This is the first episode in our new video series covering Implicit Bias principles, and provides a sneak peek into the new course requirements that will apply to real estate agents and brokers with licenses expiring on or after January 1, 2023.

This episode distinguishes between explicit bias which is consciously discriminatory and implicit bias which is not consciously discriminatory but yields discriminatory results, and comments on the public policy objectives behind implicit bias training.

The California Dream sells itself — real estate professionals sell the home

As the bellwether state of the United States, California draws its strength from a diversity of people and ideas. Its characters are as colorful as its historic Painted Ladies, resilient as its ancient sequoias, and optimistic as its sunny climate.

The California Dream sells itself — and real estate professionals sell the home.

But what happens when this signature strength is hobbled?

California’s legislature has long neglected housing health, especially in terms of discrimination in real estate. The result is one of the nation’s lowest homeownership rates and steepest income disparities.

Worse, disparities frequently track neatly along racial lines. As part of 2008’s Great Recession, Latinx households were disproportionately targeted for subprime mortgages. During the COVID-19 pandemic, de facto housing segregation left Black residents more vulnerable to contracting the virus.

These snapshots are a far cry from the “A California for all” Governor Gavin Newsom outlined in his 2019 inaugural address. As the fifth-largest economy in the world, California has the resources to ensure a decent standard of living for all its people. So how is it that California’s racial minorities and other vulnerable groups come to bear the brunt of the state’s housing crises? And what is the real estate professional’s responsibility in this issue?

Breaking the cycle

The answer lies in acknowledging our own biases – both implicit and explicit.

The term implicit bias refers to discriminatory thoughts or attitudes of which a person is not fully aware. These thought patterns are subtle, subliminal, and below the level of direct consciousness. Think of the portion of an iceberg that rests beneath the surface of frigid water.

Alternatively, explicit bias describes the same type of discriminatory thoughts or attitudes, but paired with an awareness of their existence and influence on behavior. Explicit bias is the craggy piece of the iceberg which juts out above the surface of the water, fully visible to all. For example, a real estate agent or landlord who consciously and deliberately refuses to show homes to or accept applications from members of a protected group is guilty of explicit discrimination.

This marks the difference between being aware of a stereotype and allowing it to color behavior, versus letting it motivate unconsciously — implicitly.

Implicit bias training is now taking place across industries — in healthcare, policing, and soon to real estate, thanks to California Senate Bill 263.

Implicit bias training will prepare California real estate professionals to identify and counteract elements of systemic racism, conscious and unconscious, in real estate transactions. Specifically, the training covers:

  • federal and state fair housing law in the context of explicit and implicit bias;
  • predatory lending and redlining both from a contemporary and historical perspective;
  • the wealth and homeownership gap between white, Black and Latinx households, and how it is perpetuated by discriminatory lending and real estate practices; and
  • the need for greater financial literacy to create a more stable housing market.

More critically, implicit bias training is pragmatic in nature and designed to inform behavior, enabling the student to:

  • take steps to avoid unconscious implicit bias in sales, leasing and lending activities;
  • implement fair hiring practices;
  • properly report discriminatory practices observed in the industry;
  • adhere to advertising guidelines in order to avoid discrimination in marketing; and
  • standardize tenant screening practices and the handling of applications.

The point of implicit bias is not to shame any specific group. Even when licensees don’t consciously embrace racist stereotypes, those stereotypes may still subtly influence their behavior outside of their direct awareness. Understanding this subtlety – the ice beneath the surface – is the crux of any effective implicit bias training.

To err is human, but to counter those mistakes with compassion is uniquely Californian.

Editor’s note – firsttuesday was one of the first schools to submit the new education to the California Department of Real Estate (DRE) in April 2022.

The new education has been “pre-approved” by the DRE as of July 2022, though schools are unable to formally enroll students until fall of 2022.

When the DRE advises firsttuesday we can release the new courses for completion, the new education will be posted to accounts of firsttuesday students who need the education prior to October 2022.

Rest assured – all this is at no additional cost for firsttuesday students.