State AG to Investigate Findings of Discrimination by Realtors

An aerial view of homes on Long Island, New York.

An aerial view of homes on Long Island, New York. Shutterstock


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A multi-year investigation by Newsday found a range of troubling practices by real estate agents on Long Island, New York.

New York’s attorney general says she’ll launch a probe into widespread evidence of discriminatory practices by real estate agents on Long Island that were revealed by a local newspaper.

A three-year investigation by Newsday that involved trained, undercover “testers” of different races and ethnicities, found that real estate agents treated black potential homebuyers unequally 49% of the time. The same was true 39% of the time for Hispanics and 19% of the time for Asians.

This treatment included practices like steering potential homebuyers toward different neighborhoods depending on their race, and declining to show minority clients houses unless they were pre-approved for home loans, while not doing the same for white customers.

Overall, agents also provided white testers an average of 50% more listings than they gave to their black counterparts, Newsday reported.

State and federal fair housing laws laws generally prohibit real estate agents from making statements about the racial makeup of a communities, or providing disparate services based on a customer’s race or ethnicity.

“The pattern of discrimination uncovered by Newsday’s intrepid reporting raises significant concerns and calls for action,” Attorney General Letitia James said in a statement.

The newspaper’s investigation, published Nov. 17, tested 93 real estate agents. People of different races, with similar financial profiles and seeking similar types of homes approached the agents as house hunters. The testers secretly recorded their encounters with the agents on video. 

“They make you feel like they are treating you like everybody else,” one of the testers who is black said, referring to real estate agents. “That’s because you don’t see the other side. But once you see the other side, you realize that you aren’t treated that well.”

Newsday’s report can be found here.

Bill Lucia is a Senior Reporter for Route Fifty and is based in Olympia, Washington.

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