Diverse Neighborhoods and Schools Strengthen Communities, Say Realtors

For more information, contact:
Sara Weis 202/383-1013 sweis@realtors.org

ORLANDO, November 07, 2008

Real estate professionals play a key role in promoting the value that diverse schools and neighborhoods bring to a community, and Realtors® at today's Equal Opportunity and Cultural Diversity Forum at the 2008 REALTORS® Conference & Expo gained insights on the link between neighborhood demographics, school segregation and housing discrimination.

It’s no surprise that good schools are often at the top of buyers’ lists during the home search process. The 2007 National Association of Realtors® Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers found that the quality of the school district was a deciding factor for 28 percent of home buyers. While real estate professionals are always careful to avoid steering − defined as the illegal practice of directing home seekers to particular areas and limiting where they can live − providing an opinion on whether a school is good or bad could be construed as steering.

“Realtors® are the most trusted resource for real estate information and can help home buyers locate resources and information about schools and local communities to help buyers make the best decision for their family,” said NAR President Richard Gaylord, a broker with RE/MAX Real Estate Specialists in Long Beach, Calif. “Statistics like academic performance and student-to-teacher ratios can be easily obtained: however, what constitutes a good school is often a matter of opinion and depends on what parents are looking for in their child’s education. Strong community, family and parental involvement in schools will always be crucial in creating quality education for our youth.”

While traditional fair housing education provides real estate professionals with helpful advice on how best to respond to these inquiries, agents working in communities with diverse schools are often faced with consumer perceptions that diverse schools and neighborhoods are less desirable. There are many benefits of inclusive, racially diverse neighborhoods and schools, but real estate professionals may find it difficult to know how to legally promote diverse schools and communities to home buyers during the home search process.

Realtor® Theresa Spiro, 2008 chair of NAR’s Equal Opportunity and Cultural Diversity Forum, moderated the session and presented background information on Realtors®, fair housing and diversity. Spiro also outlined the challenges real estate agents face when asked by their clients about the quality of schools in a given community.

Panel participants were Taki Sidley, a teacher at T.C. Williams High School in Alexandria, Va., and William A. Tobin, professor of sociology at Duke University.

Sidley presented a 2007 photo essay created by his students on what diversity means to them. The project resulted in a 112-page book of photos, titled “We Are the Titans: A Profile of Diversity at One American High School.” The book features photos of classmates with interesting stories or unique backgrounds.

William A. Tobin, professor of sociology at Duke University in Durham, N.C., outlined his proposal on how colleges and universities can promote K-12 diversity through their admissions process by convincing elite colleges to announce that applicants’ previous education at a diverse school would enhance an admissions application.

“An undergraduate admissions preference for students that attended racially, economically and ethnically diverse high schools could encourage parents to reconsider schools that are more diversified,” said Tobin.

During the forum, attendees discussed ways real estate professionals can respond to home buyer inquiries about schools. Ideas included providing clients with resources; such as third-party school ratings, parental or student feedback, or encouraging clients to meet with local school principals, teachers, or the PTA board to learn first-hand about a school and its programs.

Sidley recommended that real estate professionals actively involve themselves in their community’s schools by forming relationships with school leadership and educators and learning more about programs and local education issues.

The National Association of Realtors® Public Schools Toolkit provides tools for Realtors® and Realtor® associations to work with their local public schools to help address challenges facing public schools

and their communities. The toolkit can be downloaded for free at www.realtor.org/smartgrowth under the Resources tab.

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