It of course depends!
Firstly, I am not a lawyer, and for details on specific questions about possible housing discrimination, I would certainly recommend contacting a lawyer, and not your real estate agent.
Every agent learns the 7 protected classes by heart as part of their license courses. The following is a paraphrase of the national law:
“Everyone who lives in the United States is protected from discrimination in housing; sale, rental, and financing of dwellings; lending; home appraisal; insurance and accessibility. Fair housing means you may freely choose a place to live without regard to your race, color, national origin, religion, sex, disability or familial status.”
Many states have additional protected classes, but Texas currently does not. However, the National Association of Realtors does and adds sexual orientation and gender identity to that main list of seven (Article 10 of the Code of Ethics) for a total of 9 protected classes. Not all real estate agents are REALTORS®, but the vast majority of residential real estate agents are, and so generally sexual orientation and gender identify are de facto protected classes.
It may seem simple to avoid equal housing issues in real estate. Just don’t be a racist/sexist/jerk/whatever, right? But in practice, it is often much more nuanced than that. What if I am pointing buyers toward a certain part of town because I see commercial development and it is “trending”? Or what if I decline to serve buyers/sellers who are buying/selling under $50,000 because I don’t think the commission is worth my time, or maybe I don’t show foreclosures (because foreclosures can be a hassle!). Otherwise, valid business practices may have the unintended consequence of ignoring an under-served community – entirely unintentionally – and can be the basis for many of the issues that actually make it into the courts and political system.
A huge no-no agents are taught from the start is about redlining. Redlining, usually a form of racial discrimination, is not about declining service broadly to a group, but rather to an area that is predominately comprised of a protected group. Often it may mean still serving a customer but perhaps charging them more. The discrimination may use their neighborhoods or income as a proxy for their race. Lenders, in particular, have had problems with redlining, by charging lower-income more for loans.
If redlining is more common for lenders, racial steering is an agent/broker no-no. Never, never, never ask a Realtor where any particular ethnicity lives or doesn’t live. They can’t answer even if they were so inclined.
Steering can be active, like advising a customer to focus on specific neighborhoods based on race. Or it can be passive, like not showing a customer homes in a neighborhood that would otherwise meet the customer’s specifications.
There are times when it would seem to make sense to “steer” a client. What if you’re a Houston agent, and your client is a native speaking Chinese and want’s to live “where Chinese people are”. Is that technically racist to just show them Chinatown? I don’t know…
There are very specific exceptions to these laws to accommodate homeowners and unique situations. An owner NOT using a real estate agent/broker (FSBO), who owns three or fewer single-family homes and/or does not own an apartment (5 units plus), OR if they live in the home themselves, is not bound to the anti-discrimination laws.
The latter exception kind of makes sense. If you are renting out a room in your own home, for example, it makes sense that you might be particular one way or the other about the gender of your roommate. Or it might be a problem if you like peace and quiet but your prospective tenant has three kids.
Fort Hood Area
Discrimination is a touchy subject in real estate, especially as applies to race. America has a past that includes rampant racial discrimination in all categories of life, and real estate is no different.
Maybe I’m naive, but here in the Central Texas / Fort Hood Area, I’ve personally found that there is little discrimination. Fort Hood is and Army town, and that means there are a LOT of people living here from every background, every part of the country, and every ethnicity/race/religion or whatever else have you. The Army is one of America’s most meritocratic institutions, and our community reflects the diversity of the military. Though race relations are never perfect, I like to think that Killeen can boast a very diverse and tolerant community.
My own home is about a two minute’s walk from the local mosque. Another 5 miles drive south on Fort Hood street is the Buddhist Temple. Being Texas and the Bible belt, there are plenty of churches and Christian denominations to choose from.