Updated: Sep 20, 2018
We search the MLS for a client’s dream home, negotiate repairs for our clients who are selling their home and we try to build our business with good work and honest insight. We work to provide the best services to our clients. This is the job of a real estate agent.
However, when you work in an industry where our ancestors where listed as human property and your government refused to give your grandparents mortgages in certain areas. Every transaction, every agency lacking in diversity every and ever pre-approval amount is a reminder that being a black realtor is more than selling houses.
This realization is personal. There isn’t a skull and bones club that every black real estate professional must join. There is no secret handshake. What does exist is knowing everyday that you are working in an industry that has a history of discrimination and exclusion. How many careers do people work in that had to have an addendum to the civil rights act?
The Fair Housing Act is a federal act in the United States intended to protect the buyer or renter of a dwelling from seller or landlord discrimination. What most don’t realize is that the fair housing act protects the rights of people when applying for mortgages, getting home owners insurance, how realtors work with you, property values and more. Every aspect of a real estate professionals business is or was part of a blatantly racist system. A system that worked to prevent home ownership for people of color.
But that was then, and things are different today, right? Today blacks can buy homes anywhere they want right? Today blacks can get qualify for the same mortgage programs as whites, right? Today, black home ownership is equal to home ownership of whites, right?
There is a lot that goes in between the yes and no answer for those questions. For many black realtors their business will be lived in between those same yes's and no’s. This is where the responsibility of a black realtor goes beyond the basic job description of a real estate professional goes to the additional mode.
Being a black real estate professional means that regardless of how you market, how you dress and what your logo looks like, chances are you will service more black people than whites. We aren’t going to go into the reasons why, we are just going to address the obvious. Servicing black clients means you must be aware of the issues affecting your black customer base. It means that each traditional task of a real estate professional must come with a bit more.
Educator: You must be aware that you may find yourself servicing first generation home buyers and home sellers. As a professional, you are most likely the first real estate professional they have ever spoken with. Before you, they may have been looking online or listening to Aunty and them getting all sorts of wrong information. You must be able to educate on process, debunk myths, shut down wrong information and inform clients using information that makes sense to them. First timers don’t know terms or acronyms. They know you!
Protector- There are going to be times when you will have to double check a lender to ensure they practice responsible habits. With predatory lending practices regularly targeting blacks, this is a critical task. You may even have to make sure your own biases don’t come into play when showing. Whether we want to admit it or not, people hear surnames, first names and current address and allow their services to be clouded by biases. You will also have to protect clients from themselves.
Historian- You must know the history of credit, housing, racism and understand how it all connects. It is unfortunate, but you do. Neighborhoods have changed over the years due to redlining and gentrification. Wealth has been wiped out due to actions of banks and realtors who pumped bad mortgages. When servicing black clients, you may find yourself involved conversations on the ugly truths about real estate. This is a tricky dynamic. You must be forthcoming while being mindful of fair housing laws and ethic requirements. Remember all blacks aren't the same.
Representor (Not a real word)- You must be authentic and not just in the sense of being you. You must be able to understand that for some clients this may be the first time they have ever hired a black person to handle such a big transaction. Often black clients exhale and relax a bit when they see another face like theirs. This is when you need to under promise and over deliver. The key word is deliver, whatever you say you can do, youget it done done. At first black buyers may bit skittish to the entire process. Any signs of hesitation on your part, any mistakes and you may turn them off from home buying for years. On the flip side, if you provide good service, support and show them you care victory is yours. You have to represent!
Originator- With a home ownership rate that has been in the 40 percent range for decades, owning a home is the first step of financial stability for clients. This is when a black realtor must provide key insight that goes beyond the sell of a home. Real estate professionals are not credit counselors, investment planners or financial advisors. However black clients will look at you as the keeper of knowledge. Black realtors must have relationships with financial industry professions and stay away from providing legal and financial advice.
Expector (Again, not a real word)- Sometimes when black people hire other black people, they tend to expect more. It is the hook up but in reverse. They may not think we are as good as a white realtor. Or they will use our comfort level to ask for things you need a magic wand to make happen. Again, if you can make those things happen, you will have a new family member once the transaction is over.
In a perfect world the task for a white realtor and a black realtor would be the same. But when black professionals are often deemed as not as qualified, fight to secure a smaller pool of clients, work in agencies that lack diversity and go against a history of racism, things are not the same.
Black realtors must understand that they have a responsibility to introduce home ownership to new generations, advocate for financial equality and stay true to themselves in the process. This is the true addition of being a black real estate professional.