Everyone wants to live in a good neighborhood. I would be surprised to meet someone looking for a home describing the ideal home to be in a dangerous area. But there are homes all over the city and people looking for all different types of homes so how do I interpret the request to find a good home in a good neighborhood? I don’t.
Federal Law and there are several that could apply. Often racially motivated, “steering,” associates home buyers with specific neighborhoods based on the idea that similar people should live together. It is a dangerous road where these opinions could easily be racially motivated and to protect the public the National Association of Realtors put in Code of Conduct Standards to limit the description of properties to their observable features.
As a Realtor, I can inform you that the house is in a neighborhood with a Home Owners Association charging $80 a month, that there is a local pool, that trash services have been voted the best in the city, and street-side parking is prohibited. There are many other features like these that I can provide to you to make your decision on the home and the neighborhood, but none of them are placing moral judgments on the value of these facts. There are limits, however, to what information I can provide that would seem objective. I can offer you access to sites that have information on local schools and school districts but not include information about schools in advertising, I can answer specific questions about the distance to a center of worship but not volunteer that information if not asked, or anything that could focus on someones protected rights or exclude others.
So how do you ask a Realtor to recommend the best neighborhood? First, you need to know what makes a community the best for you. If someone comes to me and says the best area is one within walking distance to a library and another says the best is one with a fifteen-minute drive to the military installation these are two different features but both ones on which I am allowed to research and provide information. Avoid asking questions about the people in the neighborhood. If you want to know about the people who live there, then you should visit the community in person. Understand what makes an area safe for you and your family and then ask specifically about traffic, crime, or environmental hazards.
It’s a complicated system, and I know those whose parents had purchased homes know things were not always this way, but it is the system in which we have come to live. Everyone’s rights are, and it is equally essential that everything is done to protect those rights as we help the public in purchasing what is likely the most significant investment of their life.