Last Updated: April 1 at 2 p.m.
Governor Announces Real Estate is Essential
Governor Greg Abbott issued an executive order on March 31 setting a statewide standard for essential services that may continue to be provided, including residential and commercial real estate. Read Gov. Abbott’s order that utilizes the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s guidelines for identifying essential services, which includes real estate highlighted on Page 13. Here are some key points:
- Supersedes existing local orders only where those local orders may have previously restricted essential services or where they were more permissive on gatherings
- Even for essential services, telework or online work should be used as much as possible, limiting in-person contact (following CDC guidelines) unless absolutely necessary
This is a positive step for Texas REALTORS®, as real estate professionals statewide may continue to serve clients while demonstrating care for the health and well-being of the greater public welfare. REALTORS® worked with Gov. Abbott and other industry groups to ensure real estate was an essential service statewide.
CISA Identifies Real Estate as Essential
On March 28, the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) issued an advisory list for state and local governments of essential critical infrastructure workers that includes real estate and related government services as essential under the “Other Community- or Government-Based Operations and Essential Functions” section. The section specifically includes “Staff at government offices who perform title search, notary, and recording services in support of mortgage and real estate services and transactions” and “Residential and commercial real estate services, including settlement services.”
This list offers state and local governments guidance to understand the importance of including real estate as an essential service when drafting shelter-in-place orders. Read the Guidance on the Essential Critical Infrastructure Workforce.
Local Elections Postponed to November
On March 18, Gov. Greg Abbott issued a proclamation suspending provisions of the Texas Election Code to allow political subdivisions to postpone their 2020 local elections. This means local governments now have the ability to postpone their May 2 elections until November 3, 2020.
See a list of postponed local elections that Texas REALTORS® is maintaining.
Contact Texas REALTORS® to add a local entity to the list.
Primary Runoffs Rescheduled
On March 20, Gov. Abbott moved the May 26 primary runoff elections to July 14 to avoid large gatherings. REALTORS® are supporting several pro-real estate candidates in these races for Texas Senate and Texas House seats.
Texas Businesses Must File Property Tax Renditions by April 15
Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar reminds business owners that for many property types, April 15 is the deadline to file property tax renditions with their county appraisal districts. Different deadlines apply for certain regulated property. Business owners affected by the COVID-19 pandemic may request, in writing to the chief appraiser, an extension of the deadline to May 15. Read more
Coronavirus Relief Package Benefits REALTORS®
Congress has passed and President Trump has signed phases II and III of the Federal Coronavirus Relief package that includes many benefits for REALTORS®. Click here for NAR’s outline of the major provisions, including expansions of paid sick leave and family medical leave for workers, unemployment insurance, and small business loans.
How to apply for unemployment insurance
REALTORS® who are experiencing unemployment related to certain specified COVID-19-related reasons are now eligible to apply for unemployment insurance, thanks to the inclusion of self-employed individuals and independent contractors in the CARES Act.
Real estate professionals may be eligible to receive “Pandemic Unemployment Assistance” under this $2 trillion COVID-19 economic relief package. Read NAR’s analysis of more provisions in the law that affect REALTORS® and consumers.
NAR is maintaining a list of coronavirus advocacy FAQs, including this one:
Are independent contractors entitled to unemployment insurance?
Yes. Real estate professionals will be eligible to apply for unemployment insurance benefits, under the “Pandemic Unemployment Assistance” portion of the bill if they have been fully or partially unemployed due to an inability to work as a result of the COVID-19 public health emergency. This includes self-employed individuals and independent contractors. States use a benefit formula to determine benefit amounts. Unemployment benefits will be calculated based upon the weekly amount of compensation that the individual would have been paid as computed by the states for a week of total unemployment. In computing benefit amounts, states consider an individual’s wages based upon the most recent tax year, and net income from all self-employment that was reported on the individual’s tax return.
Texas REALTORS® can apply for unemployment insurance through the Texas Workforce Commission. As the website notes, TWC is receiving a high volume of applications and suggests using the online portal between 10 p.m. and 8 a.m. TWC has also expanded phone hours to 8 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday through Friday and 8 a.m.-5 p.m.
Apply for a small business loan
Another component of the CARES Act is the U.S. Small Business Administrations’ new Paycheck Protection Program, which authorizes up to $349 billion in forgivable loans to small businesses to pay their employees during the COVID-19 crisis.
All businesses with 500 or fewer employees may apply, including sole proprietors, independent contractors, gig economy workers, and self-employed individuals who are struggling to pay their bills due to the shutdowns and stay-in-place orders aimed at curbing the spread of the coronavirus.
The program is intended to cover payroll, mortgage interest, rent, and utilities for an 8-week period during the crisis. Small businesses and sole proprietors can apply beginning Friday, April 3. Independent contractors and the self-employed can apply beginning Friday, April 10.
Visit sba.gov for details on how to apply, who is eligible, a list of lenders, and more.
More resources for small business loans:
- Treasury.gov: PPP Borrower Information Fact Sheet
- Treasury.gov: Assistance for Small Businesses
- NAR’s Coronavirus Advocacy FAQs: Click on Independent Contractors/Small Business Concerns
- NAR’s “Economic Contribution of Small Business Industry by State
Federal Appraisal Standards
On March 23, the Federal Housing Finance Agency directed Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to allow the use of appraisal alternatives to reduce the need for appraisers to conduct interior property inspections for eligible mortgages through May 17, 2020. This move is intended to reduce transaction delays due to appraisers unable or unwilling to enter properties to conduct interior inspections. See more updates on federal advocacy at nar.realtor/coronavirus.
Potential Impact on Property Taxes
Property tax reform legislation passed in 2019 lowers the amount most cities and counties may increase property tax rates year to year without voter approval from 8% to 3.5%. However, a Governor-declared disaster could allow that amount to stay at 8%. Texas REALTORS®️ continues to monitor this and other issues relevant to Texas real estate.
NAR Requests CRE Relief
NAR is advocating for the interests of commercial real estate in relief packages and stimulus plans. NAR’s commercial real estate membership includes specialists in multifamily properties, small businesses, retail/restaurants, warehouses, and offices, among others. Read what NAR is doing.