How the Housing Market is Making Moral Determinations

All my friends are buying houses, and to the showings, they are leaving letters, where they write about who they are, what their jobs and their interests are, their plans for their futures, and a few pictures of their most wholesome and friendly selves. Since the housing market is so crazy, sellers will receive 15-20 offers on a house, so the “only way” the seller can determine who they will pass the property off to is picking through these letters and determining “who is the most morally deserving of my house”. I find this morally problematic for many reasons.

First of all, if I am a seller, and I am attached to my house, or have some good memories I hope to store, I have relatively good relationships with my neighbors, I am probably going to want to sell it to someone who is “most like myself” (In Fahrenheit 451, Mildred’s friends say the only reason they want to reproduce is to look at images of themselves–the same concept rings true here). Say, I live in white-surburbia, and I receive three letters with pictures on them: one from another white couple, an African-American family, and a Hispanic man. As many research studies suggest, I am probably going to pick the white family (even if I unconsciously do so) because that family is “most similar” to me, and I want my existence to remain once I leave. Or, take the racial card out of it–religious bias could also occur. Since we deem “being a religious person” as moral, many of these letters include what church these potential buyers go to, how often they volunteer in the nursery, what their faith means to them. So, say I am a Mormon seller, and I get a letter from another Mormon, or a Muslim–I am probably picking the Mormon because their religion most similarly relates to mine. Or, you have the situation in which, because I am Muslim, and I fear discrimination, I leave that little piece out of my letter, causing me to suppress something that is so central to my identity. In other agencies, people undergo extensive training to prevent this discrimination and bias, but since these are individual sellers, it cannot be assumed, nor required, that they abide by the same standards. So now, we have a bunch of gentrified communities, where there is no diversity, everyone is subject to GroupThink, and Orwell’s 1984 comes true (ok, so it may not be this extreme).

Second of all, seller’s get to decide what the moral standard is. I personally think Big Business and Corporate America are incredibly morally corrupt–the entire philosophy is to screw Peter to pay Paul. I step on all the people below me, no matter what I have to do, in order to propel myself in the business environment. I would say that a majority of the population is NOT moral, and that being a moral person, again, takes training that we cannot rely everyone to undergo. So, we find ourselves in a situation in which the sellers get to make the determination who is “moral enough” to live in their house. I personally think that teaching is a very moral profession, but say I write my letter, and get no hits, but my friends, who all work in Big Business and Corporate America, start getting calls back for the houses they want, and I start thinking that I need to leave teaching and join Corporate America if I want to “get ahead”; the sellers are setting the moral standard that those in Big Business and Corporate America are “more morally deserving” than me, the teacher, but what if that “moral standard” is actually very corrupt?…

And, what if I am in a situation where I perhaps made some no-so-great decisions in my past, but I have received some moral training, I’m on the up and up, but am not in a position yet where I can brag about myself in a letter? Like, maybe I had a family situation that came up and prolonged my college graduation, or maybe I graduated in during the Economic Crisis of 2007, and had to work at Target for a few years before I found a job in my field. Of course, in my letter, those things might reflect poorly on me, set me “below” the other potential buyers, and yet, we see another situation where people’s past are significantly impacting their futures (and social media for sure doesn’t help). We see this in the job market all the time–employers Google a candidate, find a potentially unflattering picture, and poof! the candidate’s dreams of working for that company are diminished. The same is true with the housing market–with my letter, I leave my name, which gives the seller the information to Google me as well, and make their moral judgements as to whether I am a “good fit” or not to take over their house (if I would have known this would be the scenario I would be in ten years ago, I probably would have limited what my friends could post on my Facebook wall…)

Last, I find this new letter-thing problematic, because it exacerbates the class gap between the Have’s and the Have Not’s. In this case, I am a Have Not, because I do not own a property, and in order to get one, I have to bow down, suck up, brown nose, praise the Have’s. I have to shower them with air fresheners, fresh baked cookies, an extra $20,000 gift card to their favorite spa. And, the Have Not with the best sucking-up tactic wins. But again, this just creates a larger gap between classes; the Have’s continue to elevate, while the Have Not’s spend all their money on the Have’s, therefore decreasing their economic mobility, and increasing the gap between classes. As my dad says, “It’s like prostituting yourself out. People are desperate so they are doing whatever it takes, including selling themselves, to find a house”. I won’t even touch on the immoralness of people who are probably inflating themselves and lying in these letters because they are so desperate for a place to “call their own”. The house market is making these moral determinations.

…but, with all this said and done, remember that I have a 100% job placement rate for my resumes, extensive training in morality and superb writing skills, so if you need help writing your own housing plea letter, hit me up…

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