As a Realtor, there are a number of topics that I cannot legally advise you about because of our national Fair Housing Laws. Unfortunately several of these items that I am prohibited from discussing are things that you may want to know. Below are some examples of questions I am asked frequently, and some reasoning behind each prohibition.
We Want To Be in a Safe Neighborhood
For instance, it is against the Fair Housing laws for me to comment on which neighborhoods may or may not be safe. Realtors work full time with the housing market, not in law enforcement, so events can take place daily of which I am unaware. You’ll want up-to-date statistics based on facts and not rumors, so one of the best things for you to do is to go to the county or city (Charlottesville or Albemarle County etc) websites. Here is a link to the page for the City of Charlottesville crime mapping information….the crime mapping option is one that others have found useful. You can always contact the law enforcement agency directly to discuss any concerns in depth with them. The surrounding counties will have similar access to police reports.
We Want a Home in the Best School District
Similarly, I am legally not allowed to comment on what might be considered the best school districts. There are a couple of reasons that these Fair Housing laws apply directly to all realtors and when you think about it… you probably don’t want realtors to have the power to ‘steer’ buyers into any particular neighborhood, which could directly affect your property values in the future. And school districts are constantly upgrading and changing their curriculum or rankings, so a realtor’s advice may not be current. I work in 7-9 counties of Central VA, and it would be impossible to know everything about each public school and private school, each elementary school or middle school or high school in each county…. much less apply that information to your family’s needs. So instead I will provide you with access to a site such as Great Schools.com where you will be able to get statistics on the various schools. Each parent knows his/her own child better than I will ever know them. The school district that ideal for your emerging chemistry genius, may not be the ideal school for someone else’s professional football hopeful. We let YOU decide. If you want to examine the ratings and rankings of all Virginia schools… in details based on class topics and grade levels… here’s a Virginia School Ratings and Rankings site where you can explore topics that matter to your own children.
We Want a Neighborhood with Children
In the same vein I am also not allowed to tell you which neighborhoods have children living in them, or which ones do not have children (unless it is an age restricted community). Demographics change all the time. Instead I may direct you to drive through the community when the school bus is letting out, or tell you to look for toys or play equipment in the yards. Or you can drive by on a Saturday and look at the people working in their yards. For that matter, if you see any of the neighbors, you can always ask them any of the questions that I am not allowed to answer by law.
We Want to Live Near People Like Ourselves
Unless your desire for ‘similar’ neighbors involves part of a real estate property description (vineyard, lake, assessed value, etc.), I am not allowed to discuss the ‘human’ make-up of particular neighborhoods. I cannot guide you to people of your own faith or away from those of other faiths. And I’m sure you already know I cannot advise you about ethnicity or race in particular neighborhoods either. However if you require a property with handicap features, I’m glad to help you find those property features in our current real estate market… or provide you with access to more information.
Fair Housing laws are more than arbitrary limits on our conversations together. Instead they direct realtors to provide only known facts or sources of information about the real estate itself…. not the neighborhood people or other demographics where realtors are not trained to be reliable sources (crime for instance). Fair Housing laws are fair to YOU. They help to keep your realtor factual.