Things your Realtor can't tell you

When I’m driving with Buyers showing them properties in Las Vegas they inevitably ask me a question I can’t answer. I am not trying to be evasive I just can’t answer them without the risk of being sued, fined and/or having my license revoked. What I am writing about here is mostly in response to Fair Housing laws and the governments attempt to eliminate discrimination in Real Estate/Lending.

The first important definition to understand is a practice called steering. Steering is “the illegal funneling of home buyers to particular areas based on a desire to keep the make up of a neighborhood the same or intentionally change it” (definition provided by ask.com). The second important definition to understand is the practice of Redlining. This term was coined when lenders actually drew a redline on a map and refused to lend money to people buying in that area.  The lenders argued that they were unacceptably risky areas to lend in. The lenders lost that argument on the grounds that they were discriminating against people based on racial and income profiles.

So please don’t ask me (or your Realtor) if there are a large percentage of one type of people (read: Race) or another in a particular neighborhood. Even if I knew (which I usually don’t) I won’t tell you anyway. There are decent demographic statistics at the US Census bureau’s website if you are interested in such things (and the new census starts in 2010). The same goes for me offering specific information about various religious buildings in the area (I can’t do it, look on the Internet). Ditto in regards to school ratings, environmental issues and crime statistics. Two good ways to get a feel for a neighborhood is to drive the area and talk to the neighbors.

A Realtor is also prohibited from disclosing confidential information about their clients to anyone other then their broker (for a certain period of time). The exceptions being unless they are ordered by a court of law or given written permission by the client. The reason why I mention this is sometimes the Realtor can be representing both the buyer and the seller. In this case, the Realtor has to walk a fine line as to what he or she can reveal to whom.

Fortunately, we live in an age of abundant information. If you know where to look you can find almost anything on the Internet. Want to know how much the seller paid for the house, look at your county recorders website for their property tax records. Want to know how many sex offenders live in the area, you can go to Family Watchdog website. School information can be had at the National Center for Education Statistics website. I often tell my mother, “don’t be afraid to try things on your computer, it will stop you before you do something stupid”. I suggest a similar thing to you, if you want to know something about a neighborhood (and I can’t tell you), ask a search engine.

My name is Greg Hoffman and I have lived in Las Vegas since 1990. I have been a Realtor here since 1999. I welcome your comments good, bad  or indifferent.