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Monthly Archives: July 2012

Thoughts From My Inbox…..Fair Housing

While going through my Inbox this morning I came across an email from PAR (Pennsylvania Association of Realtors) reminding us about Fair Housing rules and regulations and that the state sends out “testers” to see if we are complying.  Fair Housings sounds pretty straight forward even to the layman.  We cannot discriminate based on race, gender, religion, familial status, sexual orientation or disability.  Makes sense.  The rule of thumb I have always been taught and follow is to treat everyone equally.  A trainer of a Fair Housing seminar once said “If you are nice and helpful to one be nice and helpful to all…..if, on the other hand, you are rude and callous to one you had better be rude and callous to all.”  I thought that was funny at the time but have remembered it and I treat everyone with respect, am helpful and work to the best of my ability for all.

Often, though, I get questions about school districts, especially from those who are relocating from other areas.  This is a sticky issue as it falls under the “steering” umbrella of Fair Housing which puts me, as a Buyers’ Agent, in a very gray area.  Everyone has preferences in school districts and it is often the district you live in and where your children attend school.  So how do we, as agents, help our relocating clients make good, informed choices when buying a new home for their families?  First and foremost, I treat everyone the same and recognize that my preferences are not necessarily my clients’ preferences.  I tell everyone that I am prohibited from recommending a particular school district by law.  The reality is that everyone has their own thoughts on what constitutes a good school district anyway and I am quick to point that out.  One family may have musicians and be looking for a great music program, others may have athletes and are looking for exceptional sports programs others, still may have special needs children, or gifted children and may be looking for districts with specific programs for their specific needs.  So it is really impossible for me to tell anyone which, of the many school districts we have to choose from here in the Philadelphia suburbs, might be best for them.  So…how do I deal with this all important aspect of the home buying process?  I ask questions.  I find out more about what is important to my clients in their children’s’ education, I recommend they explore the many websites available to consumers, I tell them about the Inquirers yearly School Report Card that is available online, I suggest they call the districts we are looking for homes in to get their questions answered by the districts themselves, I suggest they ask their co-workers, friends and family members what their preferences are as they will most likely get the real “skinny” from people they trust and I recommend they visit the schools…but call the district first as schools will require you to have an appointment to actually enter the building.

So there are ways we can be the same helpful, respectful, knowledgeable agents in this aspect as we are with all the other aspects of the home buying process.  So…when you ask me, “What is the best school district?”  you will understand that there is no one answer to that question.  I will give you avenues to get the answers you are looking for and show you homes in the school districts you have chosen but, in the end, the choice is yours….and really….one of the things that makes the  Philadelphia area so fabulous to live in is that we have so many great school districts to choose from!

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What Makes a House a Home?

I sell homes for a living, that is no surprise to anyone reading this blog.  But as I am cheering on the decorated bikes in our 13th annual neighborhood 4th of July parade and enjoying sharing a pot luck breakfast afterward on my deck with my neighbors, I am thinking, “This is home”.  I love my house and my neighborhood.  So, because I do sell real estate for a living I start thinking…when I work with a client are they looking for a home or just a place to hang their hat?  Everyone is different, true, but I know, from experience, that the majority are looking for a home.  They want what I have.  A place where you can borrow a cup of sugar, have someone pick up your mail when you are out of town and even call if your child is misbehaving….not a good call to get, I will tell you from experience.

So, if you want to buy a home and not just a house how do you go about doing that?    I often advise buyers to take a harder look at the things around the property rather than the things in the property.  Buyers, especially first time home buyers, should “buy the things you cannot change”.  The big thing you can never change is the location of your property.  The train tracks, electric lines, shopping center, etc will never go away.  You can add granite counters, update bathrooms, replace carpet with hardwood but you can never pick up your house and put it somewhere else.  So, when you are out looking for a home take a look at the neighborhood in general.  The obvious thing to look for are the “locational” things like those train tracks, electric lines, shopping centers, etc. that will absolutely affect the long-term worth of your property.  But there are more subjective, lifestyle things that are just as important and will make you feel more at home in your house.  If you are a stay at home Mom you probably will not be happy in a neighborhood of working Moms, so pay attention to the cars in the driveways in the middle of the day or the number of Moms waiting at a bus stop.  If you have children and want them to have playmates pay attention to “signs” of child activity such as swing sets, basketball nets, bikes in driveways or garages, etc.  If you have no children and the thought of Trick or Treaters ringing your doorbell over and over will put you over the edge….pay attention to the same signs and avoid those neighborhoods like the plague.

The bottom line is a house is a long-term investment.  Let’s make sure that the one you pick to be your home will fit your lifestyle for years to come.   So, Happy 4th of July from the place we have chosen to call “home”!