Fair Housing and Old MLS Listing Sheets

Real Estate Agent with Baird & Warner Real Estate


Many real estate brokerages have something called a morgue. It's made up of old MLS listing sheets from the 60s and 70s that are typewritten on 5 1/2 x 8 sheets and contain all the basic information about houses for sale. Sometimes they make for interesting reading.


Fair Housing

I recently took a Continuing Education class that reviewed the Fair Housing laws and how they apply to real estate. These classes are ones that we real estate agents must take and retake because they are so important.  Since "Fair Housing" applies to housing it's our business to understand and interpret the law.
We are the gatekeepers of the Fair Housing Act and denying buyers access to properties based on discrimination can lead to severe penalties and loss of license.

A bit of history. The Fair Housing Act was passed in April 1968 (50th anniverserary this year!) to provide equal housing opportunities for all Americans. The law "outlaws the refusal to buy or rent a dwelling, requiring special terms or conditions for sales and rentals indicating a preference of discrimination based on certain characteristics." The law also prohibits intimidating, threatening, or coercing people's housing rights based on discrimination.

Today, the Fair Housing Act has 7 protected classes:

  • Race
  • Color, or pigment of skin
  • Religion
  • National origin
  • Sex
  • Disability- mental or physical
  • Familial status (with an exception for senior housing)

In addition, real estate agents must be knowledgeable in their own state's fair housing laws since many have additional protected classes.  Here in Illinois, the additional protections are:

  • Ancestry
  • Age - those over 40
  • Marital Status
  • Order of protection status
  • Sexual orientation
  • Unfavorable discharge from the military

Back to those old MLS sheets - I took a few hours and browsed through several dozen of them from the villages of Winnetka, Wilmette, Kenilworth, Glencoe, and Northfield. It's clear that even though the Fair Housing Act was passed in 1968, it took a while for the real estate industry to fully understand how it impacted their day-to-day activities. Here are some snippets that would surely be a swift violation today:


MLS Snippet Fair Housing Violation


MLS Snippet Fair Housing Violation


MLS Snippet Fair Housing Violation


MLS Snippet Fair Housing Violation

MLS Snippet Fair Housing Violation


MLS Snippet Fair Housing Violation


MLS Snippet Fair Housing Violation

These snippets seem harmless enough - and they are certainly not the worst examples of fair housing violations - but they are nevertheless characteristics that don't fit everyone. "Sacred Heart Parish" might be a block away but not everyone is Catholic. A home for a smaller family might in fact be perfect for a larger family. A home that boasts that it's perfect for "young marrieds" misses all older singles. This type of violation is called steering, or directing clients toward certain neighborhoods or homes.

Making any sort of suggestion about WHO should live in a dwelling as opposed to describing the dwelling itself is what we do now. Everybody has the right to live where they want (depending on affordability, of course) and real estate agents are wise to avoid the types of phrases that were common just a generation ago.

While you're here, please see ALL NORTH SHORE HOMES FOR SALE (with current lingo!)





Sign up to get monthly North Shore real estate news delivered to your inbox.

It's free, we'll never sell your info, and you can opt-out at any time.

Enter your email address at: North Shore Newsletter


Margaret Goss is a full-time real estate broker since 1998 working in the North Shore communities of Winnetka, Wilmette, Kenilworth, Glencoe, Northfield, Glenview, and Evanston.

She can be reached at:

Phone:  847-977-6024

Email:  margaret.goss@bairdwarner.com

See her full BIOGRAPHY



Posted by

Margaret Goss - Winnetka and North Shore Real Estate Broker
Specializing in homes for sale in Winnetka, Wilmette, Kenilworth, Northfield, Glencoe, Glenview, Northbrook, and Evanston.

Looking for a knowledgeable Illinois Realtor?  Google me! 

Margaret Goss Facebook Margaret Goss TwitterMargaret Goss LinkedInMargaret Goss Pinterest


 Chicago North Shore Communities Map:



Comments (8)

William Feela
Realtor, Whispering Pines Realty 651-674-5999 No.

I have every contract I have ever written even those that did not sell or offfers not acepted.  It has paid off several times

Apr 05, 2018 05:44 PM
Bob "RealMan" Timm
Ward County Notary Services - Minot, ND
Owner of Ward Co. Notary Services, retired Realtor

Thanks Margaret Goss I always enjoy reminders of the past.

Apr 05, 2018 06:54 PM
Susan Haughton
Long and Foster REALTORS (703) 470-4545 - Alexandria, VA
Susan & Mindy Team...Honesty. Integrity. Results.

It is sometimes jarring to revisit past actions.

Apr 05, 2018 07:00 PM
Jeff Dowler, CRS
eXp Realty of California, Inc. - Carlsbad, CA
The Southern California Relocation Dude

Hi Margaret

I took a class in Fair Housing as well and was a bit surprised at what I did not know. 

Sadly there are still issues and I see things that appear to me to be violations in listings from time to time. Our MLS tracks wording and sends emails to agents when there are words used that are inappropriate. I don’t know how accurate it is.


Apr 05, 2018 07:08 PM
Margaret Goss

I spoke with a woman today who keeps getting notifications about a listing where she states "Indian Hill" as a location. They are seeing it as an ethnic word rather than geographical!

Apr 06, 2018 03:05 PM
Myrl Jeffcoat
GreatWest Realty - Sacramento, CA
Greater Sacramento Real Estate Agent

I will never forget as a new agent back in the 1980s, seeing CC&Rs, on an older home here in the Sacramento area.  I was shocked at the ethnic groups that were excluded from buying in the neighborhood.  But, attached to the CC&Rs, was the amendment backed up by law that demonstrated those exclusions could no longer exist.  We've come a long way in today's world.  We still have a distance to go.

Apr 06, 2018 12:54 AM
Margaret Goss

Myrl - we do have a distance go - see JL's comment below

Apr 06, 2018 03:04 PM
JL Boney, III
Coldwell Banker - Columbia, SC
Columbia, SC Real Estate

Each time I take my continuing Ed classes, which I take at my attorney's office, he brings in examples of ads and listings that violate fair housing laws. It can be pretty eye opening.

Apr 06, 2018 11:31 AM
Margaret Goss

It's amazing that it still happens!


Apr 06, 2018 03:03 PM
Myrl Jeffcoat
GreatWest Realty - Sacramento, CA
Greater Sacramento Real Estate Agent

Yes, it is amazing that it still occurs.  I have had to walk away from possible listings because sellers asked that I do something which was unlawful in that regard.  When explained that what they requested was illegal, they felt I should come up with a solution to skirt the law.  No thanks!

Apr 07, 2018 04:28 AM
Margaret Goss

I had that happen just once thankfully. Didn't walk away, though - I convinced them to fess up.

Apr 08, 2018 09:18 AM
Debb Janes EcoBroker and Bernie Stea JD
ViewHomes of Clark County - Nature As Neighbors - Camas, WA
REALTORS® in Clark County, WA

It does still exist - in more insidious ways. It is so important for agents to remember the basic principles of the fair housing laws. D 

Apr 07, 2018 07:55 AM
Margaret Goss

That is exactly what the teacher said in the class. It used to be blatant, now it's insidious.

Apr 08, 2018 09:18 AM