As a busy real estate professional and long-time Northern Virginia resident, I've been in and out of houses and neighborhoods throughout the region. There are many communities where I'd feel safe carrying wads of cash and walking around in my pajamas on the street at 2 a.m. However there are others neighborhoods where I wouldn't want to be caught without a bullet-proof vest, mace and a taser in broad daylight for fear that the 32 cents in my pocket and the clothes off my back would be stolen. Okay, that might be a tad bit of exaggeration -- in my opinion, while most Northern Virginia & D.C. areas are relatively safe, some are safer than others.
The problem is that by federal law, I am unable to provide my honest opinions about a neighborhood to clients who inevitably ask "How's the Neighborhood?" Most clients, no doubt, are asking this question innocently with a serious intent to determine whether a particular community suits their needs.
However, I have no way of knowing whether such clients have a discriminatory reason in mind, whether they are making their neighborhood choice because of racial, age, family status, sexual preferences, gender, or other reasons. Thus, federal law makes it illegal for me (and other REALTORS) to answer "How's the Neighborhood" in a direct manner.
Earlier this year, some clients and I were at a stoplight after leaving a house we viewed. As we looked over at the neighboring house, my client shouted out in surprise "She Just Hit Him With a Stick!" Sure enough, the mother, grandmother, housekeeper (whoever it was), hit a young child with a stick. That was enough for my clients. They were able to make their own determination about the neighborhood. They decided to move on and find some other neighborhoods to consider for their house purchase.
There have been other times that I've been with clients in a neighborhood and seen lots of police action, including one time when we saw police helicopters hovering overhead.
It's not always this cut and dry.
Here's what I suggest when you are trying to determine whether a neighborhood is right for you:
- Read my post Safe Neighborhoods in Northern Virginia & D.C.: Find Area Crime Statistics Online where I provide links to online crime statistics in each major jurisdiction.
- Call the local police station and ask about crime in the area.
- You can look up demographic information online. The best source is probably the United States Census site. There are also various sites like ZipSkinny and ZipCodeStats that provide thorough demographic information about areas by zipcode.
- Simply drive around the neighborhood on your own and observe at different times. Feel free to strike up a conversation with the neighbors. While your REALTOR can't tell you everything about a neighborhood, be sure that most neighbors will be happy to divulge everything (just think about all the Wisteria Lane gossip a la Desperate Housewives!)
- Virginia, like all other states maintains a Sex Offender Registry through the Virginia State Police with information about sex offenders and where they live.
- You can get lots of information about local schools on my website School Information section.
So, next time you're in my car and ask me about the neighborhood, please don't be offended if I refer you to this blog post.
Thank you for reading my blog post. If you like what you’ve read, then please: