Purchasing a home is a huge decision. Whether you are a first-time home buyer, or a veteran buyer, questions will arise about the houses you view, the neighborhoods you visit, and the process you encounter.
The Josh Vernon Group is happy to answer your questions and make the journey a pleasant one. However, be aware that there are some questions realtors are not allowed to answer – not legally, anyway. You may expect your real estate agent to be able to answer all questions, but the Fair Housing Act means some things are simply off-limits.
What kind of things are off limits for an agent to discuss? By Federal law, your agent can’t disclose details of a neighborhood related to race, color, religion, nationality, sex, disability, and familial status. Why would your agent not disclose these things? The law is designed to prevent discrimination by prohibiting real estate agents from “steering” clients into or from specific neighborhoods based on any of these criteria.
Here are a few other things your agent will not (should not) answer. Is it a “safe” neighborhood? Safe is relative. Safe may mean one thing to you, yet another to your agent. In addition, this question could reference crime statistics and could be viewed as reference to race. Crime statistics are public record and as a buyer you can search to see if the location meets your personal criteria for safety.
Are the schools “good?” As above, good is a relative term. You might be thinking academics, testing scores , and scholarships while your agent is thinking sports. Your agent is not allowed to discuss the performance of a school because this could be viewed as discriminatory. However, as a buyer you can research the school. You can visit the school. You can talk to teachers and neighbors to find out of it is the best fit for your family.
What about the religious makeup of the community? Your real estate agent cannot tell you what the religious makeup of a community is, nor can they steer you toward a specific one even if you ask. What they can provide you with is a complete list of houses of worship in an area. They can take you to see a home that you specify by geographic location, after you research places of worship in a specific location. Again, the Fair Housing Act does not allow an agent to steer a buyer toward or away from a home based on religion.
What kind of people live here? Your real estate agent can neither tell you what the ethnic makeup of a community is, nor take you to a specific one at your request.
This is similar to the question religion, steering clients to neighborhoods based on specific nationalities and races can be seen as discrimination, regardless of personal preference. You can check the census bureau and it will give you a breakdown of the racial and ethnic makeup.
Would this be a “good” neighborhood for my family, if I’m single, if I don’t want to be around kids, etc? To know whether a neighborhood will be a good fit for you, or your family, take a look at the local playgrounds, gyms, restaurants, community centers, libraries, venues, and events. Visit their websites and follow their social media feeds. See what kind of amenities are available, and what kind of activities the town hosts. You can discover a lot of information about a place through its local events, businesses, and publications.
By now you may be thinking, what can I ask my agent. There’s a lot more to a neighborhood than the things above. You can ask about sidewalks and walking trails. You can ask about proximity to your place of employment, a specific restaurant, dog parks, or the interstate. You can ask the details of the home and comps for the neighborhood. Mike and Brandie Brown and the Josh Vernon Group are here to help answer your questions legally in order to help you make the best decisions with your biggest investment.