In Los Angeles, you can show homes again

Mayor Eric Garcetti loosens restrictions on property visits

Mayor Eric Garcetti (Credit: Araya Diaz/Getty Images)
Mayor Eric Garcetti (Credit: Araya Diaz/Getty Images)

L.A. real estate agents can get off their Zoom calls, and go back to showing properties.

Mayor Eric Garcetti released a revised “Safer at Home” order Monday that states, “housing units and real property may be shown” by appointment if there are no more than two visitors at a time.

Home showings of renter-occupied units are only allowed if the property owner obtains the tenant’s written consent.

The revised city law does not lift the ban on open houses, and it is not known if L.A. County will follow in the city’s footsteps. A message left Wednesday with the County Board of Supervisors was not immediately returned.

But the measure lifts the shackles for many agents who miss doing what they do best: pitching a physical property to a potential buyer.

Previous to the mayor’s orders, L.A. agents were breaking the law if they showed a property that wasn’t vacant.

“This is a giant step in the right direction,” said Michael Nourmand, president of Nourmand & Associates. “I think this is a big deal for a lot of my agents.”

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Nourmand said the measure is particularly helpful to agents with a book of clients whom they can pencil-in for individual appointments. Less established agents, though, may be hurt by the continued lack of open houses.

Stephen Kotler, chief executive of Douglas Elliman’s West Region, said the measure could spur a resurgence in the L.A. residential market by increasing inventory.

How far the home sales market has fallen amid the Covid-19 pandemic is unclear. Sales are still closing now on homes put in escrow before state and local quarantine orders struck in the middle of March.

Initial research by appraiser Jonathan Miller indicates that home sales began to drop by the third week of march, as did the number of homes posted on the Multiple Listings Service.

Also unclear is the success of virtual tours in lieu of physical showings. Some brokers claim agents are doing multiple deals virtually from start-to-finish.

But others point out that “iBuying” companies like Opendoor announced layoffs amid the pandemic, underscoring the relative stability of traditional real estate brokerages.

“It shows the importance of physically showing homes,” said Stephen Shapiro, chairman and co-founder of Westside Estate Agency.