Please don’t ask me about demographics…

Please don’t ask me about demographics… May 6, 2015

… Free real estate advice because I am a giver!

If you are moving to an area and you’re not familiar with the neighborhoods and schools, please don’t ask your realtor what the demographic is.

Sure you’ll get some agents who will tell you this neighborhood is predominately this ethnicity or that, but they’d be violating a whole slew of laws by doing so. Do you really want someone helping you who just proved they’re unethical?

Neighborhoods fluctuate over time. Some areas will get run down while others are gentrified. If an agent is willing to confidently tell you that Neighborhood A is one ethnicity and Neighborhood B is another they, dear reader, are a dishonest, unethical liar.

Also, a realtor may end up questioning your own ethics if you ask them about demographics.

No agent can offer their client a demographic overview of a specific area no matter how much the client demands it. Agents don’t have the power to guarantee an entire neighborhood’s ethnic makeup and be very weary of the ones that claim they can.

Most agents, honest ones, don’t want to take on that kind of responsibility for an unverifiable, non-material fact like demographics.

So what do you, the home seeker, do if you have a neighborhood preference?

I get that it can be difficult moving to unfamiliar surroundings. You know what you want and you trust your realtor or agent to find it for you. But if find yourself asking your agent “what do we pay for then” or feel like they’re being intentionally vague it’s not that they don’t want to help you, they just might not know how.

If you are moving and looking to rent or buy it is imperative you come into the situation with REALISTIC EXPECTATIONS. And do your research beforehand.

As an agent working in property management and real estate there are a few things I can do for you. These are the things you, as the client, need to make sure your agent provides.

When most people ask me about a certain area’s demographics they generally want to know two things; 1) is it safe and 2) are the schools good.

As far as criminal activity, I can honestly offer no such assurance that an area is safe and crime free. You can be robbed or broken into even in the swankiest most gated community.

It’s beneficial for agents to know the local police districts assignments so that when a client has concerns about an area I can tell them call the district office for information on crime statistics.

When they ask about schools, I make sure I can quickly refer them to the local school board website. These websites will have school assignments and testing scores that give an general overview of how well a specific school is performing compared to the state and nation averages. You can also find out what percentage of the student body receives free or reduced lunch or what kind of extracurricular activities a certain school offers.

As a client ask your agent for this information. If they don’t have it you’ll have to do the research yourself. Google the school district by the county your moving to. Find the district web page and do your research from there. There are also websites that rate schools, like Great Schools.

For crime, check out police and sheriff websites for links. Go to crime mapping sites. Go to the Department of Justice’s sexual offender lookup site and click “search by address.” Each state typically has a Geo Portal website that will give you demographics like percentage of home owner versus rental, the median age, and income but rarely the ethnicity. Just google “geoportal + your state/city.”

As an agent, it’s my job to listen. As a client it’s your job to tell. If your agent isn’t showing you what you want to see maybe they aren’t asking the right questions or you’re not articulating what you want well enough.

Yes, we all have neighborhood preferences. There’s nothing wrong with that.

If you’re an artist I can suggest the arts district and neighborhoods within walking distance to art galleries. If you’re a foodie and love craft beer, let me point you to the gastro district. If you like to walk to run your errands, check out Walk Score.

If you like to be in the burb’s I got you covered. If you are looking for a family neighborhood, again this falls into the demographic realm and I can’t say one neighborhood has more kids than the other, but I sure can tell you what’s for rent or sale near this great park or that elementary school.

If you’re Jewish and don’t drive on the Sabbath, lemme see what I can get you within a mile radius of the Synagogue.

You get my drift.

And lastly, for the love of all that’s holy, have realistic expectations.

Please don’t ask your realtor to find you a newly constructed, three bedroom, two bath home with a swimming pool, updated kitchen, and fenced yard but tell them you can only afford $700 a month for rent.

Find out what the typical cost of living is, the standard housing market values for the area, and do your research. I cannot say this enough, do your research. Don’t rely on someone else completely.

Find out what neighborhood’s are the most sought after and understand that housing in these areas will be limited and have a higher than market value and adjust your expectations accordingly.

Most communities have websites and facebook pages now. I guarantee you, most of anything you’ve ever wanted to know about a place is readily available on the internet. Just understand, while a realtor can give you a page of links, they cannot promise the accuracy of the information. These are just guides to help you make your decision.

As with everything on the internet, communities will always highlight their best side. Nothing beats driving through a neighborhood and talking to the residents who live there.

So if you’re looking to relocate or you’re just a concerned parent worrying about your baby leaving the nest, I hope what I’ve offered here has been of some help.

Disclaimer: This isn’t a definitive guide to prevent you from becoming a victim of crime. Be aware of your surroundings, know who you invite into your home, invest in home security and consider purchasing a fire arm to protect yourself and your family.

Now go in peace and stop asking me where the white neighborhood is.

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