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Words You Cannot Use In Real Estate

I was chatting with my adult step-son yesterday about possibly doing a joint advertisement for our Brewery and for Bushnell Real Estate Solutions and he wanted to say something along the lines of "family friendly" - and I told him I could not do that.


"Because that's a Fair Housing Violation."

"To use the word 'family'?"

"Yes, we are not allowed to use the word 'family' in relation to real estate."

"That makes no sense to me."

Well, it may not make sense to everyone, but in this example, although there are people with families, there are people that don't consider themselves to be identified as a family, and the Fair Housing Act protects "familial status" - whatever form that may be.

You probably know this already, but according to The Fair Housing Act (Title VIII of the Civil Rights Act of 1968, and later amendment to protect additional groups), the protected classes are: race, color, religion, sex, familial status or national origin.

Here's a list of all the "red flag" words that the NWMLS does not allow in real estate advertising.

Here are a few that you cannot use in real estate advertising:

Family, Families

Adult, Child, No Children

Boy, Girl, Male, Man, Female, Woman, Guy, Lady

Person, One Person, Perfect for Two

Age, Young, Youth, Empty-Nesters, Golden Age, Mature

Able Bodied, Disability, Cripple

American, African, Asian, Arab, Chinese

Christian, Catholic, Buddhist

Black, White, Caucasian

Couple, Bachelor, Married, Marital Status

Church, Temple, Religion, Religious

Healthy Gay, Lesbian, Homosexual Exclusive, (you can use the word exclusively in listings, if that's the type of agreement the seller and the listing agent have), Private Community (private drive is okay) Smoker, Alcoholic

Words are powerful, and certain words are not allowed to be used in advertising, or it could be a potential fair housing violation. And if you are a real estate agent, you could be fined $16,000 for your first offense and $65,000- $100,000 for future violations (not including attorney fees, of course!).

And that's at the national level.

Some cities like Seattle have additional protected classes that are listed here but include:

It's illegal discriminate against anyone when selling or renting a dwelling to any person in one of the protected classes. You are also not allowed to coerce, threaten, intimidate or interfere/retaliate against a person or organization that aids or encourages the exercise or enjoyment of fair housing rights.

So, the bottom line is just to be careful, better to be safe than sorry. Otherwise, you may find yourself in some legal mumbo-jumbo, upset clients, and a zero balance bank account.


Kristin Bushnell is Designated Broker of Bushnell Real Estate Solutions and Co-owner of Bushnell Craft Brewing Company in Redmond, WA. Check out my profile here.

If you are ever interested in chatting about real estate, contact me at or call me at 425-559-1355. I'll buy you a beer (or non-alcoholic beverage, if you prefer!), and we can chat about real estate until your heart is content.

If you are interested in talking about your real estate career click here.

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