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MLS and Related Status Impacts from Governor’s Orders of 3-4-20 and 3-19-20 and Amended Federal CISA Guidance of 3-28-20

Updated on April 3, 2020

Note: Given the rapidly shifting nature of the situation, this article may be updated with relevant information as new developments occur.


On March 28, 2020, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) updated its list of essential services during the coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis and expressly included residential real estate. Since Governor Newsom’s March 4, 2020 order incorporates this list, the order now includes residential and commercial real estate, including settlement services, as essential services in California. However, if a city or county has an order with a more restrictive standard regarding what qualifies as an essential service, or more restrictions on activities, those guidelines will still govern the activities of a licensee. You can read the full CISA memorandum here.


Notwithstanding this new development, all real estate licensees must take into account the health and safety of their clients and fellow licensees and follow the existing protocols for protecting against the spread of COVID-19. If such health safeguards and protocols are not followed, the rule for the state could easily change to stop or restrict all real estate activity. To that end, in conformity with current health guidelines, real estate licensees should follow all CDC and local health mandates.


Impact on Open Houses and Showings


1. No open houses should be held.

2. Showings should be done virtually, if at all possible.

See C.A.R. Best Practices Guidelines:

See CAR Form RLA-CAA (Listing Agreement Coronavirus Addendum or Amendment) for sellers and listing agents to sign and Form PEAD (Property Viewing Advisory and Declaration) to be given to and signed by the seller, buyer, agents and anyone else who will be entering a property: You can find both forms in the COVID library in zipForm®.


Impact on MLS Statuses, Showing Instructions and DOM


In light of the Governor’s Order — as well as in instances where cities or counties have imposed even more restrictive standards — conditions may prompt listing agents, in accordance with seller’s wishes, to change the MLS listing status to something like hold or withdraw — but if the listing agreement is still in effect, one would not select cancelled. Listing agents also have the option to maintain the listing in an active status, (or coming soon/delayed showing if such status is offered and appropriate under local MLS rules) albeit with an understanding of the limitations imposed on all face-to-face activity. Agents will have to be mindful of the implications of each status selection within their local MLS rules.


Under these extraordinary circumstances, if so desired, an MLS in its discretion could elect to alter its usual Showing Instructions and/or DOM approach, either by taking a unilateral approach systematically in the MLS such as temporarily de-activating the field or, as referenced above, simply continuing to offer participants the option to alter their status designation into a field that suspends showings and/or the clock ex: hold or other options in one’s system. Under either scenario, it's a given that all California listings are subject to at least the Governor’s Order causing all listings, active or otherwise during this time, to be assessed in the same light.


If an MLS is inclined to deactivate or alter its usual approach to DOM, there are several implications to consider. At this point, it seems that many MLSs in California have opted not to deactivate DOM. An MLS will want to be mindful of the decisions of other MLSs in neighboring or overlapping areas and/or in data sharing relationships to the extent that an MLS making a different election contributes to overall market confusion or inconsistencies. Also, portals like Zillow, and others who also calculate their own DOM might not be changing their DOM calculations. These factors raise the prospect of having 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 stop publicly facing DOM calculations, best practice would be to keep measuring things in the background both way so that a true picture 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 temporarily deactivates, the CDOM clock should keep going so the total picture is still there.


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


Based on that 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 and the surrounding area.

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