What I Can’t Tell You and Why

Jonathan Dalton, Phoenix Real Estate AgentDon’t ask me to find you a home in a “good” area. Don’t ask me to tell you which schools are the “good” ones. I do not have an opinion on the matter. Legally I cannot have an opinion on the matter.

One client this week asked me if a certain area was “good.” I said I can’t legally answer that question. She laughed until she saw that I wasn’t laughing. “It’s against Fair Housing statutes for me to answer your question,” I said.

“Other agents do,” she said, recalling open houses she had visited in Scottsdale where some agents allegedly weren’t shy about identifying where she and husband should and shouldn’t buy.

“If a mystery shopper comes through,” I said, “they’re in for a world of trouble. My license is too valuable to risk.”

Steering is prohibited by the Fair Housing Act. “Good” and “bad” when used in relation to neighborhoods or schools often are code relating to race or color. Not always but sometimes. The Fair Housing Act prohibits real estate agents from steering buyers to or from any neighborhood.

Besides, the idea of “good” or “bad” is pointless. What might be a good area to me may not be good in someone else’s opinion. It’s purely subjective. Judge the area by your own internal filter, tell me yea or nay and we’ll move on from there.

Don’t ask me if it’s a good neighborhood. I won’t tell you. I can’t tell you. My license is more valuable than any one possibly lost commission.

If you encounter agents who blatantly break the law when it comes to Fair Housing, ask yourself if this is the type of person with whom you want to do business.

That answer, I can tell you.

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


  • Jim Duncan 10 years ago

    It’s amazing what some people ask. Better safe than sorry.

  • Athol Kay 10 years ago

    Is this a good area is such a dumb question really. Just drive through the area. 5 minutes will tell you everything you need to know most times.

    If buyers were smart they would ask your opinion on whether or not you thought the area would appreciate better or worse than other local areas. Are there any looming public works like a new school being built, or businesses building in the area.

  • Jonathan Dalton 10 years ago

    I agree, Jim.

    Appreciation also can be a little sticky, Athol, but I see where you’re going with it. Objective data is a piece of cake. It’s the subjective that I avoid.

  • Athol Kay 10 years ago

    I say new school as an example because in my suburb the 100+ year old school is gong to be replaced by a $120M new building. Plus we’re getting (finally) a full highway extension through as well.

    These are pretty objective things that we can point to as positive indicators that aren’t happening other parts of town. You wouldn’t see any of this on a drive through, and it won’t really show up on public data either.

    Of course public works can change, and even then it’s simply one factor among many whether an area would appreciate. But even so, it seems meaningful.

  • Jeff Brown 10 years ago

    This is where PC has taken us.

    For instance, if you answered the school question with objective, historical percentages of high school graduates attending four year colleges, would that be against the law?

    If you handed over crime stats per neighborhood?

    One of the newer docs folks must sign is the whole sex offender search. I guess that’s ok, right?

    Is this a good area? Any Rand was a prophet. 🙂

  • Athol Kay 10 years ago

    No that isn’t against the law at all Jeff. In fact it’s what we’re instructed to do by our legal department people at our brokerages.

    If asked about the school system, we can’t say “it’s great”, but we can say “here are the official stats”. Hopefully the stats manage to say “it’s great”.

    The fact is we’re often asked, or flat out told that “we don’t want to sell to black people”, or “don’t want to live near hispanics”. It’s really unbelieveable what some people are prepared to say to an agent, and the offensive part is they just assume racism is the default setting for all white people.