Marketing Tips for Inclusivity
Lisa Graziano | November 15, 2022
Fair Housing teaches us to market to everyone and not seek out a particular someone or some group. We can talk about property features and amenities, but we stay away from implying who “should” be that person or persons to purchase. Our job is to welcome all people and help them achieve their home ownership dreams—we treat everyone equally. Is it possible we are sometimes targeting people and omitting others in protected classes, unintentionally? Wording matters and in advertising, so does the picture we are portraying.
As Realtors, we strive for neutrality, in keeping with NAR’s 17-point Code of Ethics. What happens when we are unsure of the “wording” as it has been the norm for so many years? We think something is acceptable but perhaps it could affect or even offend others. Would we intentionally want to exclude people due to terminology or by a picture we are painting when describing homes in listings or even by our verbiage as we do open house walk throughs? Of course not. Most Realtors, when it’s brought to their attention, would want to do better. Let’s take three examples.
As an industry and specifically within HGAR, why are we still using the word “master” to do searches and describe a property bedroom or bathroom? Is it because we think we will run out of room on the listing detail page? Are we short on time? When we host an open house and it’s busy, do we really save that much time by taking these shortcuts? Do we need to speak the slang just because “everyone” else does? Aren’t we supposed to be leaders in the industry? We could even get caught up in jargon when discussing properties with inspectors and construction folks. Just because they may not want to take the time to speak inclusively, shouldn’t we?
The “Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion” (DEI) part of this is about inclusivity. If it’s been said that some people/ persons do not like to hear or read the word “master,’ then wouldn’t you want to accommodate that? If people from the LGBTQ+ community do not feel included with the use of “Jack and Jill” for various reasons (or his and hers,) why would you want to risk offending them? If you continuously speak to or describe walking and steps as a verb instead of using property features and distance, do you think it could be putting off to someone with a mobility issue?
The foregoing are three simple scenarios that other real estate industry commentators have written about, yet still exist front and center. A quick change in wording and demeanor could be:
(Before) “This home features a master bedroom, master bath; down the hall are the Jack and Jill rooms with updated bath. Great location—walking distance to mass transit!”
(After) “This home features a premier (or primary) En-Suite with a full bath and stylish shower, double sink vanity. Down the hall, are the connecting (or adjoining) bedrooms which share an updated full bath and shower. Great location—just two blocks from the train station to NYC.”
Protected classes in real estate include race, color, religion, sex, familial status, national origin, and disability. In New York State, we add on sexual orientation, age, marital status, and military status. Article 10 from our Code of Ethics states:
“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 print, display or circulate any statement or advertisement with respect to selling or renting of a property that indicates any preference, limitations or discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status, national origin, sexual orientation, or gender identity. (Adopted 1/94, Renumbered 1/05 and 1/06, Amended 1/14)”
An ongoing commitment to DEI principles challenges our thought processes and keeps us accountable—what can we do to make all people feel comfortable in the real estate process and most importantly feel “included.” Housing is a right for all people. Realtors have the opportunity every day to speak an inclusive language, be cognitive of diverse needs and be an integral part of shaping equity for all in the housing market. What an honor.