Are You (Accidentally) Breaking Fair Housing Laws on Social Media?

If you work in real estate, it’s likely that you’ve heard a lot of buzz this week about Fair Housing Act violations on social media. Of course, fair housing laws apply to all kinds of marketing including newspapers, magazines, postcards, etc… but lately, online platforms like Facebook seem to be the hot topic for compliance infringements.

Let’s face it: Facebook and similar platforms have become an integral part of promoting listings and marketing a real estate agent’s business. It’s also the platform clients open the minute they wake up in the morning. Now, more than ever, it is imperative that real estate professionals are compliant with fair housing laws while promoting their services.

So what IS fair housing? To understand the weight of the importance of fair housing, let’s talk about the history of this law. Essentially, fair housing laws protect buyers and renters from various discriminatory preferences. Lyndon B. Johnson approved the Fair Housing Act of 1968 which was a part of the bigger Civil Rights Act shortly after Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated. Originally, the Fair Housing Act protected against discrimination of race, color, and religion. However, as the years progressed other protections were added such as sex (1974), disability and familial status (1988), and sexual orientation (2018).

Now I know what you’re thinking. “Of COURSE I won’t discriminate against someone for the color of their skin or their gender or religion!” Any decent and ethical human realizes that being compliant to fair housing laws is common sense. But even seemingly innocent captions describing a condo as “perfect for a bachelor” is deemed discriminatory against anyone who isn’t a single male. For example, if you described a smaller home as “perfect for empty nesters” that would imply catering to a specific familial status which is also a fair housing no-no. This same concept applies to Facebook ads and selecting demographics and specific targeting to narrow your pipeline.

So how do real estate professionals ensure that they are advertising their services without unintentionally violating fair housing laws? The best practice is to narrow Facebook targeting using at least a 15-mile radius around a property, including all ages, and using other filters sparingly - only targeting people based on very specific interests such as dog lovers, car enthusiasts, football fans, etc. However, it’s best to cast a wide net of prospects that will narrow organically based on interested parties. Facebook’s algorithm will find out who’s interacting with the ads because it targets the users based on their behavior. After all, the reality is that most Facebook ad budgets are less than $100 and this broader targeting is a more effective marketing strategy.

Despite the new technology that social media offers, Back At You Media understands that fair housing laws still stand, and discrimination in housing-related advertising is against the law. Fashioning appropriate remedies for today’s technology as it impacts housing laws is a priority for Back At You Media. We are proud to say that our ad platform helps make sure your ads are 100% fair housing compliant. Back At You Media sees the importance of being mindful of what is written and read online- not just to avoid violations against the Fair Housing Act - but also to celebrate and foster a society where all are equal and welcome.

Back At You Media is the only social media company that is backed by the National Association of REALTORS®’ REALTOR Benefits® Program, and is a badged Facebook Marketing Partner with ad Technology and FBX specialties. Facebook Marketing Partners are painstakingly vetted not only for capability and expertise but also for a solid track record of success.

At the end of the day, one of the best ways for agents to stay top of mind on social media is by building an organic, hyperlocal audience by consistently publishing quality content. We can do that for you while ALSO keeping you compliant with fair housing laws. If you’re not using our full-service system yet, schedule a call today!