When making one of the biggest investments in a lifetime, consumers have lots of questions. At times, they might ask a question to which a Realtor cannot give a direct answer. In such situations, the Realtor might refer a consumer to another source for the requested information. When Realtors answer in this manner , it’s not to be uncooperative but rather out of our obligation to abide by the Realtor Code of Ethics and laws intended to protect the public.

Article 10 of the Code of Ethics says that “Realtors shall not deny equal professional services to any person for reasons of race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status, national origin, sexual orientation, or gender identity. Realtors shall not be parties to any plan or agreement to discriminate against a person or persons on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status, national origin, sexual orientation, or gender identity.”

Article 10 further requires, “When involved in the sale of lease of a residential property, Realtors shall not volunteer information regarding the racial, religious or ethnic composition of any neighborhood nor shall they engage in any activity which may result in panic selling, however, Realtors may provide other demographic information.

So how can consumers get answers to those sensitive questions? Consult with their Realtor. Not only are Realtors the experts on the local market conditions, Realtors know how to carefully navigate these hard questions. Below are some of the more common questions and where to get answers.

How are the schools? Even consumers without school aged children at home appreciate the connection between schools and property values. The county’s department of education serves as a resource for questions about school zoning. A readily available online resource is greatschools.org, which rates schools on a variety of criteria. Of course, talking with parents who have children in the schools for which a property is zoned is an option for additional insight beyond online data.

Do any sex offenders live nearby? All parties to a real estate transaction take on potential liability when disclosing, or failing to disclose, information regarding a convicted sex offender. While real estate professionals share the public’s concern about where convicted sex offenders live, local law enforcement agencies – not real estate professionals – are the best source of information on sex offenders. When concerned about such a possibility, potential buyers are advised to research the matter online via the sex offender registry provided by the Georgia and Tennessee Bureaus of Investigation.

How can I make sure the neighbors a “like” me? Often with this question the inquirer wants to know about their potential neighbors’ race, religion, gender, or sexual orientation. Or it simply could mean a buyer wants to live near those who share similar interests and hobbies. A buyer can learn a lot from a neighborhood by driving around at different times of day. From adults out exercising and kids playing in yards, a lot can be observed as to whether the neighborhood is a good fit. Also, it’s a good idea to check out nearby amenities and persons frequenting those establishments. Through simple observations, a potential buyer can evaluate it it’s a neighborhood in which they feel comfortable residing.

Is there much crime in the neighborhood? There are several free and paid online sources that display on a map what types of crimes have occurred. Also, following the local news can give one a sense of local crime trends. The Chattanooga Police Department is the best source for confirming this type of information.

Real estate transactions are complicated. Rely on a Realtor – a professional, local market expert – to guide you through the hard questions so all parties can make an informed decision to suit individual needs and concerns.

The Greater Chattanooga Association of Realtorsis “The Voice of Real Estate in Greater Chattanooga.” The Association is a regional organization with more than 1,500 members and is one of more than 1,400 local boards and associations of Realtors nationwide that comprise the National Association of Realtors. The Greater Chattanooga Association of Realtorsservices Hamilton and Sequatchie counties in southeast Tennessee and Catoosa, Dade and Walker counties in northwest Georgia. For more information, visit www.gcar.net.

By Travis Close, ABR, GREEN, GRI, e-PRO

President, Greater Chattanooga Association of REALTORS®