Gay, Transgender Agents Share Ideas for Increasing LGBTQ Homeownership

November 19, 2020

REALTORS® who are members of the LGBTQ community are working to end housing discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity—and other REALTORS® aid the cause nationally, locally, and in their personal lives.

This was the message shared by panelists during the “Our Voice in the Market-place, the Work-place and the Political-place!” session as part of the virtual 2020 REALTORS® Conference & Expo. Being active in political advocacy, supporting LGBTQ organizations, and identifying yourself as an ally were amongst the ideas for change that the panelists offered.

Homeownership among LGBTQ individuals is far lower than the national average—a 2018 study from Freddie Mac found that 49% of LGBT individuals are likely to own a home, as compared to the national homeownership rate of 64.3%.

Several factors contribute to this lower rate, said Jamie Zapata, a transgender agent with Coldwell Banker D’Ann Harper in San Antonio, Texas, including economics, fear, and discomfort. LGBTQ people like to live where they feel safe, she said, and that often means living in downtown and urban areas where home prices tend to be higher, making homeownership prohibitively expensive for some. Lack of access to education and jobs due to discrimination can also put LGBTQ people at an economic disadvantage, Zapata added. And many LGBTQ people, she said, fear how members of a neighborhood will react to them—even while looking at homes.

“I’ve had clients call me and say, ‘I want to see this house, but I was afraid to call the listing agent,’” Zapata said.

One solution, said Jason Heilig, an agent with Shain Park, REALTORS® in Birmingham, Mich., is to get involved with political advocacy. Heilig, who is gay, stated it’s important for LGBTQ people to make their voices heard and support political candidates who champion fair housing. One method that Heilig has found effective is to get involved with RPAC, NAR’s political action committee. RPAC, he said, doesn’t support any particular political party but instead focuses on issues that affect real estate, such as fair housing and private property rights. He cited the Equality Act—which would add gender identity and sexual orientation as federally protected fair housing classes—as one of the major pieces of legislation he is fighting for through RPAC. And Heilig said he’s had the opportunity to speak to lawmakers on Capitol Hill in support of the act.

“It felt amazing to stand up for what I believe in,” he said.

Zapata seconded Heilig’s call to get involved and noted she is the founder and president of her local chapter of the National Association of Gay and Lesbian Real Estate Professionals. Allies are welcome to join NAGLREP, too, she said and support their LGBTQ family, friends, neighbors, and coworkers. And NAGLREP is only one of many groups available to join—Zapata encouraged all who are interested to explore LGBTQ-empowering organizations in their area.

REALTORS® of all descriptions can also help on a more individual level, Zapata added, by identifying themselves as LGBTQ-friendly in their advertising and outreach.

“Let all of your clients know that you will treat everyone equally,” Zapata said. “Then LGBTQ+ people will be able to say, ‘Hey, this person is in our corner.’”