Ask an Agent: What is the Deal With Fair Housing Laws?

  • November 25th 2009

by Mark Wellborn

Ask an Agent: What is the Deal With Fair Housing Laws?: Figure 1

In this week's installment of Ask An Agent, a reader wonders why real estate agents cannot answer basic questions about neighborhood crime levels and schools. W.C. & A.N. Miler's Pamela Wye offers up some insight.

Question: A friend recently told me that her real estate agent was not allowed to describe the neighborhoods where she was interested in buying and the types of people that tend to live in them because of "fair housing" laws. What are these laws and why do they prevent agents from answering these basic questions?

Answer: Your agent was correct in telling you that she cannot answer these types of questions. Questions like "Will I find other young, single professionals in this neighborhood?" or "Does this neighborhood have a crime problem?" make real estate agents cringe.

While these inquiries seem fairly innocent and obvious, real estate agents are barred from responding as it would be in violation of The Fair Housing Act. The Fair Housing Act was passed in the late 1960s to prevent discrimination in real estate based on race, color, religion, national origin, sex, handicap and familiar status. The goal of the law was to give Americans equal access to the housing of their choice and to prevent "steering", which is when real estate agents guide their buyers toward or away from certain properties and neighborhoods based on any of the factors mentioned above.

While the intention of the law is good, the tight-lipped policy can often leave buyers frustrated and wondering why the person working for them will not answer basic questions about buildings and neighborhoods. As there is no way around this, buyers should do all the neighborhood research they can on their own before purchasing in a certain area. There are a variety of new tools and sites on the internet that make this process easy.

If you would like to submit a question for Ask An Agent, send an email to editor@urbanturf.com.

See other articles related to: ask an agent, fair housing, pamela wye

This article originally published at https://dc.urbanturf.com/articles/blog/ask_an_agent_what_is_the_deal_with_fair_housing_laws/1548.

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