Are You Being Treated Fairly?

I’d like to tell you that we no longer need laws to protect homebuyers and renters from discrimination, but we’re not there yet. While I hope you never experience discrimination, know that federal law prohibits denying an individual or group the right to buy or rent a home based on race, color, national origin, religion, gender, family status, or disability.

So, how pervasive is housing discrimination in the 21st century? The National Fair Housing Alliance reports that in 2009, the most recent available data, more than 30,000 people reported fair-housing violations. More troubling, however, is that the alliance estimates that almost 4 million other violations went unreported.

For example …
Housing discrimination takes many forms, but here are a few real-world scenarios:

• An owner or landlord falsely tells you that his property or unit is unavailable because of your religion
• An agent only shows you homes in one neighborhood because that area has a high concentration of residents of your race
• A landlord asks you for a higher deposit on a rental unit than other tenants because you have kids
• A landlord refuses to accommodate your need as a disabled tenant, such as allowing a service animal or installing grab-bars in bathrooms

It’s lenders, too
When people think about fair-housing violations, they usually conjure up images of a slammed door or a restrictive advertisement. But violations of the Fair Housing Act are not only about a living situation or steering allegations. There are problems in the lending industry, as well. Because the lending process is so complex, it’s difficult to identify discrimination with any consistency.

Realtors go beyond what the law requires
You may know that members of the National Association of Realtors® adhere to a strict Code of Ethics that holds them to higher professional standards than what state and federal law require. However, you may not know that this year the Code of Ethics was amended to prohibit Realtors® from discriminating against individuals based on their sexual orientation, in addition to the seven classes protected under federal law.

So … what should you so?
Violations of fair-housing laws are not always obvious or easy to detect. After all, unless victims are somehow able to compare their experience to someone else’s, they likely have no reason to suspect any prejudice ever occurred. Fair-housing laws do have teeth, however. So if you believe you’ve been the victim of housing discrimination, you can submit a formal complaint with HUD (visit HUD.gov) and any local private housing enforcement agency.

For more consumer-oriented tips about buying, selling or leasing real estate visit TexasRealEstate.com.

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How to Recognize A Good Homebuyer Website

Do you know the old saying “everything on the Internet is completely true”?

Yeah, me neither. If you’ve been looking for properties or buying advice, you know there are plenty of real estate websites. So when it comes to your home search, it makes sense to approach the Internet with a discerning eye. But how do you know which websites you can trust? The best indicator is if they’re affiliated with Texas Realtors®. Here’s what else you should consider when turning to the web for homebuying advice.

Would you like advice from consumers or experts?
Lots of real estate websites offer advice from other consumers—people who don’t know any more about real estate than you do. This is similar to getting advice on homebuying from your well-meaning coworker, your nosy mother-in-law, or your kid’s little league coach. You need guidance from a Texas Realtor®, someone who’s professionally trained to assist buyers and does it every day.

Texas isn’t the same as Florida, California, Colorado, New York …
You’re buying in Texas, so you need advice and information specific to your area. Texas Realtors® are local experts and will ensure you know the ever-changing conditions in your market. Accurate information like this helps you make the right offer and negotiate from a position of strength.

Are you guessing a property’s value?
If you want a computer algorithm to “guesstimate” what a property is worth, there are plenty of sites you can turn to. If you want to know what properties in your part of Texas are selling for, ask a Texas Realtor®. They know the actual sales prices for properties—not some vague approximation—which will help you know what the house you’re thinking about buying is worth.

Here’s where to start
There’s plenty of good real estate information on the Internet, if you can tell which websites to trust. Look for sites by Texas Realtors®; they’re the experts at advice, pricing and negotiating in your area. If you’re not sure how to find a Texas Realtor®, visit TexasRealEstate.com and use the Find a Texas Realtor® search.