Real Estate “No No’s”

nono1A while back Dianne wrote a post on the Realtors Code of Ethics.  I loved that post because I don’t think most people are aware of all the standards to which Realtors are held.  It really is great to be in a profession where we are mandated to treat each other and the general public with respect. That mandate then becomes a part of our culture. I notice it in the conversations I have with other Realtors.  There definitely is a flavor of deliberate respect that is not always the experience for most of us in the day-to-day “non-real estate”  wider world of affairs.

I read something in the recent REALTOR magazine published by the Portland Metropolitan Association of Realtors (PMAR), and written by Jo Becker of the Fair Housing Council of Oregon on subject matter along the same lines that made me think you’d find it interesting. This is regarding words Realtors may and may not use in promoting properties, and the overall guidelines of the Fair Housing Act.

HUD is the federal regulatory body with the power to enforce the Fair Housing Act.  Generally speaking, the Fair Housing Act is in place to ensure that discrimination and something called “steering”, among other things, do not inhibit peoples’ right to live wherever the heck they want and are qualified to. It is also set up to ensure that the public receives information about housing that is fair and as free as possible of inaccurate and/or unduly influencing or discriminatory language.  “Steering” is essentially trying to influence buyers to live in, or not live in, certain areas based on something other than the buyers’ own parameters for what they want in a new home & neighborhood.  Basically, a Realtor is to supply a buyer with options for potential homes based on the information a buyer supplies to the Realtor regarding their wants & needs.  A Realtor will often refer a buyer in the overall Portland area to this website: where the buyer can enter the address of any property and view all kinds of facts on a property including statistical, demographic and crime information. Buyers are ultimately choosing a home that fits their particular needs, and Realtors are there to assist with service, information and real estate expertise.

The Fair Housing Council of Oregon’s website states plainly:

The Fair Housing Council of Oregon (FHCO) is a civil rights organization with a mission of eliminating housing discrimination through enforcement and education across Oregon and southwest Washington.

We promote equal access to housing by providing education, outreach, technical assistance, and enforcement opportunities specifically related to federal, state, and local fair housing laws. These laws protect against illegal housing discrimination based on “protected class status.”

The federally protected classes are:
race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status and disability

There are additional state and local protected classes.

When a Realtor enters listing information into RMLS, it is scanned for potential “no no’s” that are most always either unintentional or erroneous, i.e., as the article I mention elaborates- the RMLS program may highlight the word “white” for the Realtor’s attention when it is only being used as a description for a picket fence etc.  A real human at RMLS who understands context always reviews these issues, according to the article. There is no “list” of unnacceptable words as many people believe.  It’s all about intention, and about upholding our highest societal values… as well as the law.  Some terms can seem to be either benign or on the edge but for their context, for instance, the term “Walk-In Closet” is commonly understood to describe a well-known feature in many homes.  As long as the Realtor is not trying to imply a limit on access to someone who is not ambulatory this term is not a problem. “View Property” falls into the same category as long as no one is limiting access to the “view property” to sighted individuals only. The same goes for “Mother-In-Law Suite” and “Bachelor Apartment” according to the article. Where it can become trickier is with words like “near”.  Often a house will be described as “Near shopping, transit” etc., which is OK.  What is not OK, due to implications that certain people may or may not be welcome in that neighborhood, are things like: “Near ABC Mosque” or “Close to the XYZ Church” or “Near the LMN Jewish Community Center”.  It is also not considered proper to refer to specific schools due to the potential for using this technique to promote some schools over others for the same kinds of reasons. It is generally considered all right to refer to school districts as long as this is done consistently throughout a Realtor’s listings.

The article refers to a few blatantly illegal and discriminatory statements that have evidently actually been published on a popular local online service. These are obviously examples of absolute “no no’s” and you will not see these or anything like them on RMLS:

  • “No minorities”,
  • “African Americans and Arabians tend to clash with me so that won’t work out”,
  • “Ladies, please rent from me”,
  • “Requirements: Clean, Godly Christian Male”,
  • “Will allow only single occupancy”,
  • “No children”,
  • “Christians only”.

These are all clear violations of the Fair Housing Act.  Fair Housing Act laws apply in newspapers, flyers, yard signs, verbal statements, and online advertising among other instances & places.

For questions about Fair Housing Laws visit:

or call:   503 223 8197   or   1-800 424 3247.

Code of Ethics

While having lunch with friends recently one woman was telling us about the difficulty she had with some of her co-workers. I guess there was a good deal of gossiping and even some back stabbing that went on behind people’s backs. My initial reaction to her story was dismay over her situation and then personal gratitude that I don’t work in such circumstances. And then it occurred to me why I don’t have that sort of work environment. It’s the code of ethics! As a Realtor, I must adhere to a code of ethics that requires fair dealings with other Realtors. I simply am not allowed to say bad things about them. It then occurred to me that the general public probably doesn’t know about the Realtor Code of Ethics. At this time of year, when our thoughts are turned to family, friends, and religious celebrations, it seems appropriate to tell you about the Code of Ethics.

In order to be a Realtor in the State of Oregon you must agree to adhere to the Code of Ethics. Both the Oregon Association of Realtors and the National Association of Realtors require abiding by the Code of Ethics. It is possible to be a real estate agent without being a Realtor, but it is not possible to be a Realtor without meeting the requirements of the Code of Ethics. A Realtor is required to take training on the Code of Ethics every 4 years to make certain that he or she remembers and is familiar with this code. What is it? In a nutshell, it pretty much boils down to the golden rule. Be fair and honest in all of your dealings with clients and with other Realtors, just as you want them to be fair and honest in their dealings with you.

The Code of Ethics is actually a rather beautiful document. The Preamble begins “Under all is the land. Upon its wise utilization and widely allocated ownership depend the survival and growth of free institutions and of our civilization.” It is well written, well thought out, and something that can be applied to life as a whole. Besides the Preamble, there are 3 sections: Duties to Clients and Customers, Duties to the Public, and Duties to Realtors. Each section contains guidelines for fair and honest business practices, honesty in advertising, as well as professionalism and protection when dealing with the public. This code serves as a promise to the public that when dealing with a real estate agent that is a Realtor you can expect honest and ethical treatment in all of your dealings. How cool is that? Don’t you wish every profession had a Code of Ethics? I do.

Not all real estate agents are Realtors. So when choosing a professional to help you to buy or to sell a home, be certain to find out if they are a Realtor. If they have the Realtor designation, you can gain assurance that your transaction will be handled by someone who adheres to the Realtor Code of Ethics.

If you’d like to read the Code of Ethics, here is a link to the Portland Metropolitan Association of Realtors where a copy is available: click here.