5 things agents can’t tell you (and how to find out yourself)
Using a real estate agent is a great way to avoid many of the headaches (and potential heartaches!) associated with buying or selling a home. As part of their services they can help you appropriately price your home, negotiate on your behalf, and their access to an MLS –an exclusive network of property listings– can help you sell your home or find the right one before the general public ever sees it. But, as licensed professionals, there are some things that your agent can’t tell you.
Not won’t tell you, but legally or ethically, I’m-sorry-but-I-really-cannot-tell-you.
Now that doesn’t mean you’re on your own and just have to hope for the best, though. For that information, you’re going to have to do some of the digging yourself. Here are the 5 surprising things your real estate agent can’t tell you.
“This area is great for young families!”
This one seems so innocent and well-intentioned, but is actually illegal! Maybe you passed a park on the way to the home or noticed the nearby elementary school, but whether you’re looking to live in an area where your kids can roam with the neighbors or you’re trying to avoid children altogether, your agent isn’t allowed to tell you who lives in the area.
Reasoning: Under the 1968 Fair Housing Act, family structure is a protected class meaning a comment like this could dissuade older couples or a single party from the property, making it illegal.
How to find your answers: If driving through the area isn’t an option, Google maps is one of the best tools for doing neighborhood recon. Simply type in the address of the property you’re looking at and check out the area you’re interested in. Are there parks and schools nearby or is it in a more industrial area? Is the area filled with side streets and cul de sacs or is it on one of the main roads? Depending on what you’re looking for you may want to switch your search based on what you see.
“You don’t want to live in that area. That’s where the [nationality, gender, age group] live!”
In addition to not telling you where to live based on the demographics, your agent also cannot tell you not to live somewhere because of the people in the neighborhood.
Reasoning: As mentioned above, the Fair Housing Act prevents any discriminatory statements based on protected classes.
How to find your answers: You can find out more about the general demographics of an area by checking out the US Census Bureau’s website. This tool, with most recent studies being from 2016 can tell you the age, sex, and race of the population down to a zip code level.
“Are you sure you’re interested in that area? It’s pretty high crime.”
While you might think that an agent saying this is just looking out for you, this is another no-no statement. Crime statistics are public information, but because crime rates often lead to conclusions about the racial makeup of an area, your agent is best protected by letting you find your own conclusions.
Reasoning: Race is a protected class under the Fair Housing Act and whether it’s the intention or not, discussing the crime rate of a particular area could lead to assumptions about the racial makeup of that area.
How to find your answers: If finding out about crime in an area is of particular interest to you there are plenty of free sources to look. The National Sex Offender Public Website (NSOPW) offers a location-based lookup that links the data from public state, territorial, and tribal sex offender websites. To find incident-level crime lookup, you may have to check a couple of website as not every jurisdiction reports to every available site. Here are some good ones to start with: MyNeighborhoodUpdate, CrimeReports, SpotCrime, and NeighborhoodWatchDog. You can also check the website of the local police station as they may provide a link to the crime mapping site they use.
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