Real (Estate) Talk: What to do if your real estate team is spooked by something other than Halloween

As featured in Inman News 
Fewer tricks and more treats, please!


Autumn is my favorite time of year as someone that grew up in Michigan with vibrant fall colors and delectable donuts and apple cider. This year, the very next day after Labor Day, I changed my Zoom backgrounds to some of my favorite scary movie scenes (like the hallway in The Shining) and grabbed a pumpkin spice latte although it was still 90-degree weather in Georgia.


In short, I enjoy the make-believe thrillers that come with the Halloween season.


But real-life terror is a whole different thing.


Interestingly, some in our industry are, at the least, alarmed and at the worst, fighting for their lives.


What's got some of us in fear like we are Jamie Lee Curtis in the never-ending Halloween saga? 


There seems to be a real estate boogeyman where if we say these words too often -- like in Candyman -- our business is doomed. 


The words: fair housing


Or, any word that carries the same sentiment like diversity or inclusion.


These articles (click here and here) are just two of various examples of resistance to being slapped on the hand for fair housing (and lending) violations.


Furthermore, although I have been teaching various versions of fair housing for years, since I have made it one of my main talking points in the last two years, guess what? Many of you have been transparent (thank you!) about your experiences with clients that frankly violate fair housing regularly.


From the landlord that wants only certain types "that just so happen" to fall along protected classes and will exploit or abuse their tenants.


To the home seller that will search social media accounts for the names from offer documents and eliminate prospective buyers based on sexual orientation and any other protected class that does not suit their fancy.


To investors still blockbusting like it’s pre-1968.


Interestingly, I attended a webinar that included speakers from Newsday, the DOJ and NAR. During the Newsday exposé, some of the agents that violated fair housing at some point during their meetings with the undercover testers did discuss fair housing law. In other words, those speakers stated that the main issue is not that agents are simply unfamiliar with fair housing laws. During that webinar, Attorney Steve Tomkowiak hypothesized, in essence, that it is the application and expression of the laws in real-life scenarios where there is a disconnect. 


I have come across the same disconnection at the start of fair housing courses. 


Here's just one such statement: 


"I've had seller clients Google names on contracts, check their social profiles and cancel deals over race, sexual orientation and political posts. I never know what to do in those situations. I just took this course and I am CONFIDENT I know how to handle those situations from now on. Thanks Dr. Lee!" --Cathy, 15-year REALTOR®



Notice that she said, "I never know what to do". That is where the rubber hits the road – knowing what to do!


In sum, the quandary for some of you as you have candidly shared with me (again, thank you!) has been:


How do you uphold fair housing laws without alienating your clients, colleagues and vendor partners, who may be family, friends, and movers and shakers in your community?


Ultimately, your questions at the start of my 3- or 6-hour continuing education Fair Housing DECODER© courses suggest that you are seeking a way to advocate without alienating others.


Dr. King said it this way:


"Our aim has never been to put the bus company out of business, but rather to put justice in business.” — Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. “Statement on Ending the Bus Boycott,” 1956 


For those of us in the real estate industry, it is not about buses but rather equal and equitable access and opportunity in housing.


Wholeheartedly, I believe our only way forward -- to borrow from Dr. King -- is to not focus so much on putting others out of business (although there is a time and place for penalties) but rather on putting fair housing in business. In other words, to advocate and not alienate... it has been my new mantra since the end of 2021.


What do I mean?


In other words, fair housing can be more like Halloween treats and less like Halloween tricks (“gotcha” moments).


Check out this complimentary video excerpt from the course, How to Be a Fair Housing DECODER© where I explain this concept more and share some success stories of this paradigm shift. 







By the way, if you missed the live version (or just want to soak it all in again), here's your chance to watch a condensed, on-demand version and get a certificate, score! As an Inman News reader, gain no-fee 1-day rental access (think of it like a movie rental) with the code: inmannews at this link.


May the force of fair housing be with you!


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