This is a very serious topic that I want to provide insight on and it’s also unfortunate that it’s still happening. Not too long ago a realtor friend called to ask my opinion about something. She asked me if I had heard the news story coming out of Northern California where a couple spent years renovating their home, only to find out it was valued by an appraiser far lower than they expected. When a white friend showed their home, its appraisal rose by nearly half a million dollars, resulting in a housing discrimination lawsuit.
She had been debating with one of her colleagues about the issue and her stance was that the couple’s realtor didn’t take care of them by hiring a stager to assist with staging/preparing the property before it was placed on the real estate market. Her colleague was very offended by what happened and felt that it was nothing more than racial discrimination.
Both colleagues are African American.
The realtor friend call to get my perspective since I too, am African American. I’ll share my feedback from both a personal perspective as well as a professional perspective because I ultimately sided with my realtor friend and here’s why:
From a personal perspective . . . I was born and raised in the south, so hearing a news story like this isn’t triggering to me. I grew up hearing about unfortunate situations where racial discrimination was involved, so I know certain things can be a reality. I’m also very realistic and practice being matter-of-fact and fair. There are people who don’t like people who are tall, short, classified as overweight, graduated from a certain school or have a certain education level, etc. There are many different reasons someone can decide to not like someone else and for some it includes race and/or culture. It is what it is. Calling someone racist isn’t going to eradicate racism. Being triggered or angry about situations such as this isn’t going to eradicate racism.
Eradicating racism starts with getting acquainted with people and creating relationships with them. It’s easy to judge something or someone we do not know. I can attest that the most meaningful relationships I’ve had in my life have been with people who look nothing like me. People are people, no matter what they look like or how much money they make and that will never change.
From a professional perspective . . . I watched the video and noticed artwork featuring Africans and/or African Americans and books with topics about black culture. I also saw artwork of someone holding what looks like a machine gun, and there’s also a framed photo sitting on a table. I’m not sure who’s in the photo and it reminds me of George Floyd.
Anytime I do a consultation, I know without a doubt that one of my top tasks is to recommend the homeowners remove anything that will have someone personally identify them, their children, race, culture, religion or lack thereof. I also recommend removing items that can be used by potential buyers to put them in danger such as knives, other sharp weapons/objects and guns. Additional items such as personal photos, family photos, degrees, certifications, sports ribbons, school and organizational paraphernalia. Basically, anything that points to a personal bias that someone else can be offended by needs to be prepacked in boxes.
When selling a home, the overall goal for the homeowner should be to show off the fixed assets of the home so potential buyers can see themselves and/or their families living in the home, without distraction.
To take it a step further and tell a personal story: Some years ago, I was working on an owner-occupied staging where the homeowner’s kids had an overwhelming number of toys and dolls. Because I had never seen so many toys before in my life, the amygdala part of my brain was triggered and my initial thoughts were “how much time do these parents spend with their kids?”, “do they use these toys to ‘babysit’ their children?” I’m sharing this so you can get an idea of what potential buyers may experience when the aesthetic presentation of your home occurs as a distraction. This also points to why I give the recommendations I give.
Professionals in the real estate industry are in the business of selling homes – not showing off personal preferences and accolades. Generally speaking, homeowners have yet to fully grasp that because home stagers and realtors aren’t always responsible for communicating it effectively.
I don’t know the Austin’s circumstances with their realtor and what he/she communicated to them in terms of helping them to prepare their home for sale on the market. It really is an unfortunate situation and it proves why education and knowledge-sharing about the home selling process is critical to homeowners. It helps everyone avoid discrimination, hurt feelings and lawsuits, and positions homeowners to receive multiple offers – the real win-win for everyone.