Mum Isn’t Always the Word.
In case you don’t know, real estate appraisers and most real estate professionals are bound by the Fair Housing Act. The Fair Housing Act exists to protect people against discrimination in the business based on a number of factors, the biggest being:
“Race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status, or handicap.”
This is all perfectly understandable- discrimination is wrong in any business. When it comes to real estate though, the Fair Housing Act can get in the way of a couple burning questions most clients have about the neighborhood, such as…
Average Income. (Is it a poor neighborhood? We don’t want to be the wealthiest or poorest neighbors in the area.)
Schools. (What are the schools like in the area? How many kids are in private school? )
Education. (Is the neighborhood mostly educated? Did most homeowners graduate high school or have a degree?)
Religion. (There’s a Mosque/Church/Temple up the street… Is this neighborhood mostly Christian/Muslim/Jewish?)
Sexual Orientation. (Is this a gay-friendly neighborhood?)
Crime Statistics. (What’s the crime like in this area… will my children be safe here?)
Environmental Concerns. (Is this a green neighborhood? Does most of the neighborhood recycle?)
Anyone can understand how a client might be frustrated when their agent can’t share answers to these burning questions. Just because you can’t answer questions like this, however, doesn’t mean you can’t point your clients in the right direction to answer these questions for themselves.
Below we’ve put together a list of websites that can easily be searched to research every issue above.
Questions About Income
While you can’t answer questions about the neighborhood, you can always refer your clients to websites like a well known and regularly updated map of average income for different neighborhoods.
Questions About Religion
The ARDA: Association of Religion Data Archives is a great place to search predominant religion percentages for any target area, down to the zip code. Most of the time “undeclared” will easily top the list, but the 2nd and 3rd places usually reflect the major religions in the area.
Questions About Crime
Crime is probably the simplest of these fields to search for on your own. If your client can’t pull off a Google search themselves, here are a couple sights that offer a frequently updated, comprehensive crime map ready for them to search.
Questions About The Environment
Clients with environmental concerns don’t have too many tools at their disposal to research their neighborhood. Luckily, the epa does offer a “my environment” search, giving them a breakdown of air, water, energy, and regular health statistics in the area. It even offers a list on land use, focusing on “national priorities among the known releases or threatened releases of hazardous substances, pollutants, or contaminants throughout the United States and its territories.”
A Multi-Functional Site:
Many search engines can answer several of these questions all at once. http://www.city-data.com/ is a powerhouse of information, giving you all the details you’d need on a zip-code- from education to religion to earthquake frequency (although we hope that’s not a concern). Here you can find race/ethnicity population percentages, educational statistics, what population in the area is enrolled in private schools, median home value/rent stats, and so on.
Just to be clear, we don’t condone violating the Fair Housing Act in any way. The Fair Housing Act’s restrictions exist to prevent discrimination, all real estate professionals with any integrity need aby by them. The purpose of this article is so that next time a client asks you about the schools in an area, instead of saying “I can’t talk about that.” you can say “I can’t talk about that, but here’s a place that can answer your questions.”
Jonathan Montgomery is the founder and president of the The Real Estate Appraisal Group, and has been a real estate professional since 1998. He has been a broker, an investor, and currently works full-time as an appraiser. He enjoys handling real estate appraisals in Washington D.C., Southern Maryland, and Northern Virginia.
#TREAGroup #RealEstate #HomeInspection #FairHousingAct