Fair Housing Month is celebrated nationally each April in observance of the passage of the Fair Housing Act of 1968. This important legislation prohibits discrimination in the sale, rental, or financing of housing. It is an issue vital to everyone in the housing industry, from REALTORS® to short-term tenants.
Join your fellow REALTORS® in proclaiming your commitment to fair housing for all! Following are a few ideas to get you started…
Put a Poster On It
Put your commitment to fair housing on display! The National Association of REALTORS® has a poster featuring a timeline of milestones in fair housing or there’s always the Fair Housing Declaration. Likewise, the US Department of Housing and Urban Development offers a poster of their own. If you’re looking for something a little more whimsical, check out this year’s Fair Housing Council of Oregon poster winners.
Lobby the Locals
Work with the electeds in your town or county and ask them to proclaim April as Fair Housing Month. The National Association of REALTORS® has boilerplate text for such a declaration on their website.
Read All About It
Educate yourself about fair housing issues. REALTORS® can learn about their responsibilities under fair housing laws through the Fair Housing Council of Oregon. (Be sure to check out all the resources under the “Learn” tab on their website.) Read Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City by Matthew Desmond—this year’s selection for the Multnomah County Library’s Everybody Reads program.
Don’t neglect to educate your clients! The Fair Housing Council of Oregon has an informative site for housing consumers—and plenty of materials translated for speakers of other languages too.
Take It to the Next Level
If you’re looking for an office activity that will lend a unique perspective on housing issues, consider booking a fair housing bus tour or a training class with the Fair Housing Council of Oregon. Consider holding a poverty simulation at your office, which also involves housing issues. If those options are a little too time-involved, consider organizing a fair housing movie night with classics such as A Raisin in the Sun. Experiential learning can provide food for thought for years to come, and can be a valuable experience for your office staff.
What do you or your office do to observe Fair Housing Month?
This April, celebrate National Fair Housing Month with the National Association of REALTORS®, Fair Housing Council of Oregon, and RMLS™. April 11th marks the 48th anniversary of the passage of the Fair Housing Act, which prohibits discrimination in the sale, rental, or financing of housing. It is an issue vital to everyone in the housing industry, from REALTORS® to short-term tenants. Each April, National Fair Housing Month is observed to spotlight this important issue.
How can your office observe Fair Housing Month? Here are a few ideas:
• The National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) regularly publishes online content about fair housing in the industry. Explore the most recent offerings, such as Window to the Law: Disparate Impact Liability and Fair Housing, and moderate an office discussion about fair housing practices at your next office meeting.
• NAR’s REALTOR® Action Center suggests displaying materials related to Fair Housing in your brokerage office. Could you get your town to declare April as Fair Housing Month? They can help!
• Fair Housing Council of Oregon (FHCO) will be on hand at several events this April to answer questions and talk to the public. Catch them at Portland’s Mexican Consolate from 10am-3pm on April 4th and April 8th; the Asian and Pacific Islander Community Improvement Association Home Buyer Fair on April 9th; and the Latino Cultural Festival on April 24th.
• If you like museums, consider a visit to “Anywhere but Here,” FHCO’s traveling exhibit of housing discrimination in Oregon. The public can view the exhibit at the following locations:
March 28-April 8
Clackamas County Housing Rights and Resource Center
2051 Kaen Road
Oregon City, OR
April 11-April 22
The Portland Building
1120 SW Fifth Ave
April 25-May 6
Yamhill County Housing Authority
135 NE Dunn Place
May 9-May 20
Providence St. Vincent Medical Center
9205 SW Barnes Road
• RMLS™ staff members frequently join FHCO’s Fair Housing Bus Tour that rolls around Portland in April. The tour makes stops at sites important to Portland’s fair housing history and includes speakers who personally experienced housing discrimination, speaking firsthand about the discrimination they faced.
How does your office celebrate Fair Housing Month? Share your ideas and resources below—we can all benefit from sharing what we know.
Would you know how to look for a home for a client who uses a wheelchair? Do you know how to identify accessible features when listing a home to market them to a wider audience on RMLSweb?
July 26th is the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, a piece of legislation crafted to eliminate discrimination against people with physical or mental conditions that may require accommodations. Last week, an educational forum organized by the Portland Metro Association of REALTORS® (PMAR) explored the intersection of real estate and accessibility—from looking at how a brokerage can improve accessibility in the office to the perspective of a local REALTOR® who uses a wheelchair.
Today we aim to educate RMLS™ subscribers on how they may use RMLSweb more effectively in both the listing and buying processes.
The Accessibility Field on RMLSweb
Accessibility has been addressed on RMLSweb for years, with the Accessibility field being regularly reviewed and developed by the RMLS™ Forms Committee. Over the years this field has been expanded to include wide parking spaces, stair assistance, roll-in showers, and more.
The Devil’s in the Details
How wide must a doorway be to be marked as WD-DOOR? Specificity helps REALTORS® do their job, so prospective clients don’t arrive at a property to find the listing inadequate for their needs—perhaps sporting a dangerously steep ramp or a ‘wide’ hallway where a wheelchair can’t turn.
Document #1211 on RMLSweb, Accessibility Term Definitions, defines minimum standards for each accessibility feature. REALTORS® listing a property should verify the specified measurements on each feature before marking the appropriate field in RMLSweb.
(We also include the accessibility terms on Document #1210, Listing Abbreviations, but this document only unravels abbreviations without specific details about each feature.)
In the Thick of Listing or Searching for a Property?
If you’re listing a property using Listing Load, click on the linked text that says “Accessibility” for a pop-up window with full definitions.
Searching for properties for a client? In Advanced Search, select the Accessibility field and then click the Help link for full definitions.
Incorrect Data? Let Us Know!
What if, as a buyer agent, you show a listing that don’t quite meet the standards outlined on the definitions document? Report the listing to RMLS™ using the Report Issue button! Our staff will contact the listing agent to get things ironed out.
Have any suggestions for improving how RMLSweb communicates a listing’s accessibility? Submit a suggestion to the RMLS™ Forms Committee by contacting Christina Smestad.
Housing can have a huge impact on an individual’s quality of life—including the person’s physical and social health, access to community resources, and even employment. Historically, certain groups have encountered obstacles to housing, which led to the passage of the Fair Housing Act of 1968. Fair Housing Month is celebrated nationally each April in observance of this legislation.
RMLS™ encourages your business to commemorate Fair Housing Month! Here are a few ideas on how to do so.
• Review how REALTORS® can play a part in creating positive, diverse neighborhoods during a regular brokerage meeting.
• Watch a few educational videos online about modern-day housing discrimination, including linguistic profiling.
• Take a fair housing quiz online!
• Read “The Air I Breathe,” a first-person account of growing up “tolerated and underestimated” in Portland, by Ifanyi Bell. This piece, which originally appeared in the Oregon Humanities quarterly last winter, has since received national attention.
• Charter or join a bus tour with Fair Housing Council of Oregon! The bus tour is highly recommended by all RMLS™ staff who have previously gone on the tour, and I’m hoping to make it myself this April.
And of course, you could also explore the resources from my Fair Housing Month blog post for RMLS™ in April 2014.
Fair Housing Month commemorates the anniversary of the Fair Housing Act in 1968. This major legislation sought to put an end to housing discrimination of all kinds—although many believe discrimination has only become more subtle in the decades since that time.
The Fair Housing Council of Oregon commemorates Fair Housing Month by organizing community events (Here is FHCO’s list of Fair Housing Month Events for 2014). They also offer historical tours of Portland, with important stops that serve to illustrate why fair housing is important to our past, present and future. These tours are highly recommended by RMLS™ staff, including Data Accuracy Liaison Vallerie Bush, who thinks REALTORS® who want to learn more about the history of Portland, or REALTORS® new to the area might find the tour especially enlightening.
The National Association of REALTORS® observes Fair Housing Month each year to “recognize the significance of [the Fair Housing Act of 1968] and reconfirm our commitment to offering equal professional service to all.” Click the link and find a set of articles including “Four Things You Didn’t Know About the Fair Housing Act,” and “What Everyone Should Know About Equal Opportunity Housing.”
An episode of This American Life called “House Rules” aired last year, which illustrated the ongoing need for fair housing laws. National Public Radio followed up with “A Battle for Fair Housing Still Raging, But Mostly Forgotten,” an interview with reporter Nikole Hannah-Jones, who became interested in the topic while reporting on the topic in our very own Portland, Oregon.
While Hannah-Jones worked for The Oregonian, the paper ran an extended series about housing discrimination in Portland in Locked Out. The series begins with “Portland Housing Audit Finds Discrimination in 64% of Tests; City Has Yet to Act Against Landlords” in May 2011. (That’s right—2011!)
We hope you’ll take some time to explore some of these resources and reflect on what you can do to help end discrimination and the fair housing movement through your work with clients.
If you want to get a home sold quickly and inexpensively, you should review these sales and design tips.
Even with rising values and reduced inventory in certain markets, selling a home remains challenging. Buyers expect not just a shiny new stainless sink but pruned hedges, freshly painted walls, glistening hardwood floors, and more. Making everything look great can cost a pretty penny, and many sellers won’t be able to afford all the suggestions you might make.
You can help them prioritize based on the condition of what’s needed most, what buyers in the area typically request, what competing houses offer, and — of course — cost. Here’s a list of 25 affordable, easy-to-make changes from top design and real-estate pros:
- Add power outlets with USB ports in rooms that lack them, especially in the kitchen, bathrooms, and bedrooms where they’re most needed. “Younger, more tech-savvy couples and individuals love them,” says Tyler Drew, broker and property investor with Anubis Properties Inc. in Los Angeles.
- Eliminate acoustic popcorn-style ceilings since they look dated and tacky.
- Remove exposed posts and half walls. Today’s buyers want more space, and partial walls and posts gobble up room. The only walls that should remain are those that offer privacy or conceal electrical wires or plumbing stacks.
- Update wiring for the Internet and flat-screen TVs. You don’t have to run CAT-5 through walls, which can be costly and require opening and closing and repainting walls. Instead, find a place to put a wireless router, Drew says.
- Clean carpets and wood floors since they’re often the first part of a room that buyers check out; you don’t need to replace them unless they’re in terrible shape. A good carpet steam cleaning or wood floor waxing can be relatively inexpensive, sometimes less than $200.
- Expand a small kitchen to make it work better and look larger. Two quick fixes: Change the backsplash by adding mirrors, stainless steel, or paint, which will introduce light and views; and add an island, which requires only 30” between counters and the island to pass through comfortably. If there’s not enough room for an island, bring in a rolling cart with pull-out shelves underneath and a wood top, says Libby Langdon, an interior designer, author, and expert with Liebherr Refrigeration..
- Clear out and clean a garage, a big selling feature.Power wash the floor or paint it if it’s in bad shape, remove dated cabinets, and remove all junk that’s been stored there, so prospects can see how much space they would have for their stuff.
- Change out corroded or dented door knobs and levers. The replacements don’t have to be expensive but they should look new and clean, Chicago architect Allan J. Grant suggests.
- Pay attention to landscaping, which can add 7 to 15 percent to a home’s value, according to HabitatDesign.com principals Jessy Berg and Bonnie Gemmell. Focus on mowing grass, removing crab grass, and eliminating dead plants and tree branches. “I’d rather have dirt and the potential to paint a picture for the buyers’ mind than a backyard full of dead plants,” Drew says. But if you have extra funds, consider Sacramento, Calif.-based landscape designer Michael Glassman’s ideas: Add lots of seasonal color through blooming annuals and perennial plants and remove problems like too much noise from traffic or neighbors by installing an inexpensive fountain with trickling water.
- Paint exterior windows, doors, gutters, downspouts, and trim, then go inside and paint the home’s trim, doorways, and walls that are in need of freshening. Don’t worry about the colors but consider those that veer toward quiet and comfort such as Benjamin Moore’s Yosemite Sand, Edgecomb Gray, or Carrington Beige. “Gray is a hot interior color now,” says Manchester, Vt.-based designer Amy Thebault. Painting rooms other, lighter colors such as white, yellow, and beige help to bounce and reflect sunlight and use more natural and less artificial light, according to Chris Ring, vice president at ProTect Painters, a professional painting source. But in cooler months, Ring says, dark colors such as deep brown and blue absorb sunlight, thereby reducing heating costs. And don’t forget ceilings, which can be a “fifth wall.” You can improve them with paint or old-style metal or faux-metal tiles, says Beverley Kruskol, a general contractor and owner of MY Pacific Building Inc. in Los Angeles.
- Remove outdated wallpaper, replacing it with paint and preferably a neutral color, says Shelley Beckes, ASID, CID, a designer with Beckes Interior Design in Los Angeles.
- Remove, store, or discard excessive accessories on tabletops and walls and in cabinets. “Less is more, and you want the house to be seen by prospective buyers without the distraction of too many personal items,” Grant says. Some suggest following the rule of three: Leave out only three things on any surface.
- Get the house inspected before it’s listed to know its condition and identify any structural issues that could derail sales. Many problems can’t be detected by an untrained eye, including those in a basement, crawl space, or attic, says BillJacques, president-elect of the American Society of Home Inspectors. “There might be roof damage or a plumbing leak. Many inspectors take photos and provide a detailed report,” he says. “And if home owners have repairs made, they should be handled by a qualified licensed contractor, so the home owner can get problems corrected.”
- Outfit closets for extra storage to make rooms look larger and less cluttered, but don’t redo all closets and elaborately. Top contenders for redos are an entry closet for a good first impression, kitchen pantries where storage is key, and a linen closet to keep sheets, towels, and other stuff neat, says Ginny Snook Scott, chief design officer at California Closets Co. “The costs needn’t be excessive. A linen closet can be fitted with baskets and cubbies for between $500 and $600, an entry closet for between $400 and $700, each dependent on closet size and features,” she says.
- Tighten a home’s “envelope” to improve energy efficiency and savings. Put money and effort into well-insulated double-paned windows, sealed furnace ducts, energy-efficient appliances, the newest programmable thermostats, LED and compact fluorescent lights, and a smart irrigation box on a sprinkler to cut water usage, says Kate Latham, energy consultant withWattzON, a service based in Mountain View, Calif., which analyzes home energy use to pare costs. “After a few months, sellers can show buyers how costs have dropped. They also should put together a green manual to show which features they added,” she explains.
- Improve a home’s healthfulness by using paints and adhesives with low or no VOCs. Point out these changes to prospective buyers in another list or manual, Latham says.
- Use what you have, and arrange each room in a conversational way if possible. Don’t set all furnishings in a family room so they face a TV, since most potential buyers like the idea of an open-room milieu for socializing.
- Remove and replaced faded draperies, fabrics, and rugs, or leave windows and floors bare to avoid showing lack of attention, Thebault says. Slipcovers, which can cover worn furniture can also provide an affordable decorative feature, changed for each season, says Hugh Rovit, CEO of Sure Fit, a manufacturer and distributor of ready-made slipcovers and other accessories. The company’s slipcovers range from $49.99 to $149.99, based on fabric and treatment.
- Replace old, dated, or worn bedding. Before any showing, fluff up pillows and covers, and make all beds neatly. Affordable choices can be found at stores like Target and Web sites likeOverstock.com.
- Toss out old magazines. “You don’t want a People magazine from a year ago; it looks like nobody lives in the house or cares,” Thebault says.
- Check smells regularly. Besides getting rid of bad odors from pets and mildew, introduce nice fresh fragrances, but don’t go heavy on scents from candles. A light lavender or citrus spray is smart and inoffensive. Open windows before showings to bring in fresh air.
- Make rooms lighter and larger for showings with good lighting. Thebault prefers warm, cool colors rather than fluorescents. Additionally, 60-watt bulbs are a good choice, even though they’re not as energy-efficient.
- Go with plants rather than flowers indoors since they last longer, but either choice can add vivacity to a room.
- Pay attention to your bathrooms. Specifically, make sure you have freshly laundered towels, new soap in soap dishes, spotless mirrors, and no mildew in view.
- Be sure your house is priced competitively with the current market and homes in your area. In most regions, it’s still the No. 1 “fix” to sell quickly. Go a bit under the market price, and you may even bring forth multiple offers that are higher than expected, says Jill Epstein, a REALTOR® with Nourmand & Associates in the Los Angeles area.