Equal Professional Services by the REALTOR®

Article 10, Part 4

The Complaint

A minority couple called on REALTOR® A and expressed interest in purchasing a home in the $130,000 to $145,000 price range with at least three bedrooms, a large lot, and located in the Cedar Ridge area of town. Being familiar with Cedar Ridge through handling of numerous listings in that area, REALTOR® A explained that houses in Cedar Ridge generally sold in the price range from $180,000 to $220,000. The couple thereafter indicated that they would then like to see “what was available” within their economic means. After further discussion with the couple concerning their financial circumstances and the maximum price range they could afford, REALTOR® A concluded that the couple could not afford more than $137,500 as an absolute maximum. The couple was then shown homes which met the criteria they had described to REALTOR® A. However, although REALTOR® A discussed with the couple the amenities and assets of each of the properties shown to them, they expressed no interest in any of the properties shown. A few days later, the minority couple filed charges with the Secretary of the Board, charging REALTOR® A with a violation of Article 10 of the Code Ethics, alleging that REALTOR® A had violated the Article by an alleged act of racial steering in his service to the minority couple.
The Secretary promptly referred the complaint to the Grievance Committee, which conducted a preliminary review and referred the complaint back to the Secretary, instructing that a hearing be arranged before a Hearing Panel of the Professional Standards Committee. REALTOR® A was duly noticed and provided with an opportunity to make his response to the complaint.


The Hearing

At the hearing, the minority couple elaborated upon their charge of the alleged racial steering by REALTOR® A, telling the Hearing Panel that they had specifically expressed an interest in purchasing a home in the Cedar Ridge area, but were not shown any homes in Cedar Ridge. REALTOR® A responded by producing written records documenting the housing preference of the couple as they had described it to him, including price range and demonstrating that he had shown them a number of listings that met the requirements as expressed by them, although admittedly none of the properties shown were located in Cedar Ridge. However, REALTOR® A explained that he had advised the minority couple that there were no listings available in Cedar Ridge falling within the price range expressed by them. Further, REALTOR® A produced listing and sales information concerning numerous homes in Cedar Ridge which confirmed an average sales price of $180,000 to $220,000. REALTOR® A told the Hearing Panel that he had, in fact, offered equal professional service to the minority couple by showing them properties which met the criteria they had presented to him. He pointed out to the Hearing Panel that the couple was charging him with “racial steering” which presumably they were relating to the denial of equal professional service. REALTOR® A stated, “If there were listings in Cedar Ridge in the $130,000 to $145,000 price range with at least three bedrooms and a large lot, and I had refused to show them such listings, then they might have a point in their charge. But there are no such listings available now, nor have there been at any time since the original development of the Cedar Ridge area five years ago. I could not show them what did not and does not exist.”


The Conclusion

The Hearing Panel concluded that REALTOR® A had properly met his obligation to offer equal professional service and was not in violation of Article 10.