Working with a buyer’s agent can be a huge asset, they’re a great resource when shopping for a new construction home. They can answer a myriad of technical questions about the home, market and mortgage process and can ultimately save you money on the purchase of your new home (read about the many benefits). While you can rely on their expertise on most topics. Realtor.com advises that there are four questions you should not expect your agent to answer. The reason for this isn’t that they don’t know or can’t find the answers, more than likely they are knowledgeable on the topic. There are some topics that fall under the purview of the Fair Housing Act, legislation designed to protect against discrimination on the basis of race, religion sex or family/economic status. Broaching the following topic with your agents might not yield fruitful answers so we’ll tell you how to find the answers on your own.
1. Would this be a good place to raise a family?
Answering a question regarding kids address family status and can put an Agent in dangerous territory in terms of Fair Housing. They can’t state that an area might not be “family-friendly” because that implies that children aren’t welcome. Conversely, designating neighborhood as “family-friendly” might exclude families without kids. Both statements could be construed as discriminatory.
If you’re curious about a neighborhood take a drive around see what you can observe. Often residents are more than happy to talk about their experiences living in the neighborhood.
2. What is the neighborhood like?
“Redlining” is a term that will quickly put real estate agents on edge--it is the practice of steering a potential homebuyer towards or away from a specific neighborhood based on race. If your agent were to make any comments that skirt around the topic of neighborhood composition they run the risk of redlining.
If you’d like to learn more about an area’s makeup, visit the U.S. Census Bureau’s website. Or, for a less statistcal approach, take advantage of realtor.com®/local. You can use the site to discover more about a neighborhood and ask questions of current residents in the area.
3. Is this a safe neighborhood?
Similar to the redlining mentioned above, if you were to ask your Realtor if a neighborhood is safe and they responded, many comments (for instance if they were pertaining to gang violence) might be construed as racist. These comments could be interpreted as steering.
Websites such as My Local Crime can provide crime statistics, providing maps showing the location of individual incidents. If you call the non-emergency line at your local police station they can likely provide similar information.
4. Is this a good school system?
It’s probably starting to sound like a familiar theme...When asked about the quality of school systems Realtors should also approach with caution. Unfortunately America’s history of racial divide is sometimes evidenced in schools and comments regarding the caliber of a school could potentially be interpreted as racist.
Thankfully there are an abundance of websites that are great resources for ranking schools in your area. Check out Great Schools and School Digger.
If you’re shopping new construction, the good news is that many master-planned new construction communities often include new schools as part of their design. Cane Bay, Carnes Crossroads, Carolina Park, Nexton and Summers Corner all have new schools that are garnering positive attention.
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