Fair housing issues – How White and Asian homebuyers are treated differently

Ensuring everyone has equal access to secure housing is an important part of the Fair Housing Act and why it was enacted in 1968. As we approach the Act’s 50th anniversary, we are evaluating how we’re doing. How far have we come toward achieving the goal of housing equality? A recent study published by HUD indicates that the move toward equal housing has made some tremendous strides, and we also see where we still need to work harder.

When it comes to Asians and people of Asian descent versus white Americans, discrimination is still a factor, though seemingly less so, or less obviously than with other minorities. In four types of testing, HUD researchers found that whites were slightly favored or received favorable treatment more commonly than with Asians in all categories.

For instance, when whites and Asians inquire about available homes, they are equally likely to be shown at least one home However, when one group is shown more units than the other, whites are 13.9 percentage points more likely than to be favored than Asians. This means that for every two visits in which at least some available homes are recommended, Asians inspect one fewer home than a comparable white home buyer. The quality of units or prices points offered to be shown to whites and Asians does not differ significantly.

Further, Asians tend to be offered help with financing less often than whites, by about 10 percentage points. Real estate agents are more likely to discuss available financing options, pre-qualification, interest rates, and personal finances with whites. They are more likely to suggest an affordable price point and mortgage amount to whites.

More troubling, the study shows that real estate agents follow up more thoroughly with white homebuyers than with equally qualified Asians. Whites are more likely than Asians to receive information about noise, schools and investments, while Asians are more likely to information about safety. Disturbingly, whites are far more likely than Asians to hear negative comments about minority neighborhoods.

It’s important to remember that your comments and enthusiasm for working with clients matters. Monitor your own behavior with client interactions. Are you offering everyone the same level of service? If not, why not? Are there changes you should make to your business to ensure that you are treating everyone equitably? You may be inadvertently shifting your behavior based on what you assume clients want. It’s better not to make assumptions, but to ask questions and have conversations instead so you ensure people have the level of service they want. Of course, we encourage you to aim for going above and beyond the level of service your clients expect, every time.