Information and home-buying

Years ago when we were buying a house, we wanted to live near a good school. Being new in town, we didn’t know which of the elementary schools were good. So we asked people, but nobody quite wanted to say.

Let the schools be Oak, Ash, Pine, and Maple. One person would say, “Oh, they’re all good. Oak is very nice, but our kids went to Ash and had wonderful teachers.” Another would praise Oak and Maple, “but really they’re all fine.” Still another would tell us about the great principal at Maple, and the great soccer field at Ash. Everyone said all the schools in town were great, but nobody ever praised Pine by name. We thought, “okay then, not in Pine school district,” and only months later confirmed that Pine school was a wretched hive of scum and villainy. The people who knew didn’t want to tell.

Likewise, it seems, with crime rates. Charles G. Hill, when buying a house,

“…was handed a sheaf of disclosure statements, which covered everything from the date of installation of major systems to the predicted extent of flood waters should Deep Fork Creek, which runs through the southern end of the neighborhood, run out of its concrete-lined banks. (My conclusion, though not theirs: I shouldn’t lose any sleep over the possibility.) Conspicuous by its absence was any assessment, by the seller, the inspector, the appraiser, or anyone, as to the existing crime rate in the area.” — The Vent #732

It might even be illegal to tell, maybe for fear that crime-rate could be used as a proxy for race.

I have to contrast The Mystery of Pine School with a different experience we had looking for an apartment, years before that and far away. The woman showing us around took us some place that looked nice enough. On the way out, I asked about another development a ways off across a field. “Oh, you wouldn’t care for those; they’re mostly African-American,” she said, which brought the tour to a chilly end.


2 Replies to “Information and home-buying”

  1. Okay, so this is a bit of a tangent, but if we’re listing horrifyingly-racist-statements-that-brought-all-conversation-to-a-chilly-end, here’s one for you:

    A student in a college class, “It was the scummiest Wal-Mart I’ve ever been in. I mean really scummy. Like, I was the only white person there…that scummy.”


    More on topic, during our most recent rental experience, we asked a realtor about crime. She was pretty straight-forward. “Oh, this neighborhood’s fine. Most of town is very nice. Just avoid the area that’s north of X and west of Y.”


    1. I don’t see how crime statistics can be racist. In fact it seems like forbidding house salesmen from talking about crime rates, for fear that knowing the crime rates will cause home buyers to segregate, is itself racist in implication. Still, it’s pointless to make an argument like that because the counter-argument is simply “Shut up, you racist!”

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