Sellers Beware of Unconscious Bias

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Real Estate

The term 'Unconscious Bias' should give anyone pause 

In today’s climate it appears you can be punished or sued for having a thought that helps you in your decision making process -  it is called unconscious bias.

Would you agree that opinions can be formed based on previous experiences?   Daily life decisions are made based on experiences. Just look at how many times you search for reviews before you commit to a purchase or engage a business professional.  Facebook, Yelp, Google, etc - these formats are laden with the yellings or praises of those who have an opinion consciously, about a great many dealings. Once read, the opinions are weighed and then stored and made readily available in your memory banks to draw upon when you are trying to reach a decision.  How does this relate to Real Estate - read on. 

A recent article published in the National Association of Realtors magazine addressed this issue, however the article could imply that a seller has no choice in the offers they receive and can be held liable if someone decided that the offer made was unfairly not chosen.  Sellers have many reasons to choose or not choose and offer.  Most of the time they don’t even know who the buyer is, having never seen them.  Decisions are not made on price alone, there are many other deciding factors, and at the end of the day you must remember, it is the seller’s home and they have a right to sell or not sell based on their needs - not yours.  

I mentioned that most of the time the seller will not even know who has made the offer, but let's address cameras, ring doorbells and listening devices in the home and a seller who meets the agents and their customers at the door.  This conscious decision to spy on the potential buyer ( that is how it is perceived by the other parties), can lead to trouble.  Now you have a face - an observation of your prospective buyer that can expose their financial status, race, sexual orientation, religious beliefs, and familial status to name a few biggies. Your decision could be influenced on the fact you don’t think the kind of car they drive is status enough for your neighbors.  Did you know a ring style doorbell can pick up conversations you are having outside the home and down the driveway? If this party presents an offer and it is not accepted, what do you think could be the outcome from a disgruntled agent or buyer who believes their offer is solid?  It appears from that article that they can claim unfair housing practices based on unconscious bias.  How would your defense look?  You saw them, you now have an impression in your subconscious of what they look like, what kind of car they drive, etc and you have heard them discussing how they would live in the space ( and where the Christmas tree will go, etc).  If the seller didn’t accept the offer for whatever their reason, the buyer could make the case for bias.  A buyer and their agent must be informed in advance if the home is under surveillance - and what type.  They know they were watched and or heard.  Dangerous don’t you think?  The very thing you installed to protect you could incriminate you. 

To conclude, I am not an attorney.  I am a Realtor who has been informed by the National Association of Realtors and the Fair Housing Department that unconscious bias can bring a lawsuit.  My job is to help you not find yourself in this position and to help you see the value in each offer based on what you need from the sale.  Another huge and scary reason to not sell by yourself.  You are not exempt from the laws you do not know.   Advice to a buyer or a seller - have a Realtor who can help guide you skillfully through the possibilities of an offer received or to be made.  Steve Martin Smith with Re/Max Platinum is one such Realtor.  Steve is naturally gifted in the area of bringing people together and getting a deal to closing.  


On behalf of Steve Martin Homes Group,


Katrina Smith is owner/operator of Little Black Dress Home Staging in Sarasota County. She is also a licensed Florida Realtor with Steve Martin Homes Group and RE/MAX Platinum Realty. A home décor specialist from the Gross Point Michigan area, Katrina has been professionally preparing and staging homes in and around Sarasota County since 2007. Katrina has also held a full cosmetology license since 1997.