Real estate agents know a lot about properties and should be the first person you turn to when you want advice about buying or selling a home. However, there are some questions even your real estate agent can't answer for legal or ethical reasons. Here are two things you should avoid asking and why you may not get an answer if you do.
1. What is the Neighborhood's Demographics?
It's natural to want to know who your neighbors are, but there are certain types of information your real estate agent can't discuss or share because of legal issues. For instance, Redlining—steering homebuyers to particular areas based on race—is illegal. So, your real estate agent will avoid answering any questions about a neighborhood's racial makeup.
And while he or she will be happy to show you homes based on the features you desire (e.g., three bedrooms, double-oven), the agent typically won't choose areas based on factors protected by anti-discrimination laws, such as religion, sex, or ethnic origin. The only exception is the agent may steer you to or away from retirement communities based on whether or not you qualify for them, because the law allows for age-restricted communities.
If you're curious about the demographics of a particular city, there are a number of websites that provide general information, such as the US Census and City-Data. Alternatively, you can talk to some of the people who live in the neighborhood who will typically provide you with the information you're looking for.
2. Is This a Family-Friendly Neighborhood?
This question may appear fairly innocuous on its face, especially if you have children and only want to make sure there will be other kids around they can play with. But this can be tough for the agent to answer because any answer he or she gives may be misconstrued as unintentionally discriminating against people based on their family status.
For instance, if an agent says the neighborhood is filled with single and childless professionals, a homebuyer may feel this means their five-kid family won't be welcomed to the area.
Your agent may give you general information, such as how close the schools are and whether there are play areas around. If you want the nitty-gritty, though, you may be better served looking for blogs about the local area and asking on real estate forums. You're likely to get a more straightforward answer that can help with your decision making.
For help locating a home that fits your needs, contact a real estate agent.