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Fischer: Dream of fair housing practices still a ways off

By Jen Fischer - Special to the Standard-Examiner | Apr 1, 2022

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Jen Fischer

Sometime ago, way back in the previous century, during the second year of this writer’s life, a significant event came to pass (besides my third birthday). This event was prefaced by a long and stormy history. Many attempts had been made to level the playing field long before this time; however, it essentially took a nail in the coffin of the civil rights activist Dr. Martin Luther King to tip the scales of justice in the direction of fair housing. At last, a national policy had been declared throughout the United States known as the Fair Housing Act. This law makes it illegal to make housing unavailable due to race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status or national origin. Since that time, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has added sexual orientation and gender identity to the list.

The National Association of Realtors took it a step further. Article 10 of the Code of Ethics states that, “Realtors shall not deny equal professional services to (all the above-mentioned classes).” This was recently extended to include discriminatory speech and conduct even outside of members’ real estate practices. Finally … we’ve come a long way, baby … or have we?

Last week, I received a frantic phone call from a gentleman. He was difficult to understand and he was speaking very quickly. I allowed him to tell his story and then repeated back to him, slowly, what I had thought he had told me. He apologized to me for not speaking “very good English.” I assured him that there was no need to apologize, that I would be sure he was understood one way or another. However, after hearing his story, I had really hoped there had been a misunderstanding that was a result of a language barrier rather than what I had heard had actually happened.

He told me that he had run into someone at the grocery store who presented as a Realtor. He had told her he was looking for a home and had been prequalified but was having a very difficult time finding one because he didn’t have extra money to compete and the type of loan he was getting was not as favorable in a multiple-offer situation as well. Although this person was somehow able to understood the gentleman’s dilemma, somewhere along the line she suddenly lost the ability to understand him. Puzzling.

She explained to him that she had the perfect solution. She knew of a home that was being sold by owner and she could present an offer to the seller without this gentleman having to compete because it wasn’t listed. He excitedly agreed. She showed him pictures and gave him the address to “drive by.” She explained that this was how things were done with homes sold by owner. She did not educate him about the need for a home inspection. The day before closing, he walked through the home for the first time. It was not a home he could live in. He told her he wanted to back out. He realized he would lose his earnest money, but he could not go forward with the purchase. In turn, she told him that the seller would sue him and take all his money if he didn’t. It was at this point a friend of his (a previous client of mine) told him to call me.

After a little research, I found that the home was actually listed on the MLS, it was not a for sale by owner and the list agent was the same agent who was representing him. Needless to say, this is all “fixed” now. But why would she think she could take advantage of this man? Have we really come a long way, baby? Sadly, it appears we have a long way to go. The conversation surrounding fair housing is far from over.

Jen Fischer is an associate broker and Realtor. She can be reached at 801-645-2134 or jen@jen-fischer.com.

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