Too Bad That Extra Help Could be Steering

By Robert Freedman, senior editor, REALTOR® Magazine

It’s tempting to show new customers around neighborhoods you’ve selected because they would seem to fit them perfectly. But you do that at your peril. As you’ll see in this short video, stumbling into a situation in which your actions have the effect of steering, a violation of the federal Fair Housing Act, isn’t hard to do whenever you try to ingratiate yourself with customers by trying to do their thinking for them.

The key message in the video is that, before you start talking to a customer as a friend would to a friend, sharing your thoughts on what makes a neighborhood a good fit for them, stop yourself. The risk is that, by biasing their opinions about a neighborhood, your words could have the effect of steering.

Indeed, a fair amount of potential steering today happens unintentionally as sales associates try a little too hard to help. Rather than just give their customers sources of information so they can form their own opinions about a neighborhood or school, associates are trying to step into their shoes and giving them their opinions about them.

From a Fair Housing perspective, you might be just trying to help but your words could have the effect of steering. And that’s something you want to steer clear of.


Source: HUD

We’re in Fair Housing Month right now. It was in this month, April, in 1968, when President Lyndon B. Johnson signed The Civil Rights Act into law. The Fair Housing component was Title VIII.

As the video suggests, stumbling into a Fair Housing violation is easy, even when you’re trying to help, so it never hurts to brush up on what’s right and what’s wrong. There might be something useful for you among NAR’s Fair Housing resources. Browse among them now.

Robert Freedman

Robert Freedman is director of multimedia communications for the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®. He can be reached at

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