When you’re shopping for a home, your real estate agent expects that you’ll have questions. But are you asking questions they can answer or not? Learn what real estate agents can and can’t talk about, so you can ask the right questions when shopping for a home.
What Real Estate Agents Can’t Talk About
Real estate agents are bound by the Fair Housing Law, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of protected classes, including religion, sex, disability, family status, or race. If you ask a particular question or express interest in a certain type of neighborhood, these agents may not be able to speak clearly to your request.
For instance, agents cannot talk about particular schools as being good or bad, because school performance may be an indicator of race. Fortunately, there are other resources that allow you to check school performance and draw your own conclusions about which school you want children to attend.
Real estate agents aren’t allowed to talk about crime data, but the local police blotter or sex offender registry can help you figure out how safe a neighborhood may be.
If you’re religious and interested in living near a particular type of mosque, temple, or church, you’re better off looking up the address and requesting homes in that neighborhood. Real estate agents could violate the law by guiding you toward specific neighborhoods based on religion.
Once you’ve narrowed down your home search to a few neighborhoods, the best way to get a feel for the community is to pass through at different times of the day. You’ll be able to tell if most of the homes have families with children, or if residents fit a certain demographic. Then you can decide if the neighborhood meets your needs and if you would feel comfortable living there without putting your real estate agent in a position where they could possibly break the law.
What Real Estate Agents Can Talk About
Although there are many rules for what can’t be said, there are still numerous ways in which your agent can guide you through the buying process. Real estate agents can show you homes that fit your criteria and answer any other question so long as it does not touch upon the topics listed in the previous section. If you’re looking to live near a religious institution, for instance, and you provide your agent with a zip code or neighborhood map, they should be happy to show you available homes in the area you identified.
Real estate agents also know a lot about the communities where they show homes. If there are amenities you’re looking for that aren’t protected, you can ask to be near these things. For instance, you may want a supermarket or a biking trail within walking distance.
Real estate agents can discuss any physical features of a neighborhood, so long as they keep people out of it. So an agent can talk about the park nearby, for instance, but they cannot mention the children’s play group or senior tai chi group that meets there.
Real estate agents are allowed to be frank about the home price or value. If you’re wondering whether a home is considered a good buy for the block, don’t hesitate to ask.
Don’t Stress over Asking the Wrong Question
If you accidentally cross a boundary with your real estate agent, they will let you know and direct you to where you can find the information you seek. It’s not against the law for a real estate agent to suggest you ask local police about crime, for instance, it’s only illegal for them to answer such questions for you.
Understanding where the boundaries are helps you be efficient when looking for a home and sets realistic expectations. You’ll know where to find the information yourself and what sorts of questions your agent can answer honestly.
Guest Author Bio
Justin Havre is a Calgary native and owner of Justin Havre & Associates.