Don’t Get ‘Steered’ in the Wrong Direction | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 31 May 2012 14:11

By Carl Medford, CRS

Special to the Times

When looking to purchase a home, your first consideration should be the actual property.

Discerning buyers ask questions such as: “Does it fit my needs? Am I okay with the condition? Do I feel comfortable here? Can I afford it?” 

Just as important, however, is where it’s actually located.

Consequently, Realtors frequently get requests for neighborhood information, ethnic diversity, crime statistics, registered sex offenders, designated schools and more. And therein lays a dilemma: We can’t tell you!

As Realtors, our code of ethics prevents us from “steering” — providing you with data that will influence you about specific areas or neighborhoods. Real Estate Webmaster’s Glossary defines steering as: “The illegal practice of real estate agents only showing certain ethnic groups properties located in specific ethnic areas. Example: showing an Asian family homes that are only located in Asian communities.”

The Fair Housing Act of 1968 was written to prevent any type of discrimination when buying and selling homes. It was included in the Civil Rights Act of 1968 and further modified by the Fair Housing Amendments Act of 1988. Seven categories are protected: race, color, religion, national origin, sex, handicap or familial status.

It’s been further interpreted to mean, “Any information that may or may not influence you to live in a specific area or neighborhood.” It comes as a shock to many buyers who, trusting their Realtor for information, discover there’s a lot of info their agent cannot provide.

So, how is a buyer supposed to get the information they need to make an informed decision?

While Realtors cannot give you specific data, we can tell you where to go to get what you need. As an example, if you are concerned about crime rates, you can go to and type in the name of any city you wish.

Want to know locations of sexual offenders? Google “Megan’s Law” and the city in question. Also, most cities now have school websites that provide the names of the schools servicing any specific address. And, keep in mind — the only real way to know if any address goes to a certain school is to call the school district.

This law might not sound fair, and it means extra work for buyers, but it’s very, very real and, in the end, it’s designed to protect you from being steered… in the wrong direction.

Carl Medford is a licensed Realtor with Prudential California Realty in Castro Valley. This article is sponsored by the Central County Marketing Association at



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