About Purchasing Your Home: Your Fair Housing Rights
Authored By: Louisiana Fair Housing Action Center (LaFHAC)
What should I look for when buying a home? +
A qualified real estate agent can help in finding the right house. You have the right to expect a certain level of service. Poor service may be just that - poor service. However, if you feel that poor service is related to your race, religion, sex, disability, or other protected class status, it may be illegal discrimination. Sometimes it's the seller, not the agent, who is discriminating.
Here are some guidelines to help you as you go through the process of buying a home.
Selecting an Agent
Pick an agent to work with. You want to find one you are comfortable with. Unless you have signed a buyer's contract, you do not have to stay with the same agent if you are not happy. If you don't know an agent, speak with friends, check the real estate section of the newspaper, or check the names of agents on the "For Sale" signs in the neighborhood where you are interested in living.
The agent should pre-qualify you.
You and your agent should sit down and talk about what you can afford. You should ask questions about anything you are not sure of. Being pre-qualified will help make sure you look in the right price range, and that you will have a good chance of getting a loan to buy the house you want.
How do I know all my choices when buying a home? +
Get information about your choices.
After you have a good idea about what you can afford, talk to the agent about what you are looking for in a house. The agent may have some good ideas about where to look. But don't just depend on the agent's ideas. Make sure you know about ALL the houses that may meet your needs.
Most agents are members of the "MLS" or Multiple Listing Service. The MLS has a book every week with pictures and information about almost all the houses that are for sale. Ask to see that book. Look up all the houses in your price range in every area. Drive through different neighborhoods. You may find houses you did not think about before.
After finding a house you like.
The agent should help you make an offer. Most offers are below full price - especially if the house has been on the market for a while. Your agent should offer some advice. But even if you do not follow his or her advice, your agent must take your written offer to the seller. If you have not offered enough, the seller can make a counter-offer.
After your offer is accepted.
One of the most important things an agent can do for you is to help you get a loan to buy the house. The agent should have information about lenders and rates. The agent should be able to recommend some places to look. That is part of what a real estate agent does. They SELL houses by making it possible for people to BUY houses.
What could be discrimination? +
To find and buy the right house, you will probably need the help of people who are in the business of selling houses. Many of these people will give you excellent service, but some of them may not have your best interests in mind.
It is against the law for someone to deny you housing, charge you more, or give you less for your money, because of your race, color, religion, national origin, sex, family status, or disability. All licensed real estate agents, brokers, and realtors know about the fair housing law. You can usually see and buy the property you want without any problem. However, be concerned if:
- The agent ignores what you say you want and can afford, and shows you houses outside the area you have picked or below the price you have been qualified for.
- The agent says negative or derogatory things about the area you have picked, and speaks positively about the areas he or she recommends.
- You ask to see the multiple listings and the realtor refuses.
- You are asked lots of questions on your financial background, such as "Have you ever been in bankruptcy? Do you have a lot of outstanding debts?"
- An agent does not return your calls or keep appointments, or the agent discourages you from making an offer on the house you want.
- An agent cannot seem to make arrangements for you to see a particular house.
- An agent shows you houses only in areas where many of the residents are the same race, ethnic background, or religion that you are.
- An agent will not help you get a loan.
What can I do if I think I was discriminated against? +
Don't just walk away from the house or neighborhood of your choice. If you think you've experienced discrimination, contact the Greater New Orleans Fair Housing Action Center (GNOFHAC) at 504-596-2100 or toll free at 877-445-2100. GNOFHAC is a non-profit civil rights enforcement agency serving the state of Louisiana. GNOFHAC may be able to investigate your complaint and provide legal assistance. GNOFHAC's services are free and confidential. Visit GNOFHAC on the web to learn more at www.gnofairhousing.org.