HOME SERVICES: What can’t your real estate agent tell you?


Buying a home is an important decision. Whether you are a first-time home buyer or a veteran, questions will arise about the homes you view, the areas you visit, and the process you are facing.

Josh Vernon’s team will be happy to answer your questions and make your trip an enjoyable one. However, keep in mind that there are some questions that realtors cannot answer – at least not by law. You might expect your real estate agent to be able to answer all of the questions, but the Fair Housing Act means certain things are just not allowed.

What are the things the agent is not allowed to discuss? Under federal law, your agent cannot disclose area information related to race, color, religion, nationality, gender, disability, or marital status. Why don’t your agent reveal these things? The law is designed to prevent discrimination by prohibiting real estate agents from “referring” clients to or from certain areas based on any of these criteria.

Here are a few more things your agent won’t (shouldn’t) answer. Is this a “safe” area? The safe is relatively. Security can mean one thing to you and another to your agent. In addition, this question may relate to crime statistics and can be seen as a reference to race. Crime statistics are publicly available, and as a buyer, you can search to see if a location meets your personal safety criteria.

Are the schools “good”? As above, good is a relative concept. You can think about academia, test scores, and scholarships while your agent thinks about sports. Your agent is not allowed to discuss the school’s work because it may be considered discriminatory. However, as a buyer, you can study the school. You can visit the school. You can talk to teachers and neighbors to see if this is best for your family.

What about the religious makeup of the community? Your real estate agent cannot tell you what the religious makeup of the community is, and cannot direct you to a specific one, even if you ask. They can provide you with a complete list of houses of worship in the area. They can direct you to your geographic location after you research places of worship in a specific location. Again, the Fair Housing Act does not allow an agent to direct a buyer to or from a home for religious reasons.

What kind of people live here? Your real estate agent cannot tell you what the ethnic makeup of the community is, nor can you direct you to a specific area at your request.

This is similar to the question of religion, referring clients to areas based on certain nationalities and races can be viewed as discriminatory regardless of personal preference. You can check the census bureau and it will provide you with a breakdown by race and ethnicity.

Will this be a “good” area for my family if I’m single, if I don’t want to be with children, etc.? To find out if an area is right for you or your family, take a look at local playgrounds, gyms, restaurants, community centers, libraries, event venues and events. Visit their websites and follow their social media feeds. Find out what amenities are available and what events are in the city. You can find a lot of information about a particular place from local events, companies and publications.

Now you probably think that I can ask my agent. The area is much more than the ones listed above. You can ask about sidewalks and hiking trails. You can ask about proximity to your place of work, a particular restaurant, dog parks, or the interstate motorway. You can find out details about the house and the cost of living in the area. Mike and Brandi Brown and the Josh Vernon group are here to help answer your legal questions to help you make the best decisions with your largest investment.

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