Does it ever seem like you have specific questions that you ask your Realtor but they never seem to give you a straight answer? Sometimes you just want them to give their opinion or the inside scoop. As frustrating as it is, unfortunately, there are certain topics your agent just can’t stick their neck out on. Answering certain questions or giving out selective information may be grounds to be accused of illegal steering.
1. Neighborhood Economic Status
Giving such information might allude to the state of the neighborhood, which is a big no-no for agents. Don’t let this deter you from doing your own research. Homes.com provides a wonderful link on home values that allows purchasers to evaluate demographic statistics. Home shoppers are more than freed up to do investigative research on a neighborhood that they feel best suits them. Purchasers can also check the “fact finder” section of the U.S. Census Bureau Web site.
2. Local School System
Just like discussing neighborhood economics, realtors also can’t tell you which school system is “not so good” and which is preferred. Realtors may be able to speak to publicly acknowledged test scores but not which one is better or which school systems carries what reputation. Again, purchasers are perfectly allowed to conduct their own research, study school statistics, and think about private schools. A realtor cannot sway your decision towards or away from certain neighborhoods.
Sharing any information with regard to religion could also put a realtor in hot water. Fair housing laws say you can’t steer someone to or from a neighborhood based on race, color, or other protected categories. Realtors therefore only provide a generic overview of a neighborhood and its inhabitants. Drive through the neighborhood and take note of places of worship if this is of concern to you. Realtors can also provide you with a list of nearby places of worship too.
4. Crime Rate
Even though this information is public, the Fair Housing Act prohibits your realtor from talking about the crime rate. Crime statistics could be interpreted as references to race so most realtors will wisely choose to direct purchasers to reach their own conclusions. Consider using a site like Family Watchdog to discern whether your future home purchase is in an area with low crime rates. Also, do your own due diligence. Drive through the neighborhood on various days and at various times to get a feel for the area.
Fair housing violations are a big deal. Damages, civil penalties, and attorney fees can add up quick! That’s why the next time you ask your realtor a question that could be misconstrued as illegal steering you may be getting the silent treatment. Most realtors are more than happy to help you come to your own conclusions by suggesting websites, resources, and/or common practices to get a feel for where to live. As the US Department of Housing and Urban Development suggests “where you live is your choice, don’t let anyone tell you differently.” Ready to start your investigating?