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Lost In Translation: When Real Estate Clients Don’t Speak English


As a real estate agent, you want clients that you can communicate with effectively. However, America is a melting pot. We have all ethnicities living here, and they may speak languages other than English. So how do you communicate with someone who speaks Spanish, Chinese, Russian, Vietnamese, Arabic, or some other language?

It can be difficult, to say the least, as you have to make sure nothing gets lost in translation. Real estate can be a complicated field, so you need to ensure that your client understands what you are telling them.

Under the Fair Housing Act, you cannot discriminate against someone because they don’t speak English or are a different race than you. And you can be liable for misinterpretations. This is what happened to a real estate broker. His license was revoked after serving as the interpreter in a transaction.

Therefore, you need to ensure that you follow the laws and guidelines created by the National Association of REALTORS. Here are some ways to relieve confusion and make the transaction a lot smoother.

Find Additional Resources

Many real estate documents are already translated into multiple languages. For example, the Lead-Based Paint Disclosure is available in 11 languages. Fannie Mae provides translations of its loan forms in five languages. So see what’s available to you first.

Use a Translator

Don’t solely use Google Translate for real estate transactions. It can help in some instances, but the real estate field has some terminology that may not be directly translated properly by electronic tools. Instead, use a third party to translate documents for the client. This can be an individual or company. This will ensure the translation is done accurately.

Put it in Writing

If you must use a translator, have a written agreement in place. This will establish who will serve as the client’s interpreter, their relationship to the client, and how much they will assist the client throughout the transaction. The agreement should also outline broker liability for incorrect translations.

Ensure Understanding

If a contract is translated, ensure that the client understands that the transaction will be governed by the English documents. The translation is only provided to facilitate their understanding.

Keep Your License With Help From a Tampa Real Estate Broker License Lawyer

If a client doesn’t speak English, it can be hard to communicate with them. You may want to avoid talking to them altogether, which can result in claims of discrimination.

If you are facing issues, a Tampa real estate broker license lawyer from The Law Offices of David P. Rankin, P.A. will work hard to help you keep your license. I have been involved in several hundred license discipline proceedings before the Florida Real Estate Commission and was the attorney for the Greater Tampa Realtors for 18 years. To schedule a consultation, call (813) 968-6633 or fill out the online form.