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While chatting with realtors for this week’s story, I learned a few things that you may have known, but I did not!
Fact #1: They’re pro-statehood! The National Association of Realtors is one of the only nationwide organizations to support statehood for D.C. residents. It became a plank in NAR’s platform several years ago, after a fight by the Washington D.C. Association of Realtors (WDCAR, pronounced WOOD-car). “Members who are further away from D.C. didn’t get it,” says Ed Krauze, WDCAR’s lobbyist. It’s not obviously displayed on NAR’s website, but Krauze says WDCAR tries to work with and donate to the local statehood groups, and at least talks the talk. “There’s anywhere from 2500 to 3000 realtor members who don’t have the right to vote,” Krauze says. “That is a civil rights issue, an equality issue, and a fairness issue.”
Plus, he says, not having suffrage hurts D.C. property values relative to surrounding jurisdictions. “For some people, when they look for a home, they think the ability to vote is important!”
Fact #2: They won’t tell you much about neighborhoods! Under the Fair Housing Act of 1968, realtors can’t tell you the kind of people who live in a building, which schools are better than others, what the character of a neighborhood might be, or what churches are nearby—in other words, many of the bits of knowledge that might be useful when searching for a place to live. Of course, the law was passed to eliminate the effects of generations of redlining, with realtors guiding homebuyers to different neighborhoods based on race and class. But sometimes, it can get inconvenient.
“It’s very frustrating for people from out of town to buy real estate, because you can’t tell them anything,” says Jennifer Angotti, a realtor with Long and Foster. “You can tell them about restaurants. But I can in no way talk about the kind of people who live in buildings. You can’t talk about what the neighborhood mix is.”
In D.C., which has some neighborhoods that don’t look great but may be perfectly nice places to live, that means realtors can’t even dispel misperceptions. “When you drive in, people make their own assumptions about it, whether they’re correct or not,” Angotti says, recalling taking a client along Euclid Street, where she had lived happily for seven years. “He was totally skeezed out by it when they drove by,” she says. “When you live in D.C. and you’re used to it, it just doesn’t look as bad.”
For unvarnished opinions, consult your local alt weekly!