When advertising your listing ---- what words should you stay away from?
In a recent post on Active Rain, I noticed that the agent advertised the listing as “Walking distance to...”
It reminded me of certain rules in our MLS about certain words we should avoid.
CONDUCT You agree not to post, email, or otherwise make available Content:
d) that violates the Fair Housing Act by stating, in any notice or ad for
the sale or rental of any dwelling, a discriminatory preference based on
race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status or handicap
(or violates any state or local law prohibiting discrimination on the
basis of these or other characteristics);
Our local MLS is very strict about observing these rules. It helps to have transaction coordinators and assistants to keep us straight. As such, we as agents have to be very creative when describing properties and their marketable features in our advertising materials --- on the MLS, in print, online, etc.
Searching for examples, I found:
Here's FAIR HOUSING ADVERTISING MANUAL www.fairhousingadvocates.com/advertising.pdf
- Equal Housing Opportunity Fair Housing Advertising Guidelines HERE
- SEE Housing /Rental Ads - Watch List(W) "walk to...or walking distance to.."(Close To, or (X) Blocks From)
- And Miami Valley (Ohio) Fair Housing Center provided an advertising guideline -- Click HERE
- Southern California MLS provides this guideline published in 2001
- According to this 1998 article aboutThe Growing Farce of Fair Housing "Real-estate companies in the Maryland suburbs of Washington have been prohibited from including the phrase "walking distance to the subway" in home ads because it is considered discriminatory against people in wheelchairs."
- A Manhattan blogger inUrbanDigs.com writes in 2009 "Then there becomes 'walking distance,' which we can no longer use. By saying ‘walking distance,’ I would be discriminating against those who are unable to walk. Hopefully I can still use ‘close proximity’ to public transportation."
So we err on the side of caution.
- Instead of saying “walking distance” say “near” or “close to” or even state measurable distance like “a hundred yards” or “quarter of a mile”
- We don’t say “family” but refer to them as “households”. For example, we can lavish praise on a home, but never refer to it as a home for a “family”
- Even “in-law” units are described as “au pair” quarters ("mother-in-law suite" is allowed...but we err on the side of caution. See Agent Duties: What a REALTOR can or cannot do for you)
- We don’t mention children or parents …. but we work around that by mentioning “playgrounds” or play areas
- We don’t mention that a property is in a specific school district (we mention the city, but not the school). Although we can mention a home is NEAR a certain school, we don’t say it’s IN that specific school boundary. To play safe, simply enter “Call School District”
UPDATE FROM OUR RISK MANAGEMENT ATTORNEY
As indicated, that phrase ("walking distance") does not violate HUD Fair Housing guidelines and HUD has indicated that they will not pursue any such use.
However, there could be a private individual who feels offended by this, and there are advocate attorneys who pursue all sorts of perceived fair housing violations.
So, while it is likely safe to use that term, as a risk management suggestion I would stay away from that phrase, and instead state something like "nearby" "4 blocks away" "convenient access to.."
There must be other examples of what to avoid and how to get around them. If so, please share :)