Homeland Security says real estate is “essential business”

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Christopher C. Krebs, director of the Homeland Security Department's Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (Credit: Krebs by Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images; chart by CISA)

Christopher C. Krebs, director of the Homeland Security Department’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (Credit: Krebs by Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images; chart by CISA)

As the real estate industry remains split on whether the services it provides are “essential” during a pandemic, one federal agency has weighed in with an emphatic “yes.”

Workers in both residential and commercial real estate, including settlement services and government workers who facilitate mortgage and real estate deals, were included in a “Essential Critical Infrastructure Workforce” advisory list released Saturday by the Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, Inman reported.

“This list is intended to help State, local, tribal and territorial officials as they work to protect their communities while ensuring continuing of functions critical to public health and safety, as well as economic and national security,” the agency memorandum states. The list is advisory in nature and not a federal directive or standard.

Dozens of states, including California and Washington, have already designated real estate services as “essential.” New York has yet to do so, and Gov. Andrew Cuomo explicitly said real estate agents could not show homes.

Washington governor Jay Inslee wrote in a Friday memo that “significant legal liability and displacement (if not homelessness)” could occur if ongoing transactions were unable to close, especially for people transitioning between residences.

“For homeowners in distress related to the COVID-19 event, it is important that they have the option to sell their home or pursue a refinance or residential mortgage loan modification,” Inslee added. [Inman] — Kevin Sun

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