This is a topic very few want to touch. Having had several horrendous experiences with many real estate brokers and companies we decided to jump into the middle of the ocean and swim to shore, exposing and pointing out the dangers and great things along the way.
The biggest problem in this industry is “redlining” and the extreme lengths folks working in the industry will go to deny that such exists. We are here to tell you redlining is alive and well and making sure the neighborhoods in these United States do not integrate. Not just along the lines of racism, but other forms of bigotry also exist. Even discrimination against women who are alone raising their children are kept out of some neighborhoods which do not want their children “contaminated.
This is the basis on which much of the other forms of bigotry are maintained. Most of us don’t realize how many times we were told the neighborhood we wanted didn’t have anything great for sale at the moment, but look at what we have here……..
Schools were extremely difficult to integrate and still are because the real estate market maintains the “racial integrity” of the areas in which it operates – which is the entire country.
There is a new twist we are discovering. Some people are beginning to claim the way to deal with this is to have black-owned real estate companies; latinx-owned real estate companies, etc.
When you look into that, a few have been established and the result is they work in black neighborhoods and keep them black or latinx neighborhoods and keep them latinx, etc.
This, unfortunately also has to do with selling as well as buying a house. As a minority, the price you receive for selling your house is quite a bit different and lower than the exact same house or a very similar house would receive in white neighborhoods or in white neighborhoods if you are a minority.
If as an African American you managed to buy a house in a white neighborhood and then years later try to sell at the same price your white neighbors would get for the house if they were selling – that will not happen. The house stands unsold for years until the owners finally decide to reduce the price to much below what non-minorities would receive for the same kind and quality of house.
It is the way America works and there does not seem to be change on the horizon.
We recently had a horrific experience working with the Donaldson/Bennetts as they put their house on the market. They went through several realtors and the experience was the same with each – except the last was unbelievably bad and showed in spades the extreme racism.
In their first attempt they put the house on the market for $4.7 million. Talking to appraisers, that was considered too low, but they wanted to move south and so decided to take the lesser amount to be able to sell faster.
Very few people came to the open house and only one potential buyer showed up after the open house. That was with the first broker, who did everything by the book to attempt to sell the house.
They changed brokers and raised the price to $5.5 million and their experience was identical. They changed again with another identical experience. Meanwhile, houses selling for more and appraising at the same price as their home appraised were selling almost immediately. Some of these houses were in neighborhoods considered not as “desirable”, some were smaller, etc.
By the time they reached the third broker, they decided the house needed a “make over” and they set about doing just that. Nothing changed!
Yet another broker with an open house poorly attended with only one broker showing up with a client in tow for months after the open house. Developers, however, were very interested at a very low price and were going to tear apart and put back together again this historical house which didn’t need tearing apart. Electrical systems were up to date as was everything else. The ‘historical’ part went by the wayside with nothing but verbalized consideration. The house needed an exterior paint job and very little else.
And then comes the realtor team which acted out racism such as we have not seen in quite a long time.
The problem with that was the fact that this well known national brokerage firm has a Black/Jewish owner. However, we learned years ago that whites are not the only group that practices bigotry in this country.
The Donaldson/Bennett’s expected this to be a wonderful experience. Instead it was the experience from hell.
The real estate team set up an open house which was moderately successful and as the Donaldson/Bennett’s watched from across the street because they were not allowed into the house while the open house was going on – people came and went and were allowed to go all over this $5.8 million dollar house, full of antiques, all by themselves. One person came walking down the street carrying a protest sign which he was forced to park outside the house and went in to start an upheaval. At that point, the Donaldson-Bennett’s left their perch across the street and went into their house to stop all hell from breaking loose and sure enough that is what was about to happen.
After that open house the Donaldson/Bennett’s discovered the real estate brokers intended to have such an open house every weekend until the house was sold. That did not make the Donaldson/Bennett’s happy, but they decided to go along with the program assuming the realtors knew better than they did because they were more experienced, etc.
The next week-end the signs went up and once again the open-house started. Watching from across the street the Donaldson/Bennett’s saw people walk into the house with no one at the front door – which was wide open – and go up the stairs with none of the realtors even aware that someone had entered. They saw people come out looking rather strange, but didn’t put two and two together until the open house was over and they went home to reclaim their property. They discovered many beautiful antique pieces they collected over decades were missing. The realtors denied that such happened. Claimed they didn’t let anyone in unattended, etc.
Before reaching the open house, the program with this real estate company was one that loaned you money to do what needed to be done and you paid them back when the house was sold and closed. This, the Donaldson/Bennet’s thought was a fantastic program. That meant to the Donaldson/Bennett’s that they would touch up those places that needed it and they would hire people to help where needed. After all, Ms. Donaldson had a three year education at the University of Minnesota’s School of Architecture under Ralph Rapson and had studied design in other places well and had helped restore houses along the way because of her interest in historical preservation. That is not what happened.
While the Donaldson/Bennett’s started with painting the house they were still remembering the realtor – African American – from the same company who they spoke to about selling their house before they met these other realtors – white – and they were shook by what he presented. He would have the house painted; he talked to the people he wanted to paint the house; they arrived and looked around and came in with a bid of $30,000.00. Shook from that experience the Donaldson/Bennett’s hired their own painter who charged $12,000 for the same job. Years earlier, the Donaldson/Bennett’s had been having the house painted one side at a time after they had new first quality cedar siding put on each side which was then painted. Re-painting a house with new siding and only one layer of paint should have been a breeze, instead it was claimed to be a very big $30,000 job.
The Donaldson/Bennett’s went ahead with other jobs for which they hired the contractors, having learned their lesson and being wary of what could happen in these circumstances. However, they discovered there were even worse road blocks ahead.
The ‘realtor in charge’ of a ‘team’ had her ‘team’ show up without the Donaldson/Bennett’s hiring them, without the Donaldson/Bennett’s knowing what they charged, etc. and they started to ‘clean’ the house. They did not wash the walls – they did not clean the windows, the Donaldson/Bennett’s paid someone else to do that – and the next thing that happened the Donaldson/Bennett’s saw them outside doing landscaping when they had specifically said no landscaping should be done.
The net result was nothing short of disastrous. The cost was $2,800 to “clean” a house which was basically already clean. Outside the branches of a tree were cut because the realtor wanted them cut and instructed her crew to do just that after the Donaldson/Bennett’s said please do not touch the tree nor any other landscaping. What they did was to change a beautiful hidden garden of which the Donaldson/Bennett’s were proud and had spent decades cultivating and which no one knew existed behind the driveway because the trees blocked your view of what was behind it into a very public open and ugly place. The tree branches were half sawed through and left. There were old twigs from someplace left in the driveway and leaves were blown out of the “hidden garden,” which was no longer hidden, into the driveway and left in piles for the Donaldson/Bennett’s to pick up.
The Donaldson/Bennett’s have not had lights on the outside on their front porch since this disaster because this crew, working for the ‘team leader” took the porch lights down with no electricians license and cleaned them. At first, the Donaldson/Bennett’s were delighted that this job went well until they discovered after a very brief time of working, the lights stopped working and haven’t been able to be used since. The “team leader” ignored the problem her cleaning crew had caused.
The realtor who hired and managed this crew had them clean the stove in the kitchen. A beautiful commercial stove which worked beautifully for years. They cleaned this cast iron plus other materials stove on which you do not put rough cleansers and the stove didn’t work after they finished. The pilot light in the oven did not turn on as well as pilots on top of the stove and they ruined the finish on parts of the stove in the process. It cost the Donaldson/Bennett’s over $1,000 to bring the stove back to where it was before it was touched by this realtor and her crew.
Everyone who came to the house exclaimed over the beautiful wood floors which the Donaldson/Bennett’s spent a lot of time and money caring for over the decades. The floors were beautiful. Not anymore. Every other day someone from this crew arrived with a wet mop and very harsh chemicalized cleaners and for reasons no one understood, mopped the wood floors with water and chemicals until they were discolored and very ugly. This after the Donaldson/Bennett’s told them not to touch the wood floors with water. Apparently, they took their marching orders from the “team leader” and ignored everything the Donaldson/Bennett’s asked them to do or not to do. The realtor saw this and ignored what she had wrought.
We could go on for pages because so much was done wrong. However, you get this part of the message.
This same realtor has done other houses which turned out quite lovely. The owners of those houses were white. The Donaldson/Bennett’s are black. Quite a difference. It shows in the results.
The bottom line here is only one person looked through the house the one year this realtor held the house under hostage. That person made an offer – the only offer received – and it was for $2 million dollars under the asking price – even below the price appraised by the city. The people who made the offer were people who received much of their income from trying to “upgrade” inner city blacks. That made quite a statement to us as to what is wrong with this country and how it handles its attempts to move away from what years of slavery and white racism has wrought.
The city of Cambridge is full of instances of bigotry in the real estate industry and there is no sign of any change. When one does not admit ones problems there is no one to begin to solve them.
The schools will stay segregated and the private schools will thrive as parents strive to keep their children out of the path of “those others.”
Cambridge Rindge and Latin had the reputation of being extremely segregated. There was pilot school where one gained entrance through a lottery. Amazingly that lottery produced the children of professors, doctors, lawyers who attended CRLS “winning the lottery” on a consistent basis with the laws that governed the Pilot School quite different from those in other parts of CRLS.
At the CRLS graduation we attended it was a shocker to see the classes come in. House A started the procession and the color of the students was very white. As other classes – House B through, the color of the children shocked because the students in the last class of the alphabet were quite brown compared to the others.
What causes that? Try looking at who lives in which communities and what they expect from their children’s school to keep them in public schools and not pulling them out of the public schools and putting them into the many private schools in the Cambridge area.
O, My! We can hear the screams and objections from several cities away!
Your comments will be appreciated.