When I announced in the office sales meeting at William Raveis that The Home Guru Team was just about to list a great “mother/daughter” house, my office manager Doris Ellias gently advised me that “now it’s suggested that we refer to them as ‘extended family’ houses.”
Oh, no, I exclaimed mentally, now we have yet another widely accepted housing term that is considered either politically incorrect or unacceptable to the Fair Housing Act’s advertising guidelines. I looked for any reference to support Doris’ notation and couldn’t find anything, but I’m sure she’s right. After all, my friend Steve Welles lives in that kind of set-up with his two sons, Shane and Cody and why should his house be called a “mother/daughter” and not a “father/son?” So, I guess “extended family” can cover a broader swath of new family situations, including all the in-laws, and all the other possibilities we now have with equality in marriage.
But, consider yourself lucky when you set out to sell your home that you’ve hired a professional realtor who’s trained to navigate all the language land mines out there that protect citizens from discrimination in housing. We realtors have one heck of a time making sure that we are in compliance when we create copy for a listing, write a brochure or place ads. We might as well have a lawyer by our sides to make sure we are not in violation of those guidelines. Acceptable terms and phrases may seem arbitrary until they offend someone and spark a complaint to a government agency.
Section 804(c) of the Fair Housing Act prohibits language that would foster discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status, national origin and, now, in some states, sexual orientation. Some limitations are allowed, such as “no smoking” and “no pets” but others are not, such as “no children” and may not state a preference for adults, couples or singles but rather can describe the properties, as suggested by the National Association of Realtors. We all know the obvious phrases that would denote a particular preference or those code words that imply limitations such as “exclusive” or “private.” Also we must be careful not to mention particular school systems or houses of worship that could imply a preference in a buyer or tenant.
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Bill Primavera is a Realtor® associated with William Raveis Real Estate and Founder of Primavera Public Relations, Inc., the longest running public relations agency in Westchester (www.PrimaveraPR.com), specializing in lifestyles, real estate and development. His real estate site is: www.PrimaveraRealEstate.com and his blog is: www.TheHomeGuru.com. To engage the services of The Home Guru and his team to market your home for sale, call 914-522-2076.