What I Won't Tell You (and Why)

Real Estate Agent with Long & Foster Real Estate, Inc.

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."


Nosey neighbors

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:

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.


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This infoMargaret Wodarmation was provided to you by Margaret Woda, an Associate Broker with Long & Foster Real Estate in Crofton Maryland. Contact Margaret today for general real estate information or to learn how she can help you buy or sell a home in Annapolis, Bowie, Crofton, Davidsonville, Gambrills, and Odenton. 

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Richard Parr
ADT Security Services - Slidell, LA
Home Security Specialist - Greater New Orleans, Louisiana

Following the law.  I have said it many times to overly curious clients.

Mar 26, 2007 02:14 AM #1
Margaret Woda
Long & Foster Real Estate, Inc. - Crofton, MD
Maryland Real Estate & Military Relocation

Don't ask me why I decided to check out my statistics today (left column of your home page), but found it interesting to note which blogs got read, and which did not.  This is one that had almost no interest, and only one comment, in spite of (what I thought was) a fairly catchy title.  When I looked back to the blog itself, I saw it had not been entered into any groups or offered to consumers, who were the main target of the article.  'Just goes to show how much I learned about ActiveRain since my early days last April.  I think this should be another blog topic!

Jul 17, 2007 12:01 AM #2
Steven Shewell
Primary Residential Mortgage, Inc. - Ephrata, PA
The Mortgage Maverick

The law has certainly put alot of agents on edge about what they say.  It is always best to err on the side of caution.

Your opinion is not worth a hefty fine.

Jul 17, 2007 12:37 AM #3
Mike Jones
SUNSTREET MORTGAGE, LLC (BK-0907366, NMLS 145171) - Tucson, AZ
Mike Jones NMLS 223495

 Me again, Margaret.  I've been browsing posts to localism, and coming at it by choosing a state on the Localism home page and browsing the posts.  In many cases, I notice that old posts appear at the top of the page, and stay there, while newer posts come farther down the page, or don't appear on the first page at all.  Do you know how this works?  I just wrote a new post for Localism Tucson; I think you'll appreciate it. 

One more thing--you copyrighted this post.  Do you do that for all your posts?  Just those on Localism?  Aren't I nosy?

Mike in Tucson

Aug 19, 2007 01:53 AM #4
Margaret Woda
Long & Foster Real Estate, Inc. - Crofton, MD
Maryland Real Estate & Military Relocation

Hi, Mike - Wow, this is an OLD one!  (But a goodie)  To answer your question in a nutshell... no, I don't know.  I can only assume that it has something to do with whatever was read most recently, 'though it could just as easily be random or something the ActiveRain gods control.  I had one of my posts featured on Localism, and I could never see how that was differentiated, or that it got any special placement or mark.

If you want to read good stuff on copyrighting, do a blog search for copyright and scroll down to the ones by Lenn Harley.  She is the QUEEN of copyright.  Don't know if it is accurate or not, but I understand there is the "official" copyright, that you obtain by submitting your writing with a fee to the U.S. Patent office, and the unofficial copyright which is still enforceable.  So the short answer is... yes.  I was taught a long time ago to put that at the bottom of every brochure or fllier or blog I write, and I do when I remember.

A few months ago, an agent who I had managed and trained about 15 yrs ago, plucked one of my blogs (right down to my clients' names and stories) and claimed it as her own.  I was FURIOUS, and the incident ended our friendship and professional relationship - as much because she didn't "get" my being upset as because I was upset.  You have that happen just once, and you get very protective about your intellectual property.

Aug 19, 2007 02:39 AM #5
Adam Waldman
Westcott Group Real Estate Company - Hauppauge, NY
Realtor - Long Island
Margaret - I received some very good, very simple advice early on in my real estate career, and it goes as follows:  Be the source of the source, not the actual source.  If someone wants to know about the schools, point them towards school reports.  If someone wants to know about cultural make-up, point them towards the census bureau.  The testers are out for good reason.  Like the rest of society, the REALTOR society is littered with racists, who use their own agenda as their guide instead of ethics.  The only things that we should be concerned with are motivation for the sellers to sell and motivation and qualification of buyers to buy, because that is how we make money.  Good reminder for us all Margaret.
Aug 19, 2007 06:38 AM #6
Missy Caulk
Missy Caulk TEAM - Ann Arbor, MI
Savvy Realtor - Ann Arbor Real Estate
Margaret, very good advice and I like the glossy pages you print out and share with them.
Aug 25, 2007 08:57 AM #7
Patricia Kennedy
RLAH Real Estate - Washington, DC
Home in the Capital
Hey!  I couldn't figure out how to import the little Fair Housing logo!
Aug 25, 2007 10:51 AM #8
Margaret Woda
Long & Foster Real Estate, Inc. - Crofton, MD
Maryland Real Estate & Military Relocation

Adam, that is good advice and easy to remember.  I like it, and will have to remember that.

Missy, yes, anything on glossy paper just seems to have more class

Patricia, I'll send you the logo in an email

Aug 25, 2007 11:43 AM #9
Mark Ryan
Mark Ryan Group / Re/Max Victory - Dayton, OH
Broker, CRS, ABR, CDPE
great point... so many buyers just dont get it...
Jan 25, 2008 02:49 PM #10
Margaret Woda
Long & Foster Real Estate, Inc. - Crofton, MD
Maryland Real Estate & Military Relocation
You're right.  But it's understandable.  They have a question, and they expect us to have the answer.  They're taken aback - almost wonder what we're hiding - when we don't give them a straight answer.
Jan 25, 2008 03:40 PM #11
Sarah Nopp
South Sound, WA
Nice links Margaret. I think I need to bulk up my links page.
Jan 25, 2008 06:06 PM #12
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