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What Is Racial Steering & How Real Estate Agents Can Stop It
June 30, 2020

What Is Racial Steering & How Real Estate Agents Can Stop It

by The CE Shop Team

Stopping Racial Steering Begins with Real Estate Agents

The development of racially segregated neighborhoods has dated back to the beginning of American history. Most of the nation’s modern housing problems we see today are a result of biased zoning laws from the 1920s and ‘30s and the urban renewal laws of the ‘40s and ‘50s. It wasn’t until the Civil Rights Movement that we began to see a change in how we approached community development.

Even with this new development, the laws changed but the demographics of these neighborhoods stayed the same. There are many sociological theories and federal laws that can somewhat explain why this happened. However, there is one main principle behavior that explains part of this problem: racial steering.

What is Racial Steering?

The act of racial steering can be defined as “the practice in which real estate brokers guide prospective home buyers towards or away from certain neighborhoods based on their race.” This heinous behavior deals with suggesting or pushing clients towards a specific neighborhood or failing to provide vital information and details about a home, all because of a client’s racial features and background.

While there are many laws and Supreme Court decisions that support the abolition of this practice, it’s still a systemic issue plaguing many real estate transactions every year. Just a few years ago, this investigative crew went undercover in Long Island and discovered just how alive and well racial steering is in the Empire State. With laws in place to prevent such actions, it is up to real estate agents like yourself to stop this act and speak up.

When Was Racial Steering Made Illegal?

The Fair Housing Act of 1968 “prohibits discrimination in the sale, rental, and financing of dwellings, and in other housing-related transactions, because of race, color, religion, sex, familial status, national origin, and disability. It also requires that all federal programs relating to housing and urban development be administered in a manner that affirmatively furthers fair housing.”

President Lyndon B. Johnson signed this law into place during the King assassination riots, and it was crucial for increasing federal funding and limiting further hate crimes. It fully established that you cannot discriminate housing against anyone based on their race, color, religion, or national origin. This includes the act of racial steering. However, due to sociopolitical and cultural reasons, there was a need for several more laws and Supreme Court hearings surrounding the expulsion of racial steering from real estate.

How Can Real Estate Agents Stop Racial Steering?

There are many ways to stop racial steering within your and fellow agents’ practices. Using common sense and acting upon human decency is the first step. Here are some other ways you can help eliminate racial steering from the real estate industry:

  • Treat Everyone with Decency and Respect

    A good rule of thumb when creating a hospitable and fair environment for clients is to approach everyone the same. We’re all human and should be treated with the same rights and respect regardless of the color of your skin.

  • Find Homes Based on Wants and Needs

    When helping a client find a home, show them homes that meet what they want and need. By simply touring homes in neighborhoods with people of the same background or skin tone as your clients, you are not acting on their best interests.

  • Become Educated on the Matter

    Whether it’s with our Continuing Education curriculum or somewhere else, taking courses on racial steering and Fair Housing laws will help you become more knowledgeable about what is appropriate and what isn’t.

  • Practice What You Preach

    Talk is cheap. Only you as an agent can follow these ethical guidelines and support your clients the best you can as their real estate agent. By practicing what you preach, you set a precedence for your colleagues and future agents.

  • See Something, Say Something

    If you see or know a fellow colleague is engaging in racial steering, you have an ethical obligation to report their behavior. By reporting on these malicious actions, you too can help bridge the gap for equality in real estate.

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Submitted by Christine Simpson (not verified) on Fri, 07/24/2020 - 13:33


Your article on racial steering makes it sound as if us brokers and real estate agents are the primary reason that our communities are "still segregated". This is utter nonsense and irresponsible writing. I do not know of any real estate agent in my sphere of influence who would steer a buyer into a specific area based on their race. It is about price point and how much the buyer can afford that is the primary reason for showing in a particular area. Many buyers already know which area or town they want to live in before they start looking (close to job, moving into a bigger home, school district) so to suggest that an agent wold show homes in an area that the buyer doesn't want is ridiculous and insulting. Let's just please stop with this politically correct nonsense that feeds this false narrative. We have enough problems on our hands without irresponsible news articles.

Submitted by The CE Shop Team on Wed, 07/29/2020 - 16:15

In reply to by Christine Simpson (not verified)


This blog is written to state the facts and help fellow agents conduct their practices correctly. Being "politically correct" is not on our agenda. We strongly believe that the majority of agents do not break Fair Housing laws and there are a myriad of complicated reasons, beyond the influence of real estate agents, that lead to segregated communities. When you get a chance, please re-read the blog to get a full understanding of what we are saying and why we are saying it.

Submitted by TARIQ MAHMOOD (not verified) on Fri, 07/24/2020 - 13:37


Banks and lending institutions are a major part of this issue.

Submitted by The CE Shop Team on Wed, 07/29/2020 - 16:14

In reply to by TARIQ MAHMOOD (not verified)


They certainly can be when they don't follow the same Fair Housing laws that we discuss in this article. Real estate agents are definitely not alone in fighting the issue.

Submitted by Melvin Hardy (not verified) on Fri, 07/24/2020 - 13:41


Well stated. As Realtors, we hold great influence on catalyzing the pathing of our clients from social mobility to social cohesion. The Fair Housing Act of 1968 was great law, but the psychic culture of the influential American social polity did not change, hence we are still segregated in housing, and by extension, education, health, and human flourishing. Let's step into our roles to grow this economy in ways that it cannot grow in our status quo practices.

Submitted by The CE Shop Team on Wed, 07/29/2020 - 16:14

In reply to by Melvin Hardy (not verified)


While the laws have helped with diversifying our communities and supporting other protected classes, they still may not do enough to break through this psychological barrier you're discussing. It might require other initiatives to help further the laws' initial intentions.

Submitted by Alice Engstrom (not verified) on Fri, 07/24/2020 - 14:39


It seems that most real estate agents would not do racial steering. Why lose a sale by refusing to show a suitable home to any client? Also the use of the word "heinous" in describing this type of action is totally out of the realm of credulity. The word "heinous" is applicable to brutal killings, etc., and has no relationship to what you refer to as racial steering.

Submitted by The CE Shop Team on Wed, 07/29/2020 - 16:13

In reply to by Alice Engstrom (not verified)


While we can argue about the definition of heinous, the bigger issue is making sure, as an agent, you are following Fair Housing laws to create a better world in your community. The majority of agents do follow the law but there are still those who do not for the wrong reasons.

Submitted by Christine Job (not verified) on Fri, 07/24/2020 - 15:23


In today's world the only thing realestate agents care about is your money green? Or are you preapproved and how can we help you get connected to a lender if you dont have one. Racial steering doesnt exist anymore !!! So sick of the assumptions!!!

Submitted by The CE Shop Team on Wed, 07/29/2020 - 16:12

In reply to by Christine Job (not verified)


We agree: money is green. However, money is not always a determining factor for some agents who break Fair Housing laws. That being said, we do not assume that every agent is committing these crimes. This blog is merely an information source for knowing your ethical duty as an agent and nothing more.

Submitted by Charles Stallions (not verified) on Fri, 07/24/2020 - 20:41


is a word that was left behind many years ago but just like the word racism it is brought up now and again so people will read a paper that no one reads or a word for someone that wants to belly ache about the past. We can never get past the past till we let it go the way of the eight track tape. 99.5 % of the population has never experienced racism and probably don't know the true meaning then just know it makes them forget their current situation and they came blame someone or something for their what they cannot do themselves.

Submitted by The CE Shop Team on Wed, 07/29/2020 - 16:11

In reply to by Charles Stallions (not verified)


This blog post is written to explain the impartial facts and laws of the country and industry. While not committed by most agents, racial steering is still a part of our society and needs to be fully stopped. We strongly urge you to check out this undercover investigation done in Long Island in regards to racist practices within the real estate industry, published just last year.

Submitted by connie (not verified) on Fri, 07/24/2020 - 22:24


or Agents steering their sellers away from certain PA's based on the race of the buyers agent. (assuming the buyer to be of the same race as the agent.) When it should not matter the race of either party

Submitted by The CE Shop Team on Wed, 07/29/2020 - 16:10

In reply to by connie (not verified)


We fully agree. Race should never determine the actions of an agent.

Submitted by Nancy Hubbell (not verified) on Fri, 07/24/2020 - 23:35


I have been a Realtor for 41 yrs & have had opportunities to work with different races & ethnicities. There are possibly some who may not treat others as they would like to be treated & or give fair & equitable treatment to all peoples. There is another side to this that I have never heard addressed & that is those of different races etc. who will tell a Realtor boldly that they will work only with........ & they name the race or ethnicity of the person. Another issues arises when a Realtor many be approached by a person of different ethnicity & that person "works" with the Realtor - using their time & expertise - yet never making a decision. In some of those cases the Realtor may never know if the person was a viable buyer/seller or "testing" them. I had such a recent experience - where a man - proposed buyer, used 2 months of my time, knowledge, money, lender relationships to work our special financing, working out financing between the seller & lender + many efforts in his behalf, making many buying indications & yet never acted when we discussed pursuing an offer. So - my question remains, was he a legitimate buyer or was he testing me & if he was testing me, there is no other response than he was using & taking advantage of me. Yet, had I not jumped thru all the hoops for him - would he have reported me for something? I'll never know. So there are reverse issues that I have never heard discussed. There are two sides to issues.

It's hard to say whether they were trying to take advantage of you, and we know how frustrating it can be to put in the time and effort with no follow through from your client. Regardless, what you're discussing is the weaponization of the Fair Housing laws. This definitely happens, but just like the vast majority of agents do not break protected class laws, most home buyers and sellers do not use these laws to take advantage of the situation.

Submitted by Blondie (not verified) on Sat, 07/25/2020 - 03:45


After being a Broker Owner for 39 years, there is NO racial steering. There is just steering in general. More people than you think come to us asking for certain neighborhoods as that is where they wish to live, but, if we help them find that particular neighborhood, we are labeled as racial steering individuals. The term Racial is getting to be disgusting as that pot has been stirred until it is just about the only priority that is discussed in every single part of our lives. It is time to stop it & learn to be the person of "do unto others as you would have them do unto you". It is literally to the point of fearmongering everyone into a bias of racism just because we exist. Leave it alone... Do your job professionally & don't allow anyone to tag you as racist just because you don't agree with them on any given subject or call your action racial steering. This label is actually preventing people from doing their jobs as they are scared to death of what action could be taken against them just for being a human. It is time to stop this nonsense now & forever. Stop, stop, stop labeling everything racist or racial steering. Get back to work & help each other professionally....

Submitted by The CE Shop Team on Wed, 07/29/2020 - 16:09


While we do agree that some real estate laws can be weaponized, Steering - whether racial or not - is still a common practice throughout the industry. This blog was written to inform agents about the factual law of the land and what they must do to follow it. The majority of agents do not commit this crime but it still prevalent. We strongly urge you to watch this undercover video detailing racism from real estate agents and stay informed on the matter:

Submitted by B (not verified) on Fri, 07/31/2020 - 02:58


The only issue I have with this article is the comments. (lol x 1,00000000). Everyone’s ruffled feathers aside - I really appreciate anything that inspires a conversation around ethical practice. Thank you to those who spent time researching for this piece, writing it, editing it, and publishing it. And bless anyone who took the time to read it, criticism is necessary too. I see the work that was done here. Well done. xoxo

Submitted by The CE Shop Team on Tue, 08/11/2020 - 13:55

In reply to by B (not verified)


We put a lot of time into this piece and appreciate your praise. 

Conversation is what will help us progress to the next level as a society. We can only hope future pieces like this will inspire more discussion to help create an equal place for all.

Thanks for reading and commenting!

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