We’ve all done it. You’re searching for an apartment, and after what feels like years, you finally come across the perfect one. The building is excellent, and you can see yourself living in the apartment. The problem is, you don’t know the city very well, so you ask your broker a simple question: Do people like me live here? Suddenly, your broker freezes up.
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Why Doesn’t My Broker Want to Help?
Believe it or not, your broker is not allowed to answer this question! Any variation of that including: Is their people my age around here or What kind of people live in this building is not allowed. That even includes the question many new parents ask: Are there other families in this building so my child will have friends?
Unfortunately for you, your broker must plead the fifth on all these questions.
Can You Tell Me Why?
Discrimination fair housing laws in New York exist so your broker cannot steer one group of people towards a particular neighborhood. There are twelve different protected classes, which include race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status, disability, religion, marital status, sexual orientation, age, and military status. What this means is that the broker cannot urge you towards or away from a property with information about these groups
Is this that Big of a Deal?
While you might think that you’re asking a simple question like “Are there lots of people my age nearby?” what your broker is likely to hear is an opportunity for them to discriminate based on age accidentally. He or she isn’t supposed to steer, one age group to or from a neighborhood. If your broker does this, he or she could be charged a hefty fine by the state!
This even extends into listing descriptions. Brokers aren’t allowed to advertise a building by saying that it is “family friendly” or “perfect for roommates.” That language steers certain groups towards the apartment and other ones away from it!
But I want to live near people like myself
Doesn’t mean there’s no way to figure out the answers to your questions – you need to get creative.
If you want to know the type of people that live in the building, hang outside the front door and see for yourself. If you see lots of strollers, you can bet that there are many families. Should you see a temple nearby, it’s likely that a particular portion of the congregation lives in the neighborhood.
And if you want to know about the bar scene, ask! “People who like to drink” is not a protected class.
It can be common to want to know what you’re getting into, but New York City is full of so many incredible neighborhoods and communities that your broker shouldn’t be picking for you. The best way to figure out where you’re going to be happiest is by exploring a couple of neighborhoods before you begin your apartment search.
Just walking the blocks will give you great insight into the nightlife, restaurants, and activity of your chosen area. And remember; a broker who doesn’t answer your question is a top-notch professional; not someone trying to stall your home search.