Why Your Realtor Cannot Show Homes in a Safe Neighborhood

buy in safe neighborhood

Hardly a buyer exists who has not at one time or another asked a Sacramento Realtor to show homes in a safe neighborhood. It’s such a normal expectation. Like asking for a three-car garage or homes with hardwood floors. Part of the buying process. Except your Realtor cannot show homes in a safe neighborhood. This tends to surprise buyers.

Yesterday I talked with a new buyer who will be working with the team. He lives in the Bay Area and she is in Canada. People from all over are moving to Sacramento because it’s one of the last great places to live in California that features affordable homes. Affordability was certainly a consideration when my husband and I moved to Sacramento. Although, I had my heart set on going back to Newport Beach, my husband insisted on Sacramento. Which means it is all his fault we have lived in Sacramento for the past 16 years.

One of the first things the buyer mentioned was wanting to look at homes in a safe neighborhood. I knew this would be startling to break the news that we can’t do it. But why, the buyer asked. What is wrong with wanting to live in a safe neighborhood?

First, a safe neighborhood is a matter of perception. Everyone has different ideas of what constitutes a safe neighborhood. For me, a safe neighborhood might mean there are no daily shootings in the streets. Another person might feel a neighborhood is safe only if every homeowner drives a BMW, which is always parked in the garage. Someone else might refuse to live in any area that is not a gated community.

Second, a Realtor could be found guilty of violating Fair Housing Laws or illegal steering.  Because I have a Jewish name, I’ve had people ask me to find them a home in a Jewish neighborhood. Can’t do it. A Realtor can lose her license over Fair Housing violations. Realtors cannot steer buyers away or to neighborhoods based on demographics or racial configurations. We cannot discriminate against any of the federal 7 protected classes.

California has expanded legislation that provides further protections and does not allow discrimination based on the following criteria:

  • Age
  • Ancestry
  • Arbitrary discrimination
  • Gender expression or Gender identity
  • Genetic Information
  • Marital Status
  • Medical Condition
  • Sexual Orientation
  • Source of Income

A certain conservative Sacramento appraiser who routinely sticks his nose where it doesn’t belong might be amazed to learn it doesn’t cover political affiliations. But over all, it’s not a good idea to discriminate against anybody. One of the things we need to do in this country is to try to find the good in all people, except maybe the truly evil guys. It is nearly impossible to find the good in an evil White Supremacist, for example, but if we cannot, how will we ever effect positive change?

The last reason an agent cannot show homes in a safe neighborhood falls under risk management. It’s not part of our job definition. It relies on assumptions which may or may not be true. No Realtor wants to get sued after closing because she told the buyers they were buying a safe neighborhood, in a place where police often haul off thugs to jail.

How can a buyer find a safe neighborhood? The Sacramento Police department posts crime maps on its website. You can check for sex offenders on Megan’s Law website. Drive through the neighborhoods at different times of the day and on weekends. Talk to the neighbors. Ask your friends and associates for their definitions of a safe neighborhood. Look for homes in neighborhoods with top-rated schools. But don’t ask your Realtor to provide crime information.

If your Realtor scoffs at that notion, pulls you aside and promises to help out regardless, do you really want to work with an idiot? Ask yourself that question.

Elizabeth Weintraub


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