Wednesday, April 8, 2020 - by Brandi Pearl Thompson, president, Greater Chattanooga Realtors
Since the conversation surrounding COVID-19 started in recent weeks, many are asking what it means to be considered an “essential service.” Ultimately, each state has to answer this question, and it is important that we all follow the order exactly as it is directed. In short, we wrote to elected officials to stress the importance of adequate shelter, as well as the role real estate plays in the economy.
When we all started following this virus, Greater Chattanooga Realtors moved quickly to discourage in-person open houses and fully embrace virtual showings and virtual open houses. Realtors adapt, and that’s what we did. We had to make sure our clients were taken care of. Personally, I have clients who must close on their property in the coming weeks. If not, they will literally be without a home. Having a roof over your head sounds pretty essential to me. But what does that mean for those of use involved in real estate? National Association of Realtors General Counsel Katie Johnson eloquently stated the great responsibilities and opportunities of what it means to be essential.
Ms. Johnson says, “In general, being deemed an essential service means that you (realtors) have been included on a list of dozens of industries and workers deemed to play a critical role in your community by ensuring continuity of functions critical to public health and safety, as well as economic and national security. It means you have the special responsibility and opportunity to continue operations if you choose to but not if you don’t. It means you have the special responsibility and mandate to adhere to your state’s executive order regarding 'essential services.'"
She continues, “It means you have the special responsibility and mandate to take all necessary health and safety precautions, including those mandated in the state executive order such as holding no in-person showings, limiting all other in person activity, and observing social distancing guidelines set forth by the CDC. It means that individuals with immediate housing needs can be served by a real estate professional – whether those needs arise from pending transactions or sudden change in economic stability from job loss or uncertain future.
“It means that we all have a special responsibility to lead by example, to do what we think is best for our communities and ourselves, and to do what we think best for the reputation of the industry. I cautiously assert that regardless of whether your state deems 'real estate' to be an essential service, that following your state’s order is a basic requirement for all and that actually doing so makes you neither good nor bad, but compliant.”
Ms. Johnson closes by saying, “Decide for yourself whether or not to continue working if permitted in your state and avoid criticizing those who make a different decision. And remember, realtors can take no safer guide than that which is the foundation of our Code of Ethics, embodied in the Golden Rule, 'Do unto others what you would have them do unto you.'”
Those are powerful words. As realtors, we have a responsibility to our community to make sure that housing is available for those who might be vulnerable during these times. We must take all precautions to protect ourselves and community, and we must work to make sure that housing needs are being met during these times. That’s Who We R.