Mystery shoppers play the role of a home seeker and participate in apartment showings, open houses, and other experiences to help us monitor fair housing practices. Mystery shoppers are of vital importance to the advocacy and research programs of the Center. Without a vast and diverse pool of mystery shoppers, the Center would be drastically limited in our ability to conduct research and investigate claims of illegal discrimination.
As a mystery shopper, you play the role of a home seeker to observe and document the ordinary business practices of housing providers, lenders, insurance companies, and others. As a mystery shopper, you may be asked to pose as a person who is interested in renting an apartment, buying a home, applying for financing to purchase housing, inquiring about property insurance for a home, or using other types of housing services.
Mystery shoppers must be at least 18 years old, objective, careful observers, accurate reporters, and truthful and credible witnesses. View the Qualifications for Mystery Shoppers for more information on what characteristics are important in a mystery shopper. Mystery shoppers are paid for each completed assignment.
Mystery shopping is an investigative tool used to gather evidence. Generally, fair housing mystery shopping investigations refer to the use of individuals who, without any bona fide intent to rent or purchase a home, apartment, or another dwelling, pose as prospective renters, owners, or purchasers of real estate for the purpose of gathering information. This information may indicate whether a housing provider is complying with fair housing laws. For example, a "paired" test conducted to investigate possible discrimination on the basis of race in the rental housing market might begin by selecting two trained mystery shoppers.
The mystery shoppers are assigned a set of personal, financial, and home-seeking characteristics so that they are closely matched and the primary difference between them is their race. The mystery shoppers receive instructions to separately visit the same apartment building and inquire about the same type of apartment. Upon completing visits to the apartment building, each mystery shopper fills out a report form and provides a factual account of his or her test experience. Reviewing and comparing the accounts of these test experiences may make it possible to identify and document any differences in treatment and/or the existence of policies or practices that violate fair housing laws.
In other words, mystery shoppers simulate ordinary housing transactions for the purpose of obtaining credible and objective information about housing practices. Mystery shopping can be used to investigate all types of housing and housing-related services. Mystery shopping evidence often forms the basis for the successful resolution of a housing discrimination complaint.
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