3 questions you shouldn’t expect your real estate agent to answer completely

If you're in the market to purchase a home, you'll probably work with a real estate agent. However, to ensure you purchase the home of your dreams, you must know the limitations of your relationship with the agent. And yes, there are limitations.

In this article, we'll discuss some of the questions real estate agents can't answer honestly and why you'll need to do your own homework to obtain information you're looking for.

"You must know the limitations of your relationship with the agent."

1. Is this a family-friendly neighborhood?
If you have a family, you'll probably want to know a lot about the characteristics of the neighborhood you're looking to purchase a home in.

While you might think you can obtain this information from your real estate agent, David Reiss, a professor at Brooklyn Law School and a real estate specialist, explained the real estate agent might not give you a straightforward answer.

Why is this the case?

When a homeowner asks his or her agent if the neighborhood is family-friendly, it's "a lose/lose/lose for the Realtor®," said Reiss.

Reiss followed up to say that if an agent made note that a certain neighborhood isn't kid-friendly, "it could imply that families with kids aren't welcome." By not answering the question directly, real estate agents can avoid discriminating, which is something they must do.

To answer this question, you should conduct outside research online. Here are some questions you should try to answer:

  • How far is the neighborhood to schools, and where is the bus stop?
  • What is the neighborhood's crime rate? 
  • What is the average age of homeowners in your neighborhood?
  • How many kids live in the neighborhood?
  • Is your potential home close to a major college or university?
  • Is the residence near parks or playgrounds?
  • What kind of police presence does the neighborhood have?

These are only a few questions you should answer, but we believe you get our point: If the real estate agent doesn't give you a clear answer, thoroughly research the neighborhood yourself.

A real estate agent can't answer every question.A real estate agent can't answer every question.

2. What is the demographic of people in the neighborhood?
Similar to the first question, real estate agents are likely to steer clear of directly answering this for two reasons:

  1. They could violate the law, said John Relman, a real estate attorney in the District of Columbia. For example, the Civil Rights Act of 1968 specifically forbade people from advertising or selling a home that indicated a preference to race, color, religion or national origin.
  2. They could discriminate against certain households, whether by race, income or religion. "[An agent] could say something and not intend to indicate a preference," said Relman, "However, if the homeowner reads the comment incorrectly, the agent could be breaching the law."

3. Which home would you choose?
Real estate agents need to (and typically do) avoid steering homeowners toward or away from certain homes or neighborhood. There's a few reasons they do so:

  1. Their employers forbid them from steering potential buyers.
  2. The real estate agent follows a certain code of unwritten ethics that encourages agents to provide people with enough information so they can make their own decision.
  3. Laws prevent them from inserting their own personal opinion regarding the type of neighborhood potential buyers are looking into and the area's demographic data.

Purchasing a home isn't easy, but you can simplify the process as well as reduce your overall anxiety if you know what to ask and what not to ask a real estate agent before you meet with him or her. Prior to meeting them, write down a lot of things you want to ask the agent. Then filter them out based on what we just covered in this article.