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When your Realtor goes mum...here's why

There are just some questions agents cannot answer

January 6, 2014
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Questions Your Realtor Can’t Answer

You may be a single woman looking for a home and neighborhood where you can feel safe at night. Or a family with children who would like other kids to live nearby for easy play dates.

Maybe you’re a senior who likes his peace and quiet and wants to avoid living next to rowdy young adults. So you hire a real estate professional to help you find exactly what you’re looking for. After all, buying a home is the biggest purchase in your life so you should get everything you want.

But when you ask your realtor about the people that live in the building or area you’re interested in, you don’t get an answer. Some common questions agents will have to turn away are:

1. Is this area safe?

2. What kinds of people live in the building/neighborhood?

3. Is this place family-friendly?

4. Are the schools good?

5. Is this a liberal or conservative area?

6. Is the seller/buyer (old, young, single, married, Hispanic, gay, etc.)?

7. Are there kids in the neighborhood?

8. What are the best neighborhoods to live in?

Answering these questions could constitute a violation of the Fair Housing Act of 1968. The Act's main purpose is to protect certain classes from discrimination in the housing market. These include race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status (whether someone has children or not), and handicap.

The state of Illinois also offers legal protection for discrimination based on ancestry, age (at least 40 years old), marital status, military status, order of protection status, sexual orientation, as well as the unfavorable discharge from military service.

Violating the Act can cost a broker $16,000 for a first violation and $65,000 for a third violation within seven years. Imprisonment is possible and the terms range from one year to life in prison, depending on the damage or injury that’s occurred. No matter how severe, brokers always run the risk of losing their license by breaking the law.

While your realtor may not be able to answer questions about demographics for you, consider it a small sacrifice for a great deal of service. Real estate agents know everything about buying and selling real estate so you don’t have to.

They’ll not only tell you what similar homes have sold at, but also how long they were on the market and if any issues occurred in the transaction. Your agent can guide you on home prices according to market conditions, which they have to keep track of as part of their job. And because you’re emotionally invested in your home, realtors can negotiate a better price on your behalf because they’re removed from any attachment to the property.

As industry professionals, agents have easy access to reliable services that you’ll need when buying or selling a home. For example, your agent will have worked with movers, general contractors, attorneys, and lenders that they can recommend.

And finally, if you have any questions that were forgotten in the midst of closing excitement, you can count on your real estate broker to answer them.

So while you’re on your own in finding the right neighbors, a real estate agent can make the many other tasks in finding the perfect home easier. You can also look at this problem as a solution to help every American achieve the dream of home ownership without any unfair barriers.

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