Webinar Recap: Fair Housing for Realtors®

By Hope Walborn | April 18, 2024 | 5 min. read

Commemorating Fair Housing Month, 2023 Colorado Association of Realtors® President Natalie Davis discussed the legal and ethical obligations of fair housing, as well as ways to implement fair housing practices into your business, during yesterday’s webinar.

Fair Housing: It’s the Law – Brief Overview

As many Realtors® know, the Fair Housing Act was passed in April 1968. The act prohibits discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, national origin, disability and familial status. Fair housing laws apply to all aspects of housing, including advertising, financing, sale and rental.

“Here we are, 50-plus years later, still doing the work to encourage, embrace and create a space where we can remove the discrimination that occurred for specific social groups within our country to give them and us an opportunity to be a part of the American dream in the American way,” Davis said.

“In order to fully embrace that sense of belonging or understanding that we are ready, willing and able to work with every individual that’s ready, willing and able to buy, sell or invest, then we also need to make sure that our business is structured in such a way,” she added.

It’s Not Fair: Bias Awareness and the Impact on Your Business

“We all have biases that we bring to the table,” Davis noted. “What we want to ensure is that our biases are not having an impact on our actions or our behavior.”

To reflect on and further understand personal biases, she shared a circle of trust exercise where she encouraged Realtors® to list a few names of people closest to them, excluding family members. She then instructed them to go down the list of people and place a mark next to each name associated with the same group they were in. These groups included:

  • Age (give or take five years in either direction)
  • Gender
  • Race
  • Sexual orientation
  • Religion
  • Marital status
  • Education
  • Political affiliation

The goal of the exercise is to reveal how similar you are to the people whom you’re closest to. You and the individuals in your circle of trust likely share many of these social groups, which is the result of an affinity bias, or a cognitive bias that influences our perceptions and decisions, often leading to unconscious favoritism or discrimination.

“What I like to do with exercises like this – and there are a variety of other ways that you can kind of do an assessment to see where your biases are popping up – is that they give me an opportunity and those moments to pause and reflect,” Davis shared. “I think, ‘Is this a bias that I truly believe and hold to be true? Or is this a bias that I may have taken on because of the people that are in my life, the community that I’m a part of or the culture I’ve been exposed to? And is it something that I want to carry forward?’ And then, lastly, ‘Is it impacting my actions and my behavior when I’m working with clients?’”

“Are you continuing to connect with and gather and have community with people that are just like you?” she questioned. “Or are you creating that intention to expand that space and continue to grow?”

Embracing Fair Housing in Your Business – By Understanding Your Community

Davis stressed the importance of understanding the dynamic of the community you serve. This includes the makeup of the community, such as statistics on housing types, income, education levels, migration status and more.

To learn more about homebuyers by metropolitan statistical area, view this interactive infographic by the National Association of Realtors®. For other data on homebuyer demographics, Davis shared NAR’s 2024 Snapshot of Race and Home Buying in America report and the National Association of Gay and Lesbian Real Estate Professionals’ 2023 LGBTQ Real Estate Report.

Still, the research on housing-related discrimination may not always be truly representative, and it’s important to remember that.

“We want to make sure that as we enter into and continue to create an inclusive business practice, that we don’t go in with our head in the sand and think, ‘Well, discrimination is not really happening within our community’ or ‘It’s not something that we are experiencing in our area,’” Davis said. “It may be that we just don’t have enough data to give us accurate information in terms of how much discrimination is taking place and how many of those acts are being reported.”

Building an Inclusive Business Plan: Increase Your Income and Avoid Fair Housing Pitfalls

To build a more inclusive business, Davis suggested Realtors®:

  • Create or adopt a diversity statement. See One America Principles and NAR’s Diversity and Inclusion Commitment Statement for inspiration.
  • Embrace an equal service model by ensuring that you are providing equal service to all clients every step of the way.
  • Practice inclusive marketing by reviewing your social media policy/guidelines and posting an inclusive and diverse variety of people and lifestyles. This also includes marketing materials.

She also shared a DEI bingo card that Realtors® can use to gain inspiration and see how well they’re implementing fair housing practices into their businesses.

As a final takeaway, Davis encouraged Realtors® to use the SPACE2 strategies to recognize and combat bias in housing:

  • Slow down. Take the time to understand and reflect.
  • Perspective taking. Put yourself in your clients’ shoes.
  • Ask questions. Challenge yourself, your beliefs and your assumptions.
  • Cultural intelligence. Be aware of cultural differences that may pop up when interacting with clients of different social groups.
  • Exemplars. Find individuals whom you can lean into and build trust with.
  • Expand. Learn more from your exemplars.

To hear more about fair housing and how to implement fair housing practices into your daily business, view the webinar recording in the Webinars section of PAR’s website.

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