Your real estate connection for Anne Arundel County, Maryland - Home of Fort George G. Meade, Northrop Grumman, BWI and the U.S. Naval Academy
Why Real Estate Agents Don't Always Answer Your Questions
This is the topic addressed in an article appearing on MSN's homepage today, and I opened it with the expectation of reading yet another attack on professional real estate agents. As it turns out, the article gave a relatively fair and honest analysis:
"Fair-housing laws prevent agents from talking about neighborhood demographics, and they often don't want to discuss other details, such as crime stats. Luckily, the Web picks up where agents leave off."
The fact is that your agent probably DOES know "who" lives in the neighborhood - the demographic mix, crime statistics, and the school's reputation. Candidly answering the question, however, could get your agent and their broker in a lot of trouble, especially if the individual asking about these details happens to be a "tester" looking for fair housing violations. As the article indicates, agents are forbidden from giving information that could be interpreted as "steering," i.e. directing a client toward or away from a particular property in a discriminatory manner.
Ten years ago, I would have suggested to a customer or client that they return to the neighborhood after our appointment to talk with residents and visit local schools, shopping and recreation facilities. Today, with almost everyone having access to the Internet, I suggest they go online for answers to their questions.
If you visit my website at http://www.margaretwoda.com/, you will find over a hundred links to resources that include the Maryland Sex Offender Registry and School Matters, a snapshot of academic performance that allows you to compare your child's current school with any prospective school. Other helpful links mentioned in the MSN article are:
- National Center for Education Statistics
- Family Watchdog
- EPA Community Search
- Pollution Scorecard
- Census Quick Facts
Before you buy real estate, it is important to be familiar and comfortable with the neighborhood and broader community, as well as the home itself. So don't hesitate to ask questions because your real estate agent may suggest additional helpful websites. Yet it's still not a bad idea to do it the old-fashioned way: make a personal visit to the neighborhood to become better acquainted with your prospective neighbors, schools, shopping, and recreation facilities BEFORE you buy a home.
And please understand that real estate agents are not trying to be coy when they don't give you a straightforward answer to your questions. They are trying to follow the law.