I’m sorry, but I just cannot answer that question

I have only been licensed for a few months now and fortunately I have started out with a good number of friends and family wishing to purchase a house or list their current home. Being such a new agent has it’s ups and downs as I have to call and ask my mentor tons of questions all the time. Being around real estate since I was 18 though definitely helps.

As an agent, I want to be as helpful as possible to you and your family so before we look at a house, I generally do a ton of research on it so I can answer your questions before, during and after a showing. I do the same thing for a listing so that it gets listed for the best price and I can accurately market the house to sell it for you.

All of this being said, there are just some questions that I get asked and I simply cannot answer. Below are a couple of examples I have been asked in my short time as a licensee.

“Is this area safe? Would my family and I be safe in this neighborhood?”
I am from Lancaster and Fairfield County. I was born and raised here. I probably have an answer for you but the fact remains that I simply cannot answer this question for you. I can provide you with plenty of resources for doing this research on your own though! There are so many websites that cater to this type of knowledge which is awesome however you much do the research on your own.

So why can I not answer this question? There are a number of reasons but the biggest one is that talking about a neighborhood could be seen as redlining or steering. Both are against the law and prohibited for Fair Housing Law. Steering or redlining is basically where I try and limit you to certain neighborhoods or steer you away from other locations for one reason or another.

“Who lives around here? Are there many “insert some kind of demographic here” around here?”
If you ask a friend or family member who is familiar with the area you are looking at houses in, you may get a very different answer from what I will give you.

So why can I not answer this question? By me answering those types of questions, I could be violating Fair Housing Laws. Simple as that. There are plenty of resources online where you can research the makeup of neighborhoods, areas and entire cities or counties! I would be more than happy to proceed those resources for you.

“Why is the owner selling? Who are they? Do they have kids? Are they old? Are they getting a divorce? I just knew they were getting a divorce!”

When buying a home, I think it is good to do as much research as a buyer as you can. And I will do as much as I can for you as well so you are as informed as you can be. However, I likely will not and cannot answer these questions for you as I simply do not know. And it is very likely that even asking the listing agent for this information ahead of time will not yield much good information simply because the listing agent will not disclose the information without explicit permission from the seller. I would leave this information out of your home buying decision making.

“Is something wrong with the house? I heard “insert rumor here” from the neighbor or a friend that this thing is wrong with the house.”

As your agent, it is my duty to inform you of everything I can. That being said, I am not a home inspector, termite inspector, septic inspector, water inspector, electrician, well inspector, structural engineer, or a contractor. HOWEVER – I will provide you a list of people our brokerage has worked with in the past and you may choose to have any inspection done on the home you would like and I would encourage it!

“How are the schools around here? Please find us a home in the best school district in the area.”

Again, steering you toward particular school districts or schools in a neighborhood is against Fair Housing Law and I cannot do it. I can, again, provide you with resources to do research on area schools. Once you have told me where you would like to be, I can help find a house in that area – no problem at all.

I think that is all for today. Just remember that as your agent, I try to answer all of your questions as we progress through this journey that is finding the next place for you to call home. If I do not know an answer or cannot give you an answer to a question, just know that I will find or help you find an answer!

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Fire Prevention Week

This week, October 9-15, 2016, is National Fire Prevention Week. House fires occur more often in the upcoming months than in any other months. This is generally due to the holidays and having more cooking going on and having decorations plugged in.

Now is a good time to check your fire extinguishers and make sure they are still good to go. Most newer fire extinguishers will have a pressure gauge on them. If the needle is in the green area, the extinguisher is still okay to use. If it is not in the green area, consider having the extinguisher replaced or serviced by a professional.

Speaking of fire extinguishers, the best place to have one is obviously in your kitchen. Experts recommend that the extinguisher be in clear and plain view and accessible in the event of a fire. This means, please do not put it in a cabinet or on top of the fridge behind a bunch of stuff. Experts also say the best place to put it is not near the stove. In the event of a fire, you may have to reach through the flames to grab the extinguisher if it is too close to the stove. Everyone in your household should also know where the extinguisher is, when to use it, and how to use it. This should be part of your household Emergency Action Plan.
smokealarmplacementThis is also a good time to check your smoke detectors. Before we do that though, let’s talk placement of smoke detectors. There should be at least one on every level of your home. And from there, one in each bedroom. I would not recommend putting on in the kitchen simply because cooking in there may set the smoke detector off. If it is constantly going off, that tends to lead to people disconnecting them or pulling the battery which is a huge safety risk. For the same reason, I would not recommend putting a smoke detector close to a heating or cooling vent.

test-smoke-alarmI generally, at least once per month, check that the smoke detector is still functioning by holding down the test button on it and wait for it to make that obnoxious noise that it makes. In terms of changing the battery in a smoke alarm, every six months is usually the recommendation. The easiest way for me to remember it is when daylight savings time starts and ends. I know, I know, you just put new batteries in them and they are supposed to be good for 5-10 years. I would recommend reading the guidelines about your smoke detector to see what the manufacturer recommends. One thing to remember though is if that smoke detector starts chirping, it is definitely time to change the battery in it. It is trying to warn you!

My last Fire Prevention Week reminder is that smoke detectors do not last forever. In general, alarms should be replaced every 10 years. But when did they get installed? I know. I installed new smoke detectors in 2013 when I bought my house so the inside of the battery compartment says “replace 2023.”