Political Correctness vs Fair Housing. The PC People are Taking it Too Far.

I once posted a rental ad on Craigslist, stating the apartment was “close to downtown” and had the ad blacklisted because of the implied anti-poverty bias.  Horse puckey…  so absurdly annoying.

Read the following and tell me your thoughts!


You can’t say that … in a real estate ad!

BY: Gabriella Morrongiello January 15, 2014 | 4:00 am | Modified: January 15, 2014 at 4:51 am

Looking to sell your family-friendly, two-bedroom condominium within walking distance of the local grocery store? Don’t expect your real estate agent to advertise it as such.

The push to eradicate words and phrases from commercial vernacular that might be considered remotely insensitive has appeared once more with the folly of political correctness now spreading to real estate advertising.

The regulatory impact on marketing in real estate became apparent last April when a Washington Business Journal survey revealed that major homebuilders in the Washington, D.C. area had ditched the term “master bedroom” due to its racist connotation and replaced it with the more neutral “owner’s suite.”

In 1968, the Fair Housing Act banned the use of discriminatory phrases like “whites only” or “Jewish community” and was amended in 1988 to include families and handicapped individuals on its list of protected classes.

The 1988 amendments also enabled individuals who found an ad offensive to take legal action by filing a complaint with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

The obvious cases of race and class discrimination that the FHA once targeted for elimination have now been replaced by a level of censorship that borders on the absurd.

“You can say ‘family room,’ but not ‘family home.’ We avoid anything gender-specific like ‘his-and-her’s closets or baths,” said Beth Brody, a licensed Realtor in Marin County, Calif.

According to Brody, her agency has “mandatory risk management three or four times a year” during which appropriate advertising is occasionally addressed. Furthermore, her agency now has its own advertising department that monitors the language of its Realtors’ listings.

“When I decide to place an ad, if there’s something offensive, he’ll give it back to me and say ‘you’re not allowed to use that,’ ” Brody said.

Brody said the list of potentially offensive buzzwords has expanded over the years and partially attributes this to the FHA’s addition of disabled persons as a protected class and “the many changes in what defines a family.”

Although a memorandum issued by HUD in 1995 listed phrases like ‘bachelor pad’ and ‘mother-in-law unit’ as non-violations of the FHA, political correctness and hypersensitivity now indicate otherwise.

This past August, a three-judge panel of the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reversed a ruling and awarded the Miami Valley Fair Housing Center a new trial in a federal discrimination lawsuit over an Ohio apartment listing for a “bachelor pad.”

According to the most recent Annual Report on Fair Housing for Fiscal Year 2011, “HUD charged the highest number of cases (55) in a single year since FY 2002, despite a 25 percent reduction in its fair housing staff during the previous two years.”

“We have become an extremely litigious society. People will find anything to create a suit and there are attorneys out there who are more than happy to accommodate them,” said Randy Haak, an agent with the national real estate agency Better Homes and Gardens.

Lesley Walker, associate counsel at the National Association of Realtors, believes that since “our culture and society are now more in tune with the sensitivities of more groups of people,” the room for interpretation has certainly increased.

“I think we’re more aware and educated and so [we are] taking more precautions not to inadvertently or expressly discriminate against a specific class of people,” said Walker.

Although HUD has never issued an official list of terms to avoid, the Northwest Multiple Listings Service — an online portal of property listings available to real estate agents — issued a list of “potentially offensive words” developed by its attorneys that provide further examples of the aforementioned “precautions.”

Some of the words and descriptions that “should never be used in a listing” include, but are not limited to: newlyweds, country club nearby, handyman’s dream, safe neighborhood, secure, and walking distance to.

“We have an agent in town who will get up at MLS meetings and challenge someone who has listed something as being “close to the plaza,” because one person’s idea of close is not the same as another’s,” said Haak, adding that “agents have now been trained to say, ‘three blocks to the plaza,’ since ‘walking distance’ could be prejudicial against someone in a wheelchair.”

Additionally, some real estate agents are now advising their clients to remove the American flag when photographing a listing.

“For my company, that’s a precautionary action. We want to neutralize the house to appeal to the greatest pool of buyers, so we want to keep the focus on the house and not be distracted by anything political and an American flag could be political,” said Brody.

Should we really be removing the stars and stripes when homeownership has always been central to the American dream?

Gabriella Morrongiello is a former Washington Examiner intern.

Evaluating Your Water Usage: The First Step for Conservation

Did you know that Americans use large quantities of water inside their home?

The average family of four can use 400 gallons of water every day, and, on average, approximately 70 percent of that water is used indoors, according to the EPA. For a three-bedroom, two-bathroom home, that’s a lot of water! Additionally, most of that indoor use comes from the bathroom.

Much of that water usage is usually attributed to waste, such as leaky toilets, or misuse (leaving the faucet on).


But a hidden enemy of water conservation is simply older toilets and showers. For example, old showers can use as much as 5 gallons of water per minute, whereas newer models can be as little as 1 gallon per minute.

Water conservation is good for the environment, and of course is good for the wallet for those who have to pay a water bill. Now is as good a time as ever to learn about a shower remodeling from Bath Fitter.

Some additional facts from the EPA below:

  • Older toilets use between 3.5 and 7 gallons of water per flush. However, WaterSense labeled toilets require 75 to 80 percent less water
  • A leaky toilet can waste about 200 gallons of water every day
  • A bathroom faucet generally runs at 2 gallons of water per minute. By turning off the tap while brushing your teeth or shaving, a person can save more than 200 gallons of water per month


Need the Perfect Closing Gift? Something for the Boss, Designated Broker or Family Member?


Sometimes the greatest gift is a gift basket… and The Perfect Basket delivers in more ways than one!

img01 img02 img03 img04 img12 img18

To order your Christmas or other holiday baskets (the above pictures are representative, but not the only styles), call owner Celeste Yakawonis at 207 713 7111 or email her at CelYak@megalink.net.

From Celeste’s website (http://www.perfectbasketofmaine.com):

Welcome To…
The Perfect Basket

…where our name says it all.

For over 10 years, this family owned business has created gifts for personal and corporate giving… you can choose from everyday, holiday, Maine Made or other theme-style baskets. If we don’t already have it, we probably can create a special gift just for you to give.

Whether the order is for one or for one hundred, every gift is designed to ‘Wow’ your recipient – and we will create a design that works within your budget.

The Perfect Basket. Think of us as your personal shopper – giving you the gift of time.

Major credit cards are accepted (VISA, MasterCard and American Express).

The Perfect Basket will ship anywhere in the country. Additional fees apply; please call for more information.


You can find The Perfect Basket on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/ThePerfectBasketMaine

Jefferson Street, Lewiston – A Few More Photos

Yesterday I posted a Property Profile for a fabulous 2,400 sf first floor apartment in Lewiston.

Here are a few more pictures of this wonderful apartment!


OTS Jefferson Street Lewiston

For full info on the apartment, click on the Property Profile above.

Maine Apartment Association – Member Appreciation Night, December 10


Click on the flyer for more information…

December 10 at 5pm.

25 Long Wharf, Portland ME

One of the Loveliest Traditional-Style Apartments Around!

Yes, we know it’s cliché, but this 2400 sf apartment on Jefferson Street in Lewiston must be seen to be believed!  If you love the traditional style of dark wood, bay windows and formal dining room, this first floor apartment could be exactly what you’re looking for.  The owners lived here for 30 years, and their care and attention just shines through. 

OTS Jefferson Street Lewiston

Jefferson Street, Lewiston ME 04240.

Property Type:  3 unit, 3 story apartment building, with two main entrances.

Number of Rooms:  Six+.  The huge kitchen with brand new ceramic tile floor is large enough to include an eat-in dining area, plus there’s a formal dining room with bay windows and a built in china closet.  The living room is off the front entry with a small separate foyer, and also has bay windows.  Unheated utility room/pantry.


Amenities:  Apartment comes with all the kitchen appliances (stove, refrigerator, dishwasher, garbage disposal, a fabulous microwave), there’s even a washer & dryer, central vacuum and a central sound system with speakers in the kitchen and bathroom.   There’s an enclosed back porch, and an open back porch with yard.  The window treatments are new and were installed by Decorators Network.


Bedrooms/Bathrooms:  3 bedrooms, 1 bath with double sinks—and there’s plenty of counter space!  Two of the bedrooms have brand new carpets; 3rd is wood floor.


Utilities:  Heat is provided as part of your rent and includes hot water; you only pay your own electricity.  Also included are snow plowing and yard maintenance.

Vehicle Storage:  Private driveway with one stall garage.  Driveway is long enough for two vehicles to park off-street.

Neighborhood:  This apartment is located in the quiet block between Pine and Walnut Streets.

Monthly Rental: $1180.00.

Length of Lease:  Minimum of 1 year.

Security Deposit: 2 months security; one month must be up front, 2nd month could be paid over time depending on credit check.

Other Upfront Costs: 1st month’s rent.

When Available:  Immediately.

This is a quiet, extraordinarily well-maintained building.

No smoking inside the building or on the grounds.

Sorry, no cats or dogs.

FMI:  John Snyder, On the Spot Rentals.

Cell: 207 / 713.0674  |  JSnyder@regroupbiz.com  | http://www.onthespotrentals.com

P O Box 282  |  Auburn  ME  04212.0282

OTS Logo - Rentals & Inspections - Square

Local Talent: The “Golden” Baritone – Larry Gowell

Larry Gowell Profile

One of my favorite Christmas carols is Silent Night.  It’s a song that to me has always sounded best when sung by a deep rich voice, and local Auburn resident – and former Yankees pitcher – Larry Gowell has the baritone to do it justice.  Click the link below to hear this haunting Christmas staple wonderfully performed by Larry Gowell.


We like to give local talent a chance to show off their stuff at our conferences, and were thrilled to have baritone Larry Gowell as the lead entertainment at the Greater Androscoggin Landlords & Real Estate Investors Conference in May.

Larry, an Edward Little High School graduate (Auburn ME) and former pitcher for the New York Yankees has been in great demand lately – and for good reason.  He is blessed with what’s been called a “golden” baritone voice.

We could talk on and on about Larry (who is also an amazingly nice person), but figure that instead, we’ll let others tell his story.

First, in his own words from his Facebook page:

“Life is like a box of chocolates – you never know what you are going to get.”

“Music is what sustains me and makes life rich and sweet no matter what downfalls I face.”

“I was born and raised in Auburn, Maine. I graduated from Edward Little High school in 1967 and was drafted by the New York Yankees as a fourth round draft pick as a pitcher. I went on to make the major leagues club in 1972. In 1975 I was released from baseball and got hired as an insurance agent that year.”

“I have two adopted children, Crystal and Maurice and my son Chad Holland who lives in Burlington, North Carolina. He is the head coach of Graham High School.”

“I have a very outgoing personality and get along very well with most folks.”

“My goal is to become much more active in sports and music as I go into my retirement years.”

By googling “Larry Gowell pitcher”.

You’ll get quite a few hits when you google Larry, including this one from Wikipedia:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Larry_Gowell

Larry was interviewed by Bill Green on Bill Green’s Maine this past May. 

You can watch the interview by clicking on the link below.


If you’re looking for quality local talent for an upcoming event, you should absolutely consider engaging Larry.   He doesn’t know I’m posting this blog about him (although he will shortly!), so I don’t feel comfortable giving out his email address or phone number, but if you want to contact me, I’ll make sure he gets the message.

The Aesthetics of Doorknobs vs the Usability of Levers

As someone who deals with episodic fibromyalgia, Reynaud’s disease and the beginnings of arthritis in my hands (and a family history of relatives coping with the painful disease), I’m often frustrated by gripping and grasping motions that I can’t manage readily. 

Pumping gas can be excruciating, particularly in the winter when my Reynaud’s flares up (I love-love-love the pumps with the little notches that allow the gas to flow without me actually holding the nozzle).  Even turning on the shower faucet can be a serious chore some mornings.

Doorknobs in particular are notoriously difficult to handle when one’s grip is impaired, which can happen as a result of the ailments mentioned above, as well as carpal tunnel syndrome, medication side effects, neurological damage, and in fact any illness that saps one’s strength… or even just as a result of aging.

Given my personal experiences as well as my work in the field of housing & disabilities, you’d think I’d be thrilled with the idea of getting rid of doorknobs in favor of levers, which require little in terms of strength, and can even be manipulated using one’s elbow instead of a hand.

But when I first read that the City of Vancouver had banned doorknobs, I flinched.  There’s an aesthetic about doorknobs that levers just can’t match.  They come in materials and colors of amazing variety – one of my previous houses had lovely antique glass doorknobs throughout – and are often backed by plates of intricate design.  Levers, while affording critical accessibility and independence for people who might otherwise be limited in life’s daily activities, just aren’t that pretty.

Read on for more on the topic.  Both the link to one of many articles on Vancouver’s Universal Design mandate and the text of the write-up are below.


In a move to make housing more universally accessible, the city of Vancouver, British Columbia, has banned doorknobs in private homes and apartment buildings. Starting in March 2014, the doors of new buildings will be equipped instead with more ergonomically friendly, easier-to-use lever handles, the Vancouver Sun reports. It notes that while the bylaw passed in September is not retroactive, City Hall has set an example by replacing its art deco brass doorknobs, which date from 1936.

As University of British Columbia professor Tim Stainton explained in the article, the doorknob ban is in the spirit of a concept known as universal design, which holds that environments should be built to be usable by a majority of people regardless of age or capacity, rather than adapted to meet the needs of the elderly or disabled.

Design that makes everyday things easy to use even for those with physical challenges is the same principle that IDEO designers used when redesigning an OXO Good Grips potato peeler to be easier to use for arthritics. The designers noted that the human-centered design exercise “solved a specific problem for a specific group: Namely, helping people with reduced grip strength to peel things easier. Turned out, it offered a benefit to everyone.”

An article in Popular Science pointed out that turning doorknobs can be challenging for arthritic hands, citing a troubling statistic from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimating that 67 million adult Americans will have arthritis by 2030. With boomers living longer than ever it seems like the U.S. might want to follow Vancouver’s lead by adding private residences to the accessibility requirements that were established for public spaces with the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act.

Medical Marijuana Caregivers Meeting – Augusta

The following meeting may be of interest to landlords concerned about medical marijuana use in their rentals. This is not intended as a forum for landlords or about rentals; I’m just posting it as a possible avenue to learn more about the topic.

MMCM Latest News

Events – Fall – Winter 2013

Upcoming Events


Medical Marijuana Caregivers of Maine will hold a free informational meeting and networking session for patients, caregivers and members of the public in Augusta on December 11th.

Learn more about Maine’s medical marijuana law, who is being helped by it,  what changes are expected, and how to get involved in helping people in need.

MMCM is participating in a fooddrive for medical marijuana patients in Maine, and will be collecting non-perishable goods at this event. All people who donate items will receive a free pin of their choice.
Time: 6 to 8 pm
Date: Wednesday December 11th
Location: St. Mark’s Episcopal Church, 9 Summer Street, Augusta.

From Fast Company: 7 Ways to Give Presentations that People Actually Care About

Speech Girl

While there’s nothing new here, these basic tips bear repeating.   When preparing to give a presentation at a conference, meeting or any other event, think about your audience.  They’re all adults, and probably professionals.  They’re busy people who don’t have a lot of time to waste on boring, or irrelevant details.

Andragogy (teaching to adults) demands a different style than pedagogy (teaching to children).  You can’t lecture at adults because they (we) won’t listen.  (Actually, I never did well with the traditional lecture style anyway, even as a kid.)

Engage us.  Make it relevant.  Recognize that we all have different ways of relating and learning – some of us are hands on, some are visual, some are auditory.  Give us a some of each – a mix of flip chart, power point, hand out, posters, actual product displays, and other visuals; audio, discussion, music; and activities that can include simple checklists, arithmetic problems (note, I said arithmetic, not math), touching or manipulating product… even doing stretches or blowing bubbles, if it makes sense to the subject matter.

Anyway, here’s the link to the article, as well as the narrative.


By Drake Baer.

When NYU leadership lecturer Helio Fred Garcia wants to gather an audience’s attention, he enlists the most fearsome of allies: The Black Eyed Peas.

“At precisely 9 a.m. I touch a button on my remote mouse and play a sudden blast,”
he shared with us. “After a 10-second burst of very loud music, I have every student’s undivided attention. I then lock in the connection: I smile, welcome them, thank them for investing a full Saturday in developing their careers. Only then do I begin the class. I have hijacked their amygdalas. We need audiences to feel first and then to think.

But what for those of us who have the burden privilege of talking to a room full of people but don’t want to resort to late 2000s party anthems? Is there a way to get an audience into what you’re saying without having to summon the presence of Fergie? Yes, may declare. YesGraph cofounder and vet of Dropbox and Facebook Ivan Kiriginshow us how.

Kirigin, who just gave a talk at the 2013 Growth Hacker Conference, blogged aboutwhat makes for a killer presentation–a mixture of knowing your audience, giving them just the right information, and not-boring visuals. Let’s buffet his insights below.


Quality communication is grounded in empathy; you gotta know what they want to know.

“As much as I’d like to talk about zombies and nukes,” Kirigin says, “a growth conference audience wants to hear specific tactics and strategy around growth.”


Reading from a script will make you sound like a mixture of woefully wooden politician and delightfully unrelatable robot. So instead of memorizing your talk word for word, know the whole of the ideas you’re trying to communicate–then talk about them like a human.


Fast Company recently saw Mastermind: How to Think Like Sherlock Holmes author Maria Konnikova give a talk about the weirdness of cognition. When she wanted to show how people can see the same object multiple ways, she showed the audience this illusion: Depending on the way you look at it, you see either a duck or a rabbit, which is crazy–and super effective for illustrating her point.


Storytelling is one of the finest and most engaging ways of communicating ideas–to the point that it might be an evolutionary adaptation. As Kirigin says:

You should generally try to tell a narrative story regardless of the topic. Stories are easier to understand and keep an audience’s attention. This isn’t always possible. In my growth talk, the story was how I came to work in growth, some things we tried at Dropbox, and lessons learned applied to a new startup.

To brush up on your storytelling skills, consult a screenwriting guru.


“People literally can’t listen to you and read at the same time,” Kirigin says. “So when you have a lot of writing on your slide, expect that people aren’t going to listen to what you’re saying.”


Kirigin recorded himself giving his talk (againagain, and again) before giving his presentation–allowing him to iterate on each version.


“All this practice and iteration helps you focus on what matters when giving a talk: engaging with your audience,” Kirigin says. “When neither you nor your audience are reading your slides, you can see how people react to what you’re saying. You know when something is confusing.”

This is the same advice that Quiet author Susan Cain once gave us: Just as being a quality conversationalist depends on listening to your partner, being a topflight speaker means listening to your audience.

Once you get enough experience, she says, “you can really read audiences,” as you feel the moods and reactions of the audience–and allowing the monologue to evolve into a dialogue.

Drake Baer is a contributing writer at Fast Company, where he covers work culture. He’s the co-author of Everything Connects, a book about how intrapersonal, interpersonal, and organizational psychology shape innovation, due out in February. Email him: dbaer at fastcompany.com.

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