Austin TX Real Estate - Hill Country Austin Lakeway Homes for Sale: REALTORS® can't Discriminate, but a Buyer Can? Double Standard?

REALTORS® can't Discriminate, but a Buyer Can? Double Standard?

I woke up this morning and checked my emails, as usual.  First thing I noticed was an email for a referral.  Don't we all love referrals?  They're our life-line of business!!

It was about 6:30 in the morning, so I emailed her to let her know I would call her after my morning appointment.  Right before I was heading out the door, I noticed the returned receipt that she read my email, so I decided to go ahead and call her even though it was only 7:30am her time.

I called, apologized for calling so early, and explained that I saw she was up.  We chatted for a couple of minutes.  She loved my blog and how it was a good mix of business and personal and very detailed.

Then, I get the question...  I've never been asked this so point blank before...

"Are you a Christian?"

Ummm, "Does it matter?"

Yes, for these buyers it matters.  This agent was asked to interview agents for the buyers with the main question being if the agents were Christians and if they were devoted and practised.

I continued to talk with the agent and reminded her that her buyers should want the best agent to work for them and not just the best agent who knew how to pray. 

I asked if her buyers were looking for an agent to negotiate the best deal, or an agent who would hold hands with them in the kitchen of the house and pray for their offer to get accepted.  I told her that if her buyers were educated about the market, like I do with all my buyers, and were willing to put together a good, and competitive offer, no praying would be necessary because I could get the job done.

Her response was that if she ever had any other buyers, she would definitely think of me. 

I'm not a Christian... and I still don't understand why it matters...

Isn't that discrimination?  We can't discriminate according to the Code of Ethics, so why is a buyer allowed to discriminate.  If I was working with the buyer and then all of a sudden said I didn't want to work with them because they are Christians, I would be slapped with a Professional Standards hearing within 10 seconds!

Why the double standard? 

I was going to make this Members Only, but the wall I bounced this off of suggested it was important for the public to read too.

**Are You Packed Yet?**

Donna Harris, REALTOR®
RE/MAX Austin Skyline

Austin, TX real estate and the surrounding areas of Lakeway, Bee Cave, Westlake Hills, Cedar Park, Round Rock, Spicewood, Circle-C, Steiner Ranch, and everywhere in between... Whether you're buying or selling, I'll be with you through the entire process.

Comment balloon 22 commentsDonna Harris • July 16 2009 04:49PM


It wouldn't bother me for the buyers or sellers to ask if I was a Christian. I am proud to say I am. I believe in God, I praise him or whatever is on my mind.

I am proud to say God is part of me. What would bother me the most is Realtors, buyers, and sellers that act like Christian and really are the biggest hyprocytes.

I run into that quite alot being in the South.

If either the buyer, seller didnt want to work with me for that, really are they worth working with?

That for me would throw the ethics out the door, because I would rather them to walk.

We all have our opinion on faith, race, gender, as long as we do right ...who cares wht others think.

Posted by Deb Short (TENNNESSEE REALTY & AUCTION LLC) over 9 years ago

That is a strange request.  There is a referral site for "Christian REALTORS®" that referral agent should have done better research if that's what her buyers wanted.  Also, those so called Christians are not very Christian to discriminate like that against a possible non Christian.  Aren't they supposed to be more open minded and kind to every single one of God's children whether they believe or not?  Shouldn't they work with you MORE now that they know you're not a Christian with hopes that they can make a difference in your life?  This is one of the silliest things I've ever heard.  Shame on them for behaving that way and giving Christians a bad name.



Posted by Kathleen Cooper, Sposato Realty Group - Broker Owner (Kathleen Cooper, Sposato Realty Group) over 9 years ago

1. You are licensed and they are not.

2. This is about trust...they trust someone of their own faith.  As poorly placed as that trust may be at times, it was requesite to work with them.

3. For a non religious person to attempt to understand the drive behind a religious persons belief would be like asking a 3 year old to understand the workings of the combustion engine. 

4. the very idea of trusting "someone" when clearly diety matters to these people is not an objection to overcome.

BTW, it's a tough question because, while you have the right to say "I prefer not to answer", their belief system likely says that if you were a devout and practiced Christian, you would proclaim it from the hill tops and not defer when asked. 


Posted by Ron Tarvin, Broker, Katy, Houston, Cypress 77450,77494,77095 (Residential, Investment properties, rehab projects, property management, luxury homes, new construction!) over 9 years ago

I have always been curious about the dynamics of advertising and marketing directed at a specific group - gay/lesbian, African-American, Hispanic, Chinese Americans, etc.  It seems easy to run afoul of anti-discrimination provisions (whether derived from code of ethics, licensing statute or fair housing laws).  Here is my question:  real estate professionals can't discriminate in the provision of services.  Did the agent who was attempting to arrange the referral violate the anti-discrimination provisions?  I don't know - but it does raise a question.  I don't see how it would be any different than a listing agent who allows the seller to dictate who is allowed entry to a house for showings.

Posted by Ryan Shaughnessy, Broker/Attorney - Your Lafayette Square Real Estate Partner (PREA Signature Realty - over 9 years ago

It's not discrimination to want to use people you can identify with and trust.  Thats the cleints requirements. 

Posted by Russ Ravary ~ Metro Detroit Realtor call (248) 310-6239, Michigan homes for sale ~ (Real Estate One) over 9 years ago

I've never been asked that.

I would not choose to work with anyone who based their decisions solely/primarily on religious preference.

Different strokes.



Posted by Candice A. Donofrio, 928-201-4BHC (4242) call/text (Next Wave RE Investments LLC Bullhead City AZ Commercial RE Broker) over 9 years ago


I guess I would side with Ron here. I am not religious, and though I would not be happy with the question, I understand that people may have the right to ask it, and to choose.

And principals can do a lot of things that we, as agents, can't. We can't write contracts, and they can. We have to avoid creating documents as this could be practicing law without a license, and they can

Well, they are Principals

Posted by Jon Zolsky, Daytona Beach, FL, Buy Daytona condos for heavenly good prices (Daytona Condo Realty, 386-405-4408) over 9 years ago

Kathleen took the words out of my mouth.  I have never been asked that question.  I have represented someone who does not believe in Jesus but believes in God.

Posted by Angelia Garcia (Pure Realtors) over 9 years ago

Why would it bother anyone, simple question yes or no and you answered it and there you go. I know of some that would have lied.

I'm not an atheist and nor would I want to work with one that didn't want to work with me. IS that wrong NO, their choice. I keep a bible on the console of my Hummer and my Charger because I read my bible when I am waiting for someone or delayed for any reason.

When have become a country of folks always worrying about what others think. I have had folks invite me to their homes to list and we discover Off topic magazines and the first thing (because usually they have been referred or a past client) is they start to apologize and before they can say it, I say hey don't apologize to me you and your wife are the ones that live here. I'm a guest and will be quickly selling your home so you can pack and move.

Posted by Charles Stallions, 800-309-3414 - Pensacola, Pace or Gulf Breeze, Fl. (Charles Stallions Real Estate Services ) over 9 years ago

I just had to come back and take a look to see what others thought. I am thrilled at the answers. I especialy like rons, charles and russ answers.

deb short

Posted by Deb Short (TENNNESSEE REALTY & AUCTION LLC) over 9 years ago

Hi Donna ~ Thank goodness this sort of thing doesn't happen in my neck of the woods.  I find it appalling and am really taken aback that the agent asked you - it strikes me as completely inappropriate.  Not that it would happen but if I were asked by a buyer to do this sort of screening I would emphatically decline and tell them why.

I agree with Ryan's comment - I've always been uncomfortable with marketing that's directed at certain groups.  It just doesn't seem kosher.   

I have heard of this sort of religious based segregation in business and find it very disturbing. As others have mentioned, it strikes me as antithetical to religious teachings. Not to mention unnecessary.


Posted by Elizabeth Bolton, Cambridge MA Realtor (RE/MAX Destiny Real Estate Cambridge, MA) over 9 years ago

Personally I think it stinks! I think it is petty.   But...the customer is always right (in the sense that they can do business with whomever they choose)  Knowing that this was such an issue with those buyers should make you feel better that someone else gets to deal with them. 

Posted by Nevin Williams, Senior Mortgage Advisor (Fairway Independent Mortgage Corporation) over 9 years ago

Deb, I'm proud to not be a Christian. Does that make me a bad person because I was BORN into a different religion?  And does this same person walk into a car dealership and request a Christian "salesman"?  What about a Jewelry store?  The majority of Jewelers are Jewish, just a fact as I know many, so I wonder how they bought their jewelry and if they walked into a bunch asking for the Christian guy.

Kathleen, That's what I was thinking exactly. They should want to change me because we all know devout Christian think everyone should believe what they believe.

Ron, You make some good points.

Ryan, I don't think the agent asking violated anything since she said she was asking for her client, but if she asked without permission, it would probably be a violation.

Russ, Teenagers don't "trust" people but don't we teach them how trust is earned and how not to treat people differently?

Candice, Yes, different Strokes.  I'm not sure how I would react if the agent called back and said to nevermind the requirement.

Jon, But Principles have a "Human" Code of Ethics too... but then look at all the crooks heading to jail from the financial world...

Angelia, I've worked with many buyers who are VERY religious and I just smile and nod as they talk.  They're usually not looking for someone who believe what they believe, but they just want someone who will listen to them talk and talk and talk and talk.... and talk...

Charles, But do you have them pack all their religious things before putting the house on the market?  I do, and I've never had a single seller object to it.

Liz, I agree, and well said!

Nevin, True.

Posted by Donna Harris, Realtor,Mediator,Ombudsman,Property Tax Arbitrator (Donna Homes, powered by JPAR - over 9 years ago

Going off of what Ryan said - it's the same as a gay or lesbian couple only wanting to work with a g/l agent, or an Asian person only wanting to work with an Asian agent. Technically YES it is discrimination. Because they are choosing not to work with someone else solely based on their affiliation with the group they hold strongest to them.

And no I gurantee these same people do not walk out of a resturaunt if the owners aren't Christians - so it's pretty ridiculous in my opinion - and I'm a Chrisian. Its like haivng those little Ichthus phone books (ps I have gotten ripped off twice from companies bearing the Ichthus symbol)

It should have been about your qualifications - but in this industry I have seen stranger things happen. I had someone choose me because I was female and under 40 and she felt more comfortable with that - now thats a discrimination double whammy!!! I also lost a listing because I wasn't Buddist, which I wasn't sad over because I wasn't sure how to market a home with a golden budda that literally took up the majority of a in all things let it roll off your back and realize ultimately it wasn't a good match.

Posted by Malita Jones, Austin Texas Home Sales (Sky Realty, Inc.- over 9 years ago


its your choice not to be a Christian, and it's the clients choice not to use you if thats their belief or concern.

I wouldn't discriminate against you for not being a Christian, doesn't mean I have to agree with you or anyone about religion beliefs.

Or you don't have to agree with me or anyone else about Christian beliefs.

Everyone has their rights to their own beliefs. I can tell you this much, I may not go to church every sunday, maybe not monthly, but I believe God is every where, I can pray anytime. He will listen.

If I had a realtor tell me to take my Bible off my table, and put away my Angels, I'd tell her theres the door, don't let it hit you!


Posted by Deb Short (TENNNESSEE REALTY & AUCTION LLC) over 9 years ago

Unfortunately, there are no rules for being a customer/client. They can decide who to do business with for any reason what so ever. Is that right? Well, it shouldnt be, but it is what it is.

Posted by John Cannata, Texas Home Mortgage - Purchase or Refinance (214-728-0449 over 9 years ago

People have the right to believe waht they believe. I agree the agent should have done her homework upfront. I wonder what grocery store, Pharmacy, Dr's & any all all businees they parton, is the same question asked??

Posted by Monique Hailer, South West Florida & Southern Maryland Homes (Schooner Bay Realty., Inc. & CENTURY 21 New Millenniun) over 9 years ago

God walked with all types, not just his disciples and worshipers.

Posted by Greg Nino, Houston, Texas (RE/MAX Compass, formerly RE/MAX WHP) over 9 years ago


I must say that it is not common what happen to you, but many buyers pick their own cultures as well. It is common for buyers in many nationalities to stay among their own. It is human nature in same way.

I don' t think it is right, but it is a fact of life.


Posted by Richard Stabile, Bergen County New Homes Builder Realtor (Re/Max Real Estate Limited) over 9 years ago

I suspect that this buyer is using this common belief  as a way to find an agent that they can trust.  I guess that is as good a way as any other--I tend to work with a lot of people who have a common  belief that kids should be involved in sports and extracurricular activities.

Unfortunately, there are good and bad people in all walks of life and with every set of beliefs. I hope that, ultimately, this buyer finds some one that they can trust (and not just because they go to the right church).


Posted by Holly Weatherwax, A Great Real Estate Experience ( Associate Broker, Momentum Realty) over 9 years ago

Donna, I have been asked that in the car with buyers. I am a Christian and so were they so there wasn't any friction but I see when there are opposites it brings out an uncomfortable feeling and they are discriminating based on religious preference. You just have to be YOU Donna and be good with it. I agree with what Holly said there are good and bad of all stripes and this was definitely discrimination.

Posted by Gary Woltal, Assoc. Broker Realtor SFR Dallas Ft. Worth (Keller Williams Realty) over 9 years ago

I thought about this post as I communicated with one of my clients the other day. She is Jewish - in her words she is "VERY Jewish". I'm not - she is part of a huge synogauge and could have easily found a Jewish REALTOR. She's great and we get along famously - I have learned alot about her and the Jewish faith and I'm happy to learn.

I agree with everyone that said it's their choice and their right - well that is obvious. But I think it's sad when we can't get out of our bubble long enough to actually live with everyone else in this world.

Posted by Malita Jones, Austin Texas Home Sales (Sky Realty, Inc.- over 9 years ago