Are Unfair Housing Practices Occurring in the Real Estate Market?

When the National Association of REALTORS® receives a bundle of inquires on a specific topic, its Research and Statistics Department is often asked to conduct a survey of its members to learn more about emerging topics affecting the real estate industry. At the beginning of 2016, there were several anecdotal stories of discrimination occurring in the market violating Fair Housing laws, as REALTOR Magazine aptly notes in the article Fair Housing Is In Your Hands for Fair Housing month this March 2016.

Concurrently, our survey analysts hunkered down to listen to our members. One might have thought that the anecdotal stories coming in demonstrate that discrimination is occurring quite frequently. On the contrary, the first question in the survey reveals that 83 percent of our members said they had never seen discrimination in their market area.

When the survey asked how often REALTORS see a potential fair housing issue in their transactions, 91 percent said never or almost never. Ninety-nine percent of REALTORS said that they talk with clients to address the potential issue if it arises. Ninety-nine percent also said they had never failed an ethics complaint regarding a fair housing issue.

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The vocal nature of REALTORS thus shows that they are doing their due diligence to make the housing market fair and free from discrimination. It also indicates that real estate agents are likely to speak out against unfair practices. The survey also found that two-thirds of NAR members (64 percent) proactively discuss fair housing issues with buyers and sellers. Seventy percent of REALTORS said they bring up the topic of fair housing with clients, and that buyers and sellers rarely or never initiate the conversation themselves (83 percent).

Furthermore, 64 percent of REALTORS reported that they actively discuss fair housing issues in office meetings. Sixty-one percent also said that fair housing laws are effectively enforced in the market place. Eighty-five percent also reported that the fair housing laws have not prevented them from closing a transaction.

While it appears that discrimination is not widespread in the current housing market, it does not mean that it has been eradicated entirely. REALTOR members recognize the importance of safeguarding the market from unfair practices as it benefits the greatest number in the community. NAR members also noted that they also take courses to educate themselves on the issues, how to prevent potential violations, and what do in the event of discrimination.