Understanding Steering in Real Estate Made Simple
On the question of steering, Wikipedia has an excellent definition that does away with worrying about semantics and also does away with the myriad of "what if"questions agents endlessly ask in continuing education classes. Substitue any protected class for the word race in the definition and you will be good to go.
Racial steering refers to the practice in which real estate brokers guide prospective home buyers towards or away from certain neighborhoods based on their race. Racial steering is often divided into two broad classes of conduct;
- Advising customers to purchase homes in particular neighborhoods on the basis of race
- Failing, on the basis of race, to show, or to inform buyers of homes that meet their specifications[
Steering is an action by the real estate broker and does not involve the client. The client can ask the broker to make certain choices for the buyer or the seller that would be considered steering and get the broker in trouble. I know it is difficult for most brokers to say "I don't know..." to any question asked by a client, but in Fair Housing issues, the correct answer is, "I don't know where you mean. What neighborhoods do you like?"
It's easy enough to avoid Fair Housing issues by providing lists for clients that include several neighborhoods and as they tell you that they do or do not want a particluar areas, they are making choices, not you the broker for them.
All that said, I'm not an attorney, never dressed up like one on Halloween either. Do what your designated broker tells you to do, if you can't figure it out otherwise.
UPDATE NOV 7, 2010 Realtor magazine has a good article with 8 examples if you think steering doesn't happen these day.