Posted on December 23, 2010

What a Real Estate Agent Can’t Tell You

Stacey Bradford, AOL Real Estate, December 6, 2010

A good real estate agent is very familiar with the neighborhoods where he or she shows properties. But because of legislation called the Fair Housing Act, the agent can’t legally share all of that information with you.

{snip} The government wants to make sure that home purchase decisions are based on a property’s fair market value and not factors such as race, religion or ethnicity. In other words, the law is meant to stop agents from steering clients toward or away from certain neighborhoods.


The Do-Not-Ask List

Household income: Wondering if a neighborhood is considered upscale? Don’t bother asking your agent. Klein [Scott Klein, a New York City agent] says he can’t discuss economic class with prospective buyers.

But it’s relatively easy to find demographic information online, including average household income for a particular area. {snip}

Schools: As with income level, sharing information about schools “might be perceived as steering someone into a certain neighborhood,” says Klein. {snip}


Religion: The religious makeup of a neighborhood is another topic that’s off-limits for real estate agents to discuss. {snip}

Crime statistics: Surely an agent can answer questions about local crime statistics, right? That’s pretty public information. But it turns out that even this data is considered a sensitive topic under the Fair Housing Act.

Once again, buyers have to do their own research to find out if a certain neighborhood is considered safe. {snip}

Klein also recommends that his clients pay a visit to the local police precinct and walk around the neighborhood to get a feel for it at during different times of the day.

Environmental concerns: A buyer would want to know if, say, a home is located near a Superfund site. In general, a real estate agent isn’t going to be much help when it comes to neighborhood environmental issues. Buyers will need to figure this out on their own. {snip}