Top 5 Questions Home buyers ask

.. And why Realtors can’t answer most of them.

Riffing off of the WSJ’s timely article this morning:

1- Are there kids in this neighborhood?

Look for balls, bikes and playground sets. Despite the fact that most families with kids want to live in neighborhoods with other kids, this is (per my training) deemed to be a Fair Housing Law violation.

2- How are the schools?

Greatschools and School Matters (update: dead school evaluation site) are good starting points, but nothing can replace actually visiting the schools and meeting the principals. We are all customers of the public school system.

3 – What type of people live here?

Many folks want to live with like-minded people, be they other families, medical residents, professors, young professionals, fellow retirees … I just won’t answer these questions. You want demographics without walking the neighborhoods and knocking on doors? Check out the Census’ Fact Finder.

4 – Is this area safe?

Charlottesville Crime Graph
How can you tell from the City of Charlottesville’s wonderfully obtuse graph?

Albemarle County’s data is deeper, but is all in PDFs.

Some sites for Realtors such as eneighborhoods provide some basic data, but I just don’t trust it to be accurate and timely. My answer? Call the local police department. Until we have comprehensive, accurate online data like Richmond, a phone call and visit to the target neighborhood at various hours of the day and week is the best source of information.

5 – How long does it take to get to (insert destination here)?

It depends. Are you traveling at peak hours? Where do you need/want to go? Online information is a starting point, but nothing can replace actually doing the commute before you move.


I tell my clients that I wake up every day trying not to get sued. You would be amazed at the remarks and requests I have had from people about what “type” of neighborhood they want to live in. These examples never became clients.

Stephen Colbert has a good perspective:

Colbert claims to be racially color-blind and unable to visually identify one’s race; Colbert has explained this thus: “Now, I don’t see race; people tell me I’m white and I believe them …

“Fair” Housing is a misnomer; one definition of “fair” can differ wildly from another’s – just ask any teenager. 🙂 I much prefer to treat people “equally”

This is definition 6a for Fair:

6 a: marked by impartiality and honesty : free from self-interest, prejudice, or favoritism <a very fair person to do business with>

Definition 1 for Equal:

1 a (1): of the same measure, quantity, amount, or number as another (2): identical in mathematical value or logical denotation : equivalent b: like in quality, nature, or status c: like for each member of a group, class, or society <provide equal employment opportunities>

It may be only a matter of semantics, but I think not.

My advice for buyers: Do your own due diligence. I will guide you as best I can so that you can make a wise and informed decision; I will be the best “source of the source” I can be.

Beware of Testers!
Fair Housing Laws


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  2. Athol Kay March 17, 2007 at 11:09

    Yes it’s a tricky balancing act sometimes. Many of those “fair housing” sticky questions are vitally important to a buyer. You can’t answer the questions and you can’t not answer the questions.

    All in all it’s a good case for having a blog/website that links to all the appropriate public data etc. That way you always refer back to the public data rather than getting yourself in trouble.

    I love the Colbert quote. 🙂

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