Fair Housing Issues are in the Details

Jonathan Dalton, Phoenix Real Estate Agent“The people I’m working with told me I shouldn’t buy in this part of the city but in this other part of the city because of the crime. What do you think?”

The time for my least favorite but most important explanation …

“Legally, the Fair Housing Act prohibits me from steering you to or from any particular area, but I’ll happily provide you links to the crime stats.”

What’s interesting is the crime statistics all were at a city-wide level, which is illuminating despite not being revealing. Without hard statistics, all that’s left is the perception of this buyers’ new co-workers. Which is entirely valid, but not something I’m able either to support or deny per the Fair Housing Act.

Without data to support their assertion about crime, what foundation is there for an argument? Is the perception based on actual knowledge, on anecdotal information or a feeling they get based on who’s living in the area? That is what is at the heart of the Fair Housing Act.

Let’s take this another direction, courtesy of former President Clinton.

“Mr. President, we’d like to live in a safe area.”

“What does ‘safe’ mean?”

“Um … an area with low crime.”

“How do you define ‘low’?”

“I don’t know … less than other areas.”

“What other areas? Locally? Nationally?”

“Can’t you just tell what is safe?”

“That depends on what ‘is’ means.”

Hopefully, you get the point. Buyers have every right to make their decisions based on subjective criteria. But that’s the one area in which a real estate professional (at least one concerned with the Fair Housing Act) cannot assist.

There are exceptions; one buyer gleefully told me of an open house in Scottsdale where the agent pointed to a map and said “you don’t want to live there.”

I only can hope a secret government shopper comes in one day. Goodbye, real estate license. Hello, lawsuit. And they’ll be one less shady agent in the industry.

[tags]Phoenix real estate, Fair Housing Act[/tags]

Jonathan Dalton

Jonathan Dalton is a 40-plus-year resident of the Valley and has been helping folks buy and sell homes since 2004. He can be reached at 602-502-9693 or info at allphoenixrealestate.com.


  • Maureen M. 10 years ago

    I get frustrated with crime stats at the city wide level or crime stats based on ZIP code… but it “is” what it “is.” I think.

    “Tell me what neighborhoods you want… “”Tell me where you want to look at homes.”

  • Rod Rebello 10 years ago

    Thanks for another take on how to deal with this. I seem to get the “safe” question every time I start working with a buyer. My typical lame response: “Eh, sorry, can’t answer that question – here’s a link to find statistics…”. Azcentral has a nice crime map function that lets you map reported crimes up to a year old down to the street level (http://www.azcentral.com/CrimeMaps).