19.” 



The CDC provides the following notice advice in the employment context — albeit it’s not an apples to apples comparison for the fact pattern described above, but it could be looked to for guidance: If an employee is confirmed to have COVID-19, employers should inform fellow employees of their possible exposure to COVID-19 in the workplace but maintain confidentiality as required by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Employees exposed to a coworker with confirmed COVID-19 should refer to CDC guidance for how to conduct a risk assessment of their potential exposure.




Mar 22, 2020 02:10 PM
Adam Feinberg
Elegran - Manhattan, NY
NYC Condo, Co-op, and Townhouse Advisor

New York state has determined that we aren't considered essential- and all open houses, showings, etc are to be suspended. NYC always did closings in person in a conference room with multiple parties. In this case attorney's are scrambling to figure out how to do remote closings (I know it's common elsewhere- but not done here, especially complicated with co-op's). As Board Present of my condo, we have foreclosed with the unit vacant, but not yet closed on an apartment in our building also going to be handled remotely. If the deals don't fall apart- I should have 2 sales closing in the next couple of weeks- both sides are going to need to figure out how to close the deal remotely.

Mar 22, 2020 04:18 PM
Liz and Bill Spear
RE/MAX Alliance 513.520.5305 - Mason, OH
RE/MAX Alliance Cincinnati & Dayton suburbs

Ohio has defined real estate activities as "essential".  Same for title companies, appraisers, inspectors, contractors, etc.

Mar 22, 2020 04:22 PM
Tammy Lankford,
Lane Realty Eatonton, GA Lake Sinclair, Milledgeville, 706-485-9668 - Eatonton, GA
Broker GA Lake Sinclair/Eatonton/Milledgeville

we don't have a shelter in place yet, but in my opinion, not esstential unless in progress and we're getting it close.  

Mar 22, 2020 08:29 PM
Ricki Eichler McCallum
CastNet Realty - Corpus Christi, TX
Broker,GRI,ABR, e-Pro, TAHS

I'm glad I am retired but I worry about all of you.  Stay safe!

Mar 22, 2020 08:35 PM
Kathleen Daniels, Probate & Trust Specialist
KD Realty - 408.972.1822 - San Jose, CA
Probate Real Estate

Real Estate is NON-Essential.  People in this industry need to wake up, follow orders, and stay the hell-0 at home ... shelter in place and social distance. There are no exceptions to this other than ignorance and stupidity.

Mar 23, 2020 06:19 AM
Dorie Dillard Austin TX
Coldwell Banker Realty ~ 512.750.6899 - Austin, TX
NW Austin ~ Canyon Creek and Spicewood/Balcones

Good morning,

Good post. Our MLS has said no open house, title companies are open by appointment only and are having closings in the office, by a mobile nptary or on-line Mobile Notary if the lender approves. It's subject to change but trying to get people closed especially with those moving, having to get out of apartments etc. Can't shelter in place if you don't have a residence.

Mar 23, 2020 11:02 AM
Laura Cerrano
Feng Shui Manhattan Long Island - Locust Valley, NY
Certified Feng Shui Expert, Speaker & Researcher

We will figure this out and we will make something out of it. Time to make lemonade!

Mar 23, 2020 09:47 PM
Kimo Jarrett
Cyber Properties - Huntington Beach, CA
Pro Lifestyle Solutions

So, it depends  on the circumstances, doesn't it, as to whether anything is essential or not? Prudent behavior and urgency issues should dictate your actions if it's absolutely  essential during this period.

Mar 23, 2020 10:37 PM
Anne Corbin
Long and Foster - Lake Anna - Spotsylvania, VA
Serving Lake Anna & Central Virginia

I'm told we are essential services in Virginia by the powers that be.

Mar 24, 2020 07:57 AM
Georgie Hunter R(S) 58089
Hawai'i Life Real Estate Brokers - Haiku, HI
Maui Real Estate sales and lifestyle info

Here in HI it's generally considered non essential, but closings and recordings are still happening, though with more challenges.  Showings and open houses are becoming a thing of the past, and video/virtual tours are taking center stage. 

Mar 25, 2020 09:12 PM
MichelleCherie Carr Crowe .Just Call. 408-252-8900
Get Results Team...Just Call (408) 252-8900! . DRE #00901962 . Licensed to Sell since 1985 . Altas Realty - San Jose, CA
Family Helping Families Buy & Sell Homes 40+ Years

It's hard to believe tomorrow will be the one year anniversary of Santa Clara County's "Shelter-In-Place" order...and we are just now easing into Red Tier from Purple Tier. What a year!

Mar 16, 2021 07:05 PM