What's behind Realtor.com's list of taboo words?

November 23, 2007
EDITOR'S NOTE: By excerpting this story, The National Fair Housing Advocate Online does not endorse Realtor.com's "taboo words" list or agree that all the words present a potential Fair Housing Act violation. Rather, the list seems more likely to confuse real estate professionals about discriminatory advertising. Similarly, the About.com real estate columnist, Elizabeth Weintraub, is also in error in many of her recommendations about discriminatory advertising.
     What do "vampire," "Guatemala," "druidism," "cyberhomes," "orgy," "Gandhi," "agnostic," "tenant" and "wee wee" have in common? They all fall into the vast category of verboten vocabulary that Realtor.com prohibits in its listings. Elaborating on those lovely Guatemalan woodcarvings? Gushing over a cutting-edge cyberhome? Mentioning that the apartment already has long-term tenants?
     Better rethink that thought. It all could be fodder for a fair-housing law suit.
     Of course, fair housing laws were not written to protect against such innocuous marketing, but rather to discourage the long-standing practices of refusing, dissuading and deceiving certain groups so that they won't occupy a given house, condo complex or neighborhood.