Describing a space in a way that appeals to all buyers is the law (and it’s just good business).
There are certain phrases that should never appear in a property description. Some phrases are very clear violations of Fair Housing, others may be in a grey area. When deciding if something might violate fair housing, assume that it does. Our unconscious biases are just that. Unconscious. Being sensitive to how others might react will avoid discriminatory language that violates fair housing. Here are some examples of language to avoid.
You already know that you shouldn’t be talking about schools. It can lead to accidental steering. PIf you wish to talk about proximity to local schools, you can do so by including the distance to area schools, but you shouldn’t be making any assertions or assumptions about the schools in the neighborhood and their quality.
Safe neighborhood/quiet neighborhood
Not only is this loaded from a Fair Housing perspective; you shouldn’t be making these assertions since you don’t have a basis for telling potential clients what type of experience they’ll have in a neighborhood. Your assessment of safe or quiet may not be someone else’s. In addition, these are often used as coded language to describe neighborhoods that are predominately white, upscale, or child-free.
Similarly, making assertions about the neighbors can be misleading and inaccurate. When it comes down to it, you don’t know what the neighbors are really like or how they’re likely to greet a newcomer to the neighborhood.
For those who are older or who are struggling with limited mobility, walking distance may be a misleading or problematic assertion. It’s much easier to provide fractional mileage by using Google Maps. For example, “This charming neighborhood is conveniently located near Trader Joe’s (0.2 mi), Whole Foods (0.4 mi) and Piedmont Park (0.6 mi).”
You may be amazed that this still happens, but here and there I see this pop up in property descriptions. Perhaps worse is when a specific church is mentioned as a local landmark since it suggests not only that the prospective buyer should be church-going, but that they should be from a specific denomination.
This is a phrase that should be avoided on a number of counts, not least of which is the assumption that the owner of the home is or should be a man. In place of this, consider owner’s suite/bedroom/bathroom or primary suite/bedroom/bathroom.
Great family home
Many agents automatically think in terms of the traditional nuclear family when marketing a property. However, buyers come in all shapes and sizes, including those who are single, unmarried couples, childless by choice or not, retirees, or anyone who doesn’t fit the mid-20th century image of a heterosexual married couple with two children.
It is not only offensive to say that a certain type of property is for families; it’s offensive to assume that a family has to look a certain way or that some families are more legitimate than others.
Great family room/playroom for the kids
Similarly, a bonus space should not be marketed for its family or kid-friendliness. It may make an ideal media room, home office, hobby space, gathering place or entertaining space.
Private backyard for playtime with the kids
Here too, a fenced backyard is not designed for playtime with the kids. It can just as easily be enjoyed by those without children, and the property description should not make assumptions about the makeup of the people who will live there.
She-shed and man-cave
A reference to a she-shed or man-cave can be alienating – and inaccurate, as well. A person who enjoys watching football or woodworking can be either gender. A person who enjoys relaxing with a cup of tea in a beautiful space can be either gender. It is not only silly to make these types of artificial distinctions, it is short-sighted. Such a description can alienate a buyer who might be interested in the listing but afraid that they’ll have to make major changes to the décor to neutralize the space.
These phrases specifically allude to either the current owner, a potential buyer, or make some reference to aspects of identity.
Besides suggesting that the home is ideally suited for a man, it also suggests that the buyer needs to be handy or skilled at home improvements and repair. This is shortsighted, since it may discourage buyers who would be willing to fix up the home by outsourcing labor.
Here too, there’s the suggestion that the buyer will be a man. Moreover, it suggests that the person who buys will want to fish and hunt, whereas some rural buyers are simply looking for some land for homesteading, gardening, or quiet enjoyment of nature. By aligning this type of property with hunting and fishing, you could be turning off some conservation-minded buyers.
This pops up as a frequent description for a neat, tidy, and somewhat outdated home. Aside from the fact that it might be a turnoff for some buyers, it suggests something about who the seller might be, which could raise security concerns or influence the negotiation process.
Perfect for …
This phrase is almost always the precursor to a problematic assertion or suggestion. You don’t need to say for whom a property is perfect. It’s perfect for anyone who wants it and who has the money or ability to finance it. That’s the whole point of fair housing.
Phrases related to race, gender identity, sexuality, nationality, cultural identity
It should go without saying but any word or phrase related to any of these items should be left out of your property descriptions.
A single point of view is not the only one that matters. By making property descriptions more appealing to a wider variety of potential buyers, you create the circumstances for housing to be truly fair and for the homebuying experience to be more enjoyable and more meaningful for everyone.
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