Like it or not, in your career, you potentially have to deal with issues of discrimination in real estate.
While race and gender identity seem to be the ones in the news this year, discrimination can encompass many subjects, such as age, familial status, disabilities, and religion. Keep all of them in mind as you prepare your marketing materials.
We can’t turn on the TV without hearing someone scream about racism. Last week I even read that a big rock has been labeled racist and must be removed from a college campus. Why? Because in 1925 someone wrote an article and gave it a name that is a racial slur. Someone had to really dig to find that one.
Personally, I think college students should spend more time studying instead of looking for reasons to be offended, but that’s just me.
The bottom line today is that you must be careful not to do or say anything that could be construed as discrimination in real estate.
Take the time to learn the contents of the Fair Housing Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act. In addition, since things change, read everything that comes from NAR and your state and local boards.
Thankfully, some of the nonsense from the 1990’s has died down. Back then we had to be careful not to say or write words like “master bedroom,” “walk-in closet,” “see,” or even “Easter Bunny.” People were being reported and even fined and sued for such crimes.
I have not read the current regulations, but you should.
- Is it acceptable to use the word “family” when describing who might love your new 6-bedroom listing? Better check.
- As we come into the holiday season, are you allowed to say that having a signed purchase and sale agreement would be a wonderful Christmas gift? Is it safe to wish your clients and prospects “Merry Christmas?” How about “Happy Hanukkah?”
- Can you write “Enjoy spectacular sunset views?” or is it safer to simply state that there are sunset views?
At a time when more and more people want to see themselves as victims, you can’t be too careful. You could have no discriminatory intent at all, yet say, do, or write something that someone could interpret that way. Do keep in mind that people of any race, religion, age, etc. can decide to be offended.
Back in the 90’s the rule of thumb was not to exclude anyone. We couldn’t say “walk-in closet” because some people are unable to walk. We couldn’t say see or hear because some people cannot.
What if you have listing clients who want to discriminate in real estate?
If your clients want to practice discrimination in real estate, you have two choices. You can either convince them to change their minds or you can decline to represent them. Pleasing one client is not worth risking your reputation – or your license – or your bank account.
What if your buyers want to find a home near others who are “like them?”
This is the situation you are most likely to encounter. Personally, I don’t blame them. We all want to be around people who share our lifestyle, customs, etc.
If I had young children, I’d want to move into a neighborhood where they could meet other kids. If I was a swinging single, I probably wouldn’t want to move into a neighborhood of young families – or one filled with grandparents.
Groups of people have always congregated together for mutual support and a sense of community. Many still do. They want to be near others who share their religion or ethnic background – or their lifestyle. At least it is not yet considered discriminatory to help those who want to live on a golf course, near an equestrian center, or adjacent to a boatable waterway.
Even if community is what buyers want, you can’t make it easier for them.
You aren’t allowed to share information that would help them choose a neighborhood based on “likeness,” so what can you do?
You can direct them to a page on your website filled with links to area and neighborhood information.
If you search, you’ll find demographics, a listing of churches, crime statistics, city utilities, schools, area attractions, shopping centers, medical facilities, etc. City Data is one of the sites that offer a variety of information. Another good place to start when searching for links to offer is Wikipedia.
If you search for your city or neighborhood, you might even find blogs that tell about neighborhood events, such as yard sales, 4th of July celebrations, Christmas parades, etc. I’ve found a wealth of information when researching for community pages.
Make all of those links available so your home buyers can do their own research and come to their own conclusions.
Second, you can suggest that they drive through the neighborhoods at different times of day.
I know – right now you don’t want to advise anyone to wait to make an offer. So instead, encourage them to choose the neighborhoods for their home search by doing advance research.
Be careful. Don’t give anyone the opportunity to accuse you of practicing discrimination in real estate.
Young family Image courtesy of photostock at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Senior lady Image courtesy of imagerymajestic at FreeDigitalPhotos.net