Real (Estate) Talk: Neither fair nor a haven, NAR’s Fairhaven is just what we need

As featured in my monthly Inman News column.   

'Another short sighted article by NAR on the more complex issues realtors and their brokers deal with when assisting clients with both purchasing and selling residential properties.  Why always make it about race? Shame on your NAR!' -- Comment on REALTOR® Magazine Live Article, 'Helping Brokers Fight Discrimination'  


 




Some of us are dealing with fatigue. Pandemic fatigue. Protest fatigue. And both may include fatigue surrounding race, racism, and other needs of protected classes. This commenter's frustration is valid and it likely represents how many of us feel so I dare not brush past it. There are indeed other complex issues that REALTORS® are facing and addressing, such as low housing inventory, natural disasters, disruptive technology, the uptick of bank and mortgage defaults just this month, and the like.  


But here is the mind-binder, most of these other challenges today, were not present consecutively for ten or twenty or fifty years. For the people in the back, I will repeat myself: These other challenges have not been non-stop, unrelenting year after year after year. Yet, the disregard for the legal rights of those in protected classes has been a battle since those lawful rights were granted in 1968, 1974 and 1988 (c.f. There Goes the Neighborhood: The history of race and homeownership). Thus, it is not that any of our challenges are to be ignored but it is finally high-time we get fair housing right. 


Remember how in college those that did not pass a core subject typically had to repeat it? Retaking one course did not stop your progression in other subject matters on a different track (retaking Calculus likely did not stop your Shakespearian class). Likewise, we as a collective industry have to retake our fair housing studies (which does not have to be a deterrent for other matters) until we either make it a realization for all protected classes (that is our passing grade) or retire. I hope you, like me, want to see the betterment of our industry by getting fair housing -- it's the law -- right. To help us as an industry, the National Association of Realtors has literally upped its 'game' to help us get fair housing right.


Fairhaven Has Me 'In My Feelings'

Every since I have lived in metro Atlanta, for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day, I make it a point to visit the various museums that simulate and allow us as patrons to personally experience what it was like to be a freedom rider, lunch counter sit-in protester, an enslaved Civil War soldier and others that bravely faced discrimination along with hearing firsthand-accounts from survivors of these bygone eras. Those brief, manufactured experiences in someone else's shoes are emotionally taxing but heighten our awareness of the struggles of those that have come before us. The fact that we can say it is too much and choose to walk away embeds the pain of those who could not walk away. 

 
Real talk, that is how I felt when I visited Fairhaven. Not the actual city in Massachusetts or the fictional city in Need for Speed. Rather, the Fairhaven I am referring to is the National Association of Realtor's new online fair housing simulation.




When you visit https://fairhaven.realtor, you are just a click away from launching the web-based virtual game-like world. Those of you already geared up with PS5 and acquainted with virtual worlds will likely see this as a piece of cake that is perhaps too simplistic for your sophisticated gaming abilities. But the user-friendliness of NAR's Fairhaven hopefully gives all of the pros even more reason to be early adopters and finishers of this simulation. For the rest of us, you will welcome the guided prompts with tips and instructions throughout NAR's Fairhaven. 


In this first iteration, after logging in with your NRDS number, you will simply click 'Continue' (or the forward arrow in some instances) to advance to the next screen throughout your entire time in NAR's Fairhaven.  In true gaming fashion, NAR's Fairhaven does not give an outline of the different simulations of buying and selling you will encounter -- that is part of the surprise and fun of gaming. However, at the start you are informed that the goal is to complete 4 transactions/sales by the end of the simulation based on the various scenarios that you will face. How that will happen is the mystery that will be determined by your responses to the prompts throughout the various scenarios, since they are not outlined in advance (so no cheating). 

 
For those of you like me (competitive!), I can imagine that your competitive senses are tingling and you may be itching to play just to prove you can close all 4 deals.  That's great! To encourage a 'buzz' around Fairhaven, I wish there was a leaderboard that shows scores and times and even allows us to high-five each other (like I do when riding with Peloton).


I am halfway through the simulation (with 2 of my 4 transactions closed, womp womp!) and had to just step away, again recognizing the privilege of being able to step away from NAR's Fairhaven's simulations of discrimination, as that's not always an option as illustrated by the real stories in NAR's Fairhaven.



In the roughly 30 minutes (about halfway) that I have been in NAR's Fairhaven, I have had to make decisions surrounding timely topics including:
  • Gender identity
  • Disability accessibility
  • Language barriers
  • LGBTQ+ partners
  • Assigning clients with agents because they share a protected class (Scenario example: You're Asian, so you must want to work with someone Asian regardless of whether the agent is Japanese and you are Korean).
  • Covert discrimination and unfair treatment 

All that in just 30 minutes, whew! The music is somber throughout, and rightfully so, except when I closed a sale. 




Bonus: NAR's Fairhaven includes additional resource links and videos throughout with heart-wrenching stories of discrimination from actual real estate clients and testers. We might not have personally seen all of these forms of discrimination up close or even understand how insidious they can be, but NAR's Fairhaven gives us a bird’s-eye view of real and recent stories with quick access to additional information. No excuses.





Furthermore, thank you NAR for getting our "heads out of the sand" of solely focusing only on fair housing in earshot of clients! This simulation touches water cooler conversations among our colleagues, along with our responsibility to speak up and even report them ("see something, say something" is not just for the NYC MTA). Additionally, in NAR's Fairhaven you get to step into the roles of clients facing discrimination on a few occasions, which hopefully helps further build deeper empathy in each of us. It sure did for me! I consider myself a champion of fair housing, and NAR's Fairhaven is making me go harder. 


NAR, Fairhaven is such a great start that I have to ask: May we please have a version of this that is in training module form so that brokers, managers and coaches can use these modules separately as part of office trainings and workshops? Modules would allow us to project to a classroom, jump around and spend time on topics that are most needed on a given day. 


Coach's challenge: Have you experienced NAR's Fairhaven yet? The CDC has recommended we stay put as much as possible, but NAR's Fairhaven is a locale I hope you will visit before the year ends and will take others with you on the journey.
  

  
Sound off - I would love to hear from you!  Give me a shout on Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube, or by visiting LearnWithDrLee.com.  

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