Buying a home is one of the most significant investments a person can make in their lifetime. For many buyers, finding the right neighborhood is just as important as finding the right property. However, when asking a real estate agent about the quality of a neighborhood, the answer may be more complicated than expected.
Real estate agents are bound by fair housing laws that prohibit them from making statements that could be considered discriminatory. The Fair Housing Act was enacted in 1968 and makes it illegal to discriminate against someone based on their race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status, or disability. In Connecticut, for example, the protected classes under fair housing laws include race, color, national origin, sex (gender), religion, children or family status, disability (mental or physical), ancestry, marital status, age (except minors), sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, legal source of income (refusing to accept Section 8, for example), and veteran status.
Real estate agents cannot make subjective statements that could be seen as "steering" or directing potential buyers towards or away from certain areas based on their protected characteristics. This includes comments on whether a neighborhood is "good" or "bad," as such comments are often based on subjective opinions and can be seen as discriminatory.
It is important for real estate agents to stick to objective facts about a neighborhood, such as its location, features, and amenities. For example, an agent may provide information about the availability of public transportation or nearby shopping centers. By providing factual information, agents can help buyers make informed decisions without running afoul of fair housing laws.
Buyers can find objective information about a neighborhood by conducting their own research. They can access public data, such as crime statistics and school ratings, and review information from online forums and social media groups. Local organizations, such as chambers of commerce and neighborhood associations, can also provide valuable insights into the community's culture and quality of life.
It is important to note that real estate agents cannot answer questions about the quality of a neighborhood that are subjective in nature, such as "How are the local schools?" or "Is this a good place to raise a family?" Such questions are based on personal opinions and can be seen as discriminatory. Instead, agents should focus on providing objective information that can help buyers make informed decisions.
In conclusion, real estate agents must be careful when discussing the quality of a neighborhood with buyers. By sticking to objective facts and avoiding subjective opinions, agents can help buyers make informed decisions without violating fair housing laws. Buyers can do their own research to find information about a neighborhood, and should feel free to ask their agent for objective information that can help them make informed decisions. Together, agents and buyers can ensure that the buying process is fair, unbiased, and discrimination-free.