graffiti460Clients often ask me what a neighborhood is like.

I would love to answer. But I can’t.

Federal and state fair housing laws prohibit Realtors from commenting on any sort of demographic information, whether it’s factual or perceptual.

Further regulations prohibit Realtors from engaging in anything that could resemble “steering”, which is a practice of directing a client toward or away from a property in any sort of discriminatory manor.

So, wink, wink, nudge, nudge, can’t I just give clients my opinion?

Nope.

Not that I don’t have plenty of them.

But I try to base my opinions on facts, and when it comes to things like crime statistics and addresses of registered sex offenders, I don’t have them.

The police do.

And believe it or not, if you ask them their opinion of a given neighborhood or street, they will tell you. In fact, in the case of both Minneapolis and St Paul, the latest crime statistics are posted on their web sites.  If you’d like even more up-to-the-minute data, you can call and ask for the SAFE officer in the neighborhood police precinct.

If you look at the maps or call, you might be surprised.

Several times in recent weeks I’ve had clients express an interest in living in a specific part of a trendy MLS district. When we’ve been unable to find a property right for their needs in that area, I’ve suggested other duplexes in the same district, but a different section.

Time and again, they’ve resisted; saying the property is “in a bad area”. In the year’s I’ve been a Realtor, I’ve learned this phrase is usually code for “crime infested”.

Of course, this puzzled me.

While I didn’t share my thoughts, I knew that privately, this hadn’t been my personal perception at all.

I wondered if I was missing something. So I went and looked up the crime statistics for the respective neighborhoods.

And guess what?

The police crime map of the area they thought was “good” had all sorts of colorful cartoon icons on it representing thefts and burglaries.

And the area I didn’t think was bad?

A boring black and white street map, with no colorful cartoons.

Always do your homework when you’re looking to buy a property. Perception isn’t always reality.