Internet access stymies Blacks and other minorities

In a study, conducted by the Urban Institute for the Department of Housing and Urban Development, it was determined that Blacks and other minorities were shown 17% fewer homes than whites. Based on the results of this study, claims are being made that Blacks and other minorities are still being discriminated against when seeking housing.

While I have no problem accepting that racial prejudice still exists in our society, I think the study comes up with a pre-conceived conclusion. 

The methodology used was to have two sets of “testors” call about property. White testors and those testors perceived (?) to be white were advised of 17% more properties than those that were a minority or perceived (?) to be a minority. The initial inquiries were made via the telephone. There is no indication that those tested were asked “did you think I was white or did you think I was a minority?”. 

Ivory tower investigations often lead to easy answers.

I am a Realtor. I get phone calls regarding listings. My first thought is not and never has been “Hmmm, I wonder if this is a white person on the phone?”. I am like just about every single agent I have ever known when it comes to a phone call. I am attempting to develop a relationship as quickly as possible. You see, we agents don’t make a dime unless we represent a client. A phone call on a listing is considered an excellent opportunity to garner a client and represent them in a sale. 

We are not trained to be concerned about their race. Agents are trained to gather information about the listing in particular and then gently pre-qualify the caller. Pre-qualification usually includes questions such as “Are you working with another agent?” (We have to follow the Code of Ethics and pirating someone else’s client is a big no-no.), “Have you spoken with a lender to determine how much home your are comfortable buying?” (There is little value in working with someone that can not afford a toaster much less a home.), “When are you available to visit homes that interest you?”(Determining when you can meet at the potential clients convenience is an important step in securing a face to face meeting.).  If possible, I try to determine the style, size and location that interests them. This process is not a secret. It is how we create clients.

The phone call is a battle of interests. The caller wants to see a home. The agent wants to develop a relationship. The success of both parties demands that the caller be focused on what they want to see and that the agent “gently” attempts to pry information that can be used in ‘bridge building” as the relationship continues.

Here is the thing that is not mentioned in the report. Almost all consumers go to the internet as their first source of home search. You can find homes for sale via a computer, a lap top, an assortment of “pads” and on your phone. Agents no longer control what is available. In most cases, we are told what the consumer wants to see. As the relationship develops, a client my focus on using one of our search instruments, (DC area search engine) but even then, the world wide web beckons and most venture through a multitude of sites looking for that perfect home.

Another thing overlooked in the report involves why some people were not shown as many homes as others. Most sources indicate that third party sites have an error rate of about 15%. This is not intentional and it is caused by the way various sites either upload their data, gather their data or in some cases it is the fault of bad data (GIGO- garbage in – garbage out). If someone is just using third party sites to create their wish list, they may ask to see homes that are not available. It happens.

I would love to see a study done on the use of the internet. Break it down by race, income, etc. You might discover that the results of studies like this actually point to problems deeper than the one suggested.

The article regarding the study in Inman News was interesting.(Read the article) I think those that point the finger at agents are taking the easy way out. It is interesting that there is no mention of any action being taken against any agent. No punishment, no penalty, just results tabulated in a think tank and assumptions made by people that don’t do this for a living every day.

I am a Realtor. I don’t care on bit about your race, color, national origin, sexual persuasion or any other personal identifier. If you want to buy a home, just let me know how I can help you. I don’t have the time or inclination to do anything else. I do this for a living and that requires that I actually represent clients. 

Oh, I will be glad to send you every home that meets your criteria. I will review each listing to determine if it truly meets your needs. I will share the same thoughts with anyone that calls. The only caveat in my offer involves the location you may be seeking and the price point you may be able to afford. I have to feel comfortable with the area that interests you. If I don’t know the area, you should use an agent that works in that area. As I mentioned, this is my profession. My compensation is directly related to the value of the transaction. I only develop relationships with clients that are pursuing real estate that will in the end pay me a living wage. Every agent has different thresholds and every agent has the duty and right to place a value on the service they offer. Neither of the caveats has anything to do with who you are as a client.

Realtors are not the bad guys. This study does not appear to dig deep enough to provide that conclusion.

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