What is your real estate agent hiding?


Have you ever wondered if your real estate agent is giving you the whole story? Have you ever asked your real estate agent a question and got a vague answer?

What is your agent hiding?

Are there secrets that your agent doesn’t want to reveal?

Well, in most cases the answer is probably “no.” Your agent has a fiduciary responsibility to be forthcoming with information that is material to your transaction. However, there are some situations when your real estate agent might not want to answer a question directly.

The agent wants to be able to represent himself as the expert in the neighborhood in which he is doing business. So when potential client asks a question, the agent does, in fact, want to give the answer because this gives him credibility. But real estate is a business where lawsuits are happening all the time. And agents are constantly being told by their brokers to beware of situations that can put the agent, and by association the broker, at risk of lawsuits.

Due to fair housing laws, there are some types of questions that can really put the agent at risk. Sometimes, even if the information isn’t covered by fair housing laws, the agent might not be comfortable answering the question just to be on the safe side.

Here are some of the typical pieces of information that a real estate agent might not want to give out, even though he might have the knowledge. Luckily, there are great sources of information on each of these where the average person can get the information they need.

Crime in the area or neighborhood

You may come across your dream home, but if it is located in the heart of a crime infested neighborhood it may become a nightmare. Buyers are usually fairly inquisitive when it comes to crime in the area. A home purchase is a major investment so they want to make sure they are making the right decision. Some buyers actually specify to their agents that they don’t want to consider homes in areas with certain levels of crime. For instance, you can now go online to see where sex offenders live. Buyers will stipulate to their agents not to look in areas with sex offenders. You can also get a sense of the neighborhood simply by talking to the neighbors. And the local police station will be glad to share information with you.

Environmental health issues

Unless your agent is also an expert in the field of environmental issues, you probably won’t get a whole lot of information from her. The National Association of Realtors typically advises its member realtors not to give any sort of opinions on the environmental health of an area unless the realtor is and expert in the field.

Luckily, you can get environmental information by zip code through the United States Environmental Protection Agency’s website at www.epa.gov. You can search by zip code for environmental data such as pollution statistics, hazardous materials waste sites, etc. You can also get data on air and water quality in a given county at www.scorecard.org.

How good the schools are

This is another very common question from buyers, especially those with children. But unless the real estate agent has hard data he can access at the moment, he will most likely defer this one too. And even if the agent is willing to share what he knows about the schools in the area, buyers would do well to still check up on the information themselves.

The good news is that there is a ton of resources out there to get data on schools. The National Center for Education Statistics website can provide you with school demographic information and student to teacher ratios. Another tool for comparing school performance is at www.schoolmatters.com. You can also use www.greatschools.net for similar information. You can also find a wealth of information about schools in an area by going to that particular school district’s website as well.

Demographics of the area

If you ever want to hear silence from your real estate agent, ask what the racial makeup of the area is. Agents will not even discuss this topic. Why? The fair housing laws forbid agents from using issues of race or ethnicity to steer clients toward or away from a given neighborhood. And this has come up time and time again in lawsuits filed against agents and brokers. So at this point, there should be a heightened sensitivity to this issue.

But once again, you can find this data online at the United States Census Bureau’s website www.census.gov, which provides statistics even at the city and county levels. There are a whole host of other websites providing neighborhood demographics as well. Just do a search in Google and you’re on your way.

Original article by Steve Sands.

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