Anticipating clients’ needs can lead to trouble

By Kim Skumanick | April 1, 2013 | 3 min. read

I don’t know about you, but I find it particularly challenging when one of my clients asks me a question that could lead me right into a Fair Housing violation, and I have to explain to them why I can’t answer their question.

What kinds of questions? You know the type – Which school district is the best in the area? Do you think this neighborhood is safer than that one? Will my family fit in with the people who live here?

The federal Fair Housing Act marks its 45th anniversary this year. The basis of the Fair Housing Act is to ensure that people can choose to live where they want, based on their individual needs. This means no one can deny selling or renting to someone because of their age, ancestry, color, disabilities, familial status, national origin, race, religion or sex. For Realtors®, NAR’s Code of Ethics includes sexual orientation in its protected classes as well.

Often times, I think as Realtors®, we want to help our clients and we try to answer all their questions and anticipate their needs. And that sometimes gets us into trouble.

For example, as a parent of a young child, I wouldn’t want to live in a house along a very busy street. But I can’t impose that belief on my clients with small children. They may want to live in that neighborhood because it’s convenient to public transportation. I can’t make decisions for my clients, based on what I think is right for them.

If, however, my clients say to me, “We don’t want to look at properties that are located on main thoroughfares,” then I haven’t made the decision for them.

You may want to collect a list of websites that would help your client research a market area. There are sites for reviewing school qualifications, crime statistics, recreational offerings, etc. which would allow your client to conduct further research.

Even if a client asks to only look at houses in one neighborhood, you may want to offer other options that meet their budget and space qualifications. By providing your client with a range of options, you avoid the possibility of “steering” them to a particular area.

I think many people misunderstand the difference between treating people equally and fairly. Stephanie Chapman, director of Housing and Commercial Properties for the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission, explains that persons with disabilities must be afforded special accommodations based on their disabilities. That means if they use a service animal and there is a no pet policy in a property, the service animal must be allowed. Or they may need a special parking space to accommodate their wheelchair. Chapman said, “The key is that they may need something extra. And if their request is reasonable, you’re required to give it to them.”

As Realtors®, we want to help our clients achieve the American dream of homeownership. Being mindful of the Fair Housing Act ensures that every client is provided with the same opportunity to choose the home of his or her dreams.

Looking for events?

Pennsylvania Realtors® can access monthly webinars and much more.

Upcoming Events

Did you like this post?

Click on a star to rate this post!

Average rating 0 / 5. Vote count: 0

No votes so far! Be the first to rate this post.

Related Articles

Not a Realtor®? Learn how to become a member.