Greg at the BloodhoundBlog in Phoenix shared a scary encounter with a well-meaning Seller in his “Let’s Get Sued” Fair Housing post, and I couldn’t agree more with his watch your language message. I, too, have run into some cases of law-suit-waiting-to-happen. As Realtors, we can’t be careful enough. What Greg’s post reminded me, though, is that as listing agents, we generally don’t but always should give our clients the big “be careful what you say” lecture. This is because we may not always be present when the Seller comes in contact with the would-be Buyers before or during escrow.
I have personally had both Sellers and Buyers ask questions regarding ethnicity, religious affiliation and other personal information that I simply am forbidden to answer. In advertising, I regularly see other agents using potentially dangerous phrases such as “great family neighborhood”, “safe neighborhood”, “kid-friendly” and “quiet street”. I won’t go into why each of those are no-no’s, but I think most of you will be able to figure it out. Some other favorites of mine, while not exclusionary, just beg for a lawsuit. Our industry is so sensitive to Fair Housing issues, that I can’t even talk about a “trash compactor” in my on-line advertising, because Realtor.com won’t allow the word “trash” (derogatory). Naming the school that the children will attend in advertising is not only dangerous, it is irresponsible. What if the school attendance boundaries change (as they do in my area every full moon)? What if you are wrong? I am actually familiar will a local case where the Broker had to buy the house back because the Listing Agent represented one school district but the home turned out to be in another. A recent listing in our area promoted “Walk to (name of school) Elementary”. Problem was, the school name was misspelled, one could only walk there with a trekking pole and a Sherpa, and it WAS NOT the school of attendance for the home in question. On the subject of being cautious, I even had a recent client ask me to use photo-shopped pictures in my marketing since the property looked nicer without some of the “street furniture” cluttering the view. My fear, of course, was that a buyer would close escrow and then suddenly notice the street name sign in the front yard and feel wronged. Sounds silly, but I have heard of Agents being subject to damages or license loss over much sillier.
On a lighter note, I love this promotional line I saw in an Agent’s ad for a home recently: “Views to the ocean and beyond”! While not illegal, I am still wondering what you can see “beyond”. Hawaii, maybe?