There are federal, state, and sometimes, local laws that protect fair housing for all. Those laws, at a federal level, apply to every one of us. There might be some variations on local laws where additional protected classes are named.
We are not allowed to steer buyers. HUD and the Fair Housing Alliance report that there are frequent violations. Many times, a licensee did not believe they were steering, or discriminating against any protected class, or any person...BUT......the consumer or a tester.....might interpret something said to be a violation. Most agents extend substantial efforts to support fair housing laws, because the vast majority of agents fully believe and support that there should be fair housing for all. Because statements can be easily misconstrued, agents will take a position of high sensitivity to risk.
Example #1: A seller lives on same street as a beautiful church well known in the community because it is beautiful, and near a main intersection. Seller lives 2 blocks down on the same street. When this seller gives directions to his house, he tells....an acquaintance, friend, or contractor to......â€Come down â€œxâ€ street to the corner of â€œxâ€ and â€œyâ€. â€œABC Church is right there....Turn left....go 2 blocks past ABC Church and Iâ€™m right there.â€
The seller lists his house w/ our company, and wants us to list the above directions in our listing. We cannot do that. While the seller is not promoting that church, not even a member of that church, nor does he...or we.... care what religion a buyer might be.....the mere mention of that church raises doubt in the mind of some buyers. Certain buyers might interpret those directions to imply people of a certain faith are encouraged to buy in the neighborhood, or people of a faith different than ABC church might not be welcome, etc. In fact, the seller isnâ€™t a member and his ONLY intent was to reference the landmark. It could have been a grocery store or petting zoo. But, for reasons of fair housing law compliance, we must not risk having any consumer being led to think or feel they are being steered toward or away from any neighborhood because of religion. The mere mention of a church can be problematic for a real estate licensee if a consumer or tester THINKS something was meant by it.
Example #2: I visit relatives in a suburb of a large city in another state. My relatives never go to that city, and stay in the suburbs. When I visit, my relatives become immensely concerned when I make plans to go to the city, warning me that it is not safe. Their view of what is safe and mine are entirely different.
What is safe? No one has the same answer. And, steering is against law. Itâ€™s a good law. Fair Housing is important. The reason real estate licensees have become more and more restricted in what they say is because there have been so many instances where a consumer or tester questioned what the underlying communication or motive were of the content of info provided. Even when licensees are cleared of any violation, the prudent licensee avoids the possibility of misinterpretation.
There has been substantial testing and investigation of comments about schools and whether those comments violate fair housing laws. HUD and the Fair Housing Alliance document several cases being investigated where an agent said, â€œThis is a good school.â€ Or â€œThat is not a very good school.â€ and such was deemed a violation of the fair housing laws. It was deemed by the investigators through their â€œtestersâ€ that good and bad schools were utilized to foster segregation and racial discrimination. For years, real estate agents talked about schools, but you see many agents now very cautious about providing opinions on schools, because they do not want anything they say to be misconstrued as an attempt to steer.
As a consumer, I understand your post. As a person and real estate licensee, I am 100% completely committed to fair housing and equal opportunity for all. As a Realtor, I provide data sources, and not to answer subjective questions, such as â€œIs it safe?â€ or â€œWhich area is safe?â€ because their isnâ€™t a right answer to those questions. The answer is subjective and requires the buyerâ€™s due diligence.
I do tell buyers to pick up the phone and call the local police dept. Ask them where the police blotter reports are published. Retrieve several back papers for those blotters, and review them. And, yes, I also direct buyers to visit websites and review data there. I wish I had a better solution for you. I hope that my explanation is helpful in understanding why real estate licensees respond in the manner they do.
As a start Trulia has a page with some information: http://www.trulia.com/real_estate/Coral_Springs-Florida/comm
Henry Leon - Realtor
Attractive Realty Group LLC - Coral Springs, FL