May 2020 -- Iyar-Sivan 5780,  Volume 26, Issue 5

c2020 Shoreline Publishing, Inc.      629 Fifth Avenue, Suite 213, Pelham, NY 10803      P: 914-738-7869

Real Estate Matters:

State Clarifies Position on Property Showings—Can Only be Performed Online

By John E. Baer, SRES, SRS


On April 2, after the real estate industry was led to believe that in-person real estate showings were permitted by New York State comes a statement from Empire State Development that only virtual/online showings are permissible.


On the evening of April 2, an official with Empire State Development Corp. in a clarification of the designation of real estate as an “essential” industry, stated that all showings must be conducted virtually or online in order to prevent the spread of the Novel Coronavirus.


ESD, stated, “Being an ‘essential’ industry does not mean business as usual—business can only be conducted if social distancing and other public health protocols are followed and all must be doing everything they can to help stop the spread. For real estate, that means brokers can only transact business in their offices or show properties virtually, and anything else is off limits.”


ESD added that appraisers/inspectors are able to visit properties for inspection. Brokers can oversee transactions/signings at their offices while following social distancing protocols.


The confusion concerning what was allowed and what was impermissible in terms of real estate showings arose when a day earlier commercial and residential real estate brokers and agents received some welcome if not surprising news when the Empire State Development Corp. clarified existing regulations, put in place in response to the Novel Coronavirus Pandemic, and deemed residential and commercial showings and back office real estate work as “essential.”


The ESD’s clarifications released by the New York State Association of Realtors on April 1 also deemed appraisal services and home inspections as essential.


NYSAR officials stated that the clarification of the designations is a recognition by the state that real estate licensees, real estate home inspectors and real estate appraisers “provide a critical service to New York, which is vital to the wellbeing not only of New Yorkers but also for New York’s local and state economy.”


NYSAR sent an e-mail to its members on April 3 noting the latest clarification by the state and noted, “NYSAR interprets ‘virtual’ to mean no in-person contact when conducting a showing. Licensees should conduct the showing alone and use a tool such as video conferencing with the buyer or tenant. The goal of the new standard is to further limit the possibility of one on one contact which NYSAR strongly supports.”


Consequently, several days ago I was able to arrange for a professional photographer to photograph a two-bedroom rental I just listed. In order to help prospective tenants get a much better feel for the apartment, I attached a five minute video tour of the unit to the listing sheet. Within a day and a half I was contacted about this two-bedroom rental by three different prospective tenants. With a little bit of ingenuity and imagination, I, as well as other real estate agents, can still perform services for buyers, renters, sellers and landlords. The most important lesson for all of us, however, is to practice risk management over financial reward. Continue to stay safe and follow the scientist’s and medical community’s guidelines.


John E. Baer, SRES, SRS is a NYS licensed real estate salesperson associated with Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Westchester Properties of Scarsdale and Larchmont. In the last two years he earned the “Top Selling Award” seven times in the Scarsdale office. He can be reached for questions at 914/844-2059. His website is