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Homeland Security Deems Real Estate an Essential Service

An advisory opinion helps “officials as they work to protect their communities, while ensuring … public health and safety, as well as economic and national security.”

WASHINGTON – Officials say new federal guidance should signal to state and local officials the need to allow construction and real estate activity to continue during coronavirus-related work stoppages.

The guidance includes a 15-page list of essential services, and “residential and commercial real estate services, including settlement services,” are listed on page 13. It also includes real estate support services, such as government offices that conduct title searches and notary and recording services that support mortgage loans and the real estate industry.

The advisory letter and list of essential industries was written by the Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency within the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), and is “not, nor should it be considered, a federal directive or standard.”

According to Katie Johnson, National Association of Realtors® (NAR) general counsel and chief member experience officer, Realtors should follow the guidelines set by their city, county and state governments. In a Monday conference call, Johnson said that the pandemic has created discussion within the Realtor ranks about essential services, but she emphasized that the appropriate action is for brokers and agents to follow the guidelines in effect for their area.

However, the Homeland Security guidance makes it clear that infrastructure is important, and many groups quickly applauded the move.

“The nation’s home builders want to thank DHS for designating the construction of single-family and multifamily housing as an Essential Infrastructure Business,” says Dean Mon, chairman of the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB). “Americans depend on a functioning residential construction sector to provide safe, affordable housing for our citizens, and this need is especially acute during this pandemic. Moreover, a healthy housing market is critical to maintain a sound economy.”

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