Fab Real Estate Blog: Are They Married?

Are They Married?

Sometimes, when talking to a seller, either after an open house or when reviewing an offer we received, they start to ask questions about the buyers:

  • Are the married?
  • Do they have kids?
  • Where do they work?
  • How much money do they make?
  • Are they "X"?  (insert race or religion here)

My answers? 

  • I don't know/don't care
  • I don't know/don't care
  • I don't know/don't care
  • I don't know/don't care
  • I don't know/don't care

Usually, they realize that the questions were silly and that they were just being curious or even a bit nosey. 

Sometimes, they'll respond, "But you have to know."
No, I don't.  And neither do they.

Are they married?  Doesn't matter.  We don't discriminate.

Do they have kids?  Doesn't matter.  We don't discriminate.

Where do they work?  Doesn't matter.  Why on earth would that matter?

How much money do they make?  Doesn't matter.  We don't discriminate.  But we do make sure we know if their mortgage broker has fully pre-approved them for their financing and whether or not they qualify.  And we demand a pre-approval letter from that mortgage broker.  That's all we need to know.

Are they "X"?  I've been asked this only a handful of times throughout the years.  I refuse to answer.  Don't know/don't care.  And, now I need to determine whether or not I choose to continue to work with you as my client.  If "X" is important to you, then we are not meant to work together.


Fair Housing laws exist for a reason - because there is discrimination in this world.  It's unfortunate, but it is true.  We do not discriminate when buying or selling houses.  No one should. 

However, if you have a question, feel free to ask.
In the worst case scenario, your questions will give us a wonderful opportunity to discuss Fair Housing laws - a topic I hold near and dear to my heart.

 

Don Fabrizio-Garcia, REALTOR
Connecticut Real Estate & Appraisals
CT Home Group
Keller Williams CT Realty
203.746.1199
Connecticut Real Estate and Homes for Sale

 

Comment balloon 12 commentsDon Fabrizio-Garcia • September 26 2007 10:35AM

Comments

Thank you very much, Don, for that sharp reminder.  You are so right, it really does not matter about all those questions, and we can get ourselves into hot water just by asking some of them.  Great post.
Posted by Robert Monk, Florida Real Estate (100% Realty, Inc.) almost 11 years ago
Most of the sellers I have worked with care about only one thing...cash or approved loan!
Posted by Gary L. Waters Broker Associate, Bucci Realty, Fifteen Years Experience in Brevard County (Bucci Realty, Inc.) almost 11 years ago

Robert - Thanks for the comment and the support - glad I'm not the only one who lives by these rules!

Gary - if only it were so easy...but in the sellers' defense, often it is nothing more than pure curiosity when they start asking these questions.  They quickly realize why we can't discuss such issues.

Posted by Don Fabrizio-Garcia, Owner/Broker/Trainer - Fab Real Estate (Fab Real Estate) almost 11 years ago

You make a good point Don. There is another side to the coin. Just because we do not discriminate does not mean we cannot ask those questions.  It may be a good way for us to establish a personal connection with those people.  Also marriage and children may change the financial situation so that they may qualify for more or less mortgage, and therefore a smaller or larger house.

Asking questions and making conversation does not mean we discriminate, although I believe the point you are trying to make is that we could be putting ourselves in danger by doing that. 

Posted by Daniel Sundberg (Crystal Springs Real Estate) almost 11 years ago

Great post ... what sometimes appears to be random questions about the buyer "just-to-be-friendly" are violations of fair housing.

Thanks for the reminder

Posted by Allen C. Wright, NS, AHS, REPS (RealtyU) almost 11 years ago

Daniel - Making conversation is one thing. Often times clients tell us all sorts of personal information.  If you represent buyers, will you then share this information with the sellers?  What if the sellers do not like unmarried people living together?  You've then harmed your unmarried buyer clients...

As far as marriage and children affecting the financial situation - the bottom line is still how much can they afford based on income and expense - not where the money comes from or how many mouths they have to feed.

Posted by Don Fabrizio-Garcia, Owner/Broker/Trainer - Fab Real Estate (Fab Real Estate) almost 11 years ago
Allen - Thanks for commenting.  These random questions may simply be idle curiosity on the part of the sellers, and I find that they usually are nothing more than that.  But we as the agents need to always be aware of what crosses the line. 
Posted by Don Fabrizio-Garcia, Owner/Broker/Trainer - Fab Real Estate (Fab Real Estate) almost 11 years ago

Don,

In this scenario, you represent the seller.  It is your job to tell the seller anything and anything pertinent to the deal via your fiduciary responsibility to the seller as laid out in your agency contract.  Legally they cannot discriminate and they must be aware of it.

Back in the days of buyer's agent presenting their own offers to the sellers agent as well as the seller, the buyers agent would describe the family, talk about the kids, their financial situation, etc.  The emotions put forth through these types of offer presentations would be the difference between a sale and an unsold listing.  These attributes of salesmanship have for the most part left the business, but they still do have their place with the utmost professionals.

The situation you described is a great legal mindset, but the family situation can be used as a great asset to sell the property.

 

I will add, if you were the buyer's agent, you only disclose information that present the buyers in the best possible light.  It is your duty as a buyer's agent to do so. 

Posted by Daniel Sundberg (Crystal Springs Real Estate) almost 11 years ago

One more thing to add.

I live in a state filled with mortgage fraud and shady Loan Officers.

How much money they make can be an issue.  If you sell a home based on a LO's prequalification, and that qualification turns out to be false, whose butt is on the line for taking the home off the market due to a signed contract?  The Real Estate Agents are the natural suspects.   It is better to be safe than sorry in this situation.

 

Posted by Daniel Sundberg (Crystal Springs Real Estate) almost 11 years ago

Daniel - If the buyers' agent offers this information to the sellers, with the buyers' approval (via either presenting the offer in person or via a cover letter that goes with all offers) then that is perfectly fine.  The key is that the buyers have given permission to release this information to the seller.  I've used that cover letter describing the family and their plans for the house in many of my offer cover letters, especially in multiple-offer situations when we're competing against other buyers. But, my buyers approve the release of this information.

I never share the clients race or religion.  Never.  

As for mortgage fraud - even if you know the buyer's income, does that mean you as an agent can qualify them for a loan?  Have you also viewed their credit reports, viewed their debts and verified their income?  That's the mortgage broker's job.  What if they only make $30,000 a year but have a trust fund of $5,000,000?  I've seen that.  Those are great buyers.  But by sharing their income, then you've just made them look like unqualified buyers.
A pre-qualification letter from a lender is worthless.  You want a pre-approval letter.  And even that is only as good as their mortgage broker's word.  That's why I would call the mortgage broker and try to glean as much information as possible - have they verified income and debts, employment, etc?  That's what matters.

Whether they're married, practice a religion, or where they work is of no importance.  And, this information can possibly lead to discrimination.

Posted by Don Fabrizio-Garcia, Owner/Broker/Trainer - Fab Real Estate (Fab Real Estate) almost 11 years ago
Don-  excellent reminders to watch our P's and Q's....  I would say especially when representing a buyer.
Posted by Sandi Bauman, Chico CA Realtor (Chico Homes Real Estate) almost 11 years ago
Hi Sandi - Yes, we have to watch what we may say and what the result of what we say may be.
Posted by Don Fabrizio-Garcia, Owner/Broker/Trainer - Fab Real Estate (Fab Real Estate) almost 11 years ago

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