Keep Your Marketing Compliant with Fair Housing Act Regulations

August 26, 2021
8:00 am

As a real estate agent who markets your services and available homes, you need to produce marketing campaigns that comply with local, state, and federal laws barring discrimination against certain protected groups. Here’s a primer on the federal Fair Housing Act and how to serve your clients and your career within the bounds of that law.

What the Fair Housing Act covers

The federal Fair Housing Act bars discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, handicap, and familial status. Fair Housing Act regulations cover all marketing tools, written or oral. That includes printed ads, online social media ads, billboards, newspapers and magazines, radio, TV, email, direct mail, or speech. 

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Your marketing cannot express or imply a preference for or against buyers with specific characteristics. So, for example, you cannot state a preference for no children or for buyers who speak a particular language.

Watch out for targeting

Marketing tools are very sophisticated these days, especially on the internet, for targeting finely tuned audiences as potential customers. But unfortunately, that targeting must be dialed back in real estate so that you do not exclude groups of people protected from housing discrimination.

When using social media platforms, you should make sure not to target any specific segment of the population. Instead, keep your message broad both in content and to whom it is served. Since digital platforms continually refine their algorithms to enable greater focus on particular groups, consider using a digital marketing agency for your online ads. These marketers stay on top of how the platforms modify the algorithms and can help you with marketing compliance. Real estate is your area of expertise; let someone experienced in digital marketing handle advertising details for you. 

If your advertisements feature pictures, be sure to include a mix of people who fit the ethnic and demographic makeup of the general community.

Do this, not that

Avoid advertising with language that describes the right buyer or tenant for a property since such ads can imply that other classes of people are not wanted. The best practice is to focus on the property for sale. Feature the characteristics and selling points of the property and amenities, the accessibility of the location to attractions, the ease of its commute to business centers — whatever makes the property marketable. It’s acceptable to market property as a “fixer-upper” or a “luxury community,” but do not focus on the type of person best suited for the property. Instead, let all interested buyers spot the ad and respond. 

Use the phrase “Equal Housing Opportunity” and the associated logo in marketing materials. Brokerage agencies should be diligent that all advertising has this designation.

In addition to focusing on the federal Fair Housing Act, familiarize yourself with local and state housing regulations and strive to meet those laws as well.