PRESIDENT'S CORNER: All Customers Are Entitled to Our Best

Dorothy Botsoe | April 18, 2017

Dorothy Botsoe
HGAR 2017 President

“Achievement has no color.” ― Abraham Lincoln

It’s Fair Housing and Cultural Diversity Month for Realtors and in our line of business it is not acceptable to consider a client’s race, or make ethnic judgments that would adversely impact our customers. We must continue to treat all buyers and sellers as equals in every aspect of a real-estate transaction. All our customers are entitled to the best, our best.

“Fair and affordable housing is a basic right for all New Yorkers and all Americans.”—U.S. Rep. Nydia Velazquez

U.S. Rep. Nydia Velazquez, a Puerto Rican politician who has served in the United States House of Representatives since 1993, has been fighting for fair housing for many years. She espouses a standard that we all can be proud of: inclusion, diversity and affordable housing for all. By definition, we as Realtors need to remind ourselves that to advocate for fair housing still means supporting “a law enacted as part of civil rights legislation prohibiting discrimination in home sales, rentals and financing based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status or those with disabilities.”

Many of us still come to the table with assumptions and preconceived notions about a client’s finances, class, societal status and ethnic make-up. We need to “check ourselves” and not fall into the trap of treating people differently because the box they checked doesn’t fit the profile of the client we believe has all the “right stuff” for a successful deal. This is a form of discrimination that can’t be acceptable in our industry and yet many of us need a gentle reminder that we represent the human race.

The Fair Housing Justice Center, servicing New York City and the seven surrounding New York counties of Dutchess, Nassau, Orange, Putnam, Rockland, Suffolk, and Westchester, in recent years has exposed an epidemic of housing discrimination on the basis of skin color, disability, source of income and LGBTQ identity. What do I mean by epidemic? I mean they’ve detected housing discrimination in every single New York City neighborhood, in all five boroughs (and surrounding counties). But more than exposing it, the Fair Housing Justice Center fights housing discrimination and wins. We have to do the same as Realtors, fight it and win.

HGAR intends to do just that—educate our members about our role in the fair housing battle and do a better job at making sure we represent everyone equally and fairly. Understanding that discrimination in any form affects a community and not just the person discriminated against, we must be conscious of treating all fairly and equally. There are many fair housing organizations that are available to help with the process but as Realtors, we are still at the forefront of this journey.

Why does housing discrimination matter? Because location determines school zones, pollution levels, park spaces, retail conveniences, community resources and more. How do we defend ourselves against any accusation that puts our ability to make a living or live in harmony with our neighbors at risk? We must always aim higher and treat everyone equally. My policy is always to treat everyone the way I want to be treated. I do not even think about any particular racial make-up or class when I do business. It absolutely does not matter. I give everyone a high standard of excellence in obtaining their goal—a new home or property. Selling real estate affords us the opportunity to help the consumer with their dreams or get on track with the homeownership process, which is a tremendous opportunity for us to impact lives and change communities.

This is a great time to reflect on our power as Realtors. We are held to a higher standard based on our Realtor Code of Ethics. Home ownership provides shelter and brings stability to a family and the community. Fair housing and cultural diversity is a celebrated right for all of us. We agree we are different and have different cultures; any time we select a particular group for selective treatment, we ostracize the other groups without meaning to, but the damage is done. We must always do our job in working with all consumers whether they are a buyer, seller, renter, or investor. Respect and dignity is the key to our success. Let’s pick up the mantle and make sure that we are the best examples for Fair Housing and Cultural Diversity.

My fellow Realtors, we have been given a task of high proportions. We must not deviate from the course and deliver to our membership and the public equality at all times. Fair housing addresses many instances of inclusion and this brings me back to my agenda as HGAR President, which is inclusion of all our agents from all our locations into our board’s awareness. Inclusion is about all of us. Not only all different types of people, but ideas too. Our organization is making some important changes and we must all get together to make our voices heard and step up to volunteer. We are a volunteer organization and we are not successful unless we all work together.

I am committed to addressing complaints and concerns, but more importantly, I want to see us all participate in the process of change using our power to be one. I am here for all our members. I am listening and I don’t sit on any pedestal, but am rolling up my sleeves to continue to foster positive change. I too am a board member and president of an independent real estate company. I stepped up into a more visible volunteer role because I had to if I wanted to accomplish more.

We must do our job without judgment and predisposition to stereotyping or putting the consumer in a box. Our job as Realtors asks us to create a “win” for all participants in the homeownership process without judgment. We must put our biases aside.

“The time is always right to do what is right!” Martin Luther King, Jr.

Please join me in making our board work for us. Let’s celebrate Fair Housing month by examining ourselves and our own practices. We need to work as a team without judgment, not only this month, but also every day of our lives. As we kick off our spring real estate season, let’s be that breath of fresh air that makes a difference!

You can contact me by email or by mobile number at (914) 450-0600.

Dorothy Botsoe
Dorothy Botsoe is 2017 President of the Hudson Gateway Association of Realtors, Inc.