Making Home Buying Better
Image courtesy of Ryan Weyandt
Buying a home is an exciting milestone, though not without its difficulties. Finding the right neighborhood, a real estate agent who understands your needs, and negotiating a mortgage is a lot. Those difficulties are exacerbated for marginalized communities, and, although we do not hear about it as often, this includes the LGBTQ+ community. The LGBTQ+ homeownership rate is 49.8%, which is far below the U.S. average of 65.8%. Ryan Weyandt, CEO of The LGBTQ+ Real Estate Alliance, explained the roadblocks to home ownership that some members of the LGBTQ+ community face and the work The LGBTQ+ Real Estate Alliance has put into making housing more equitable.
“In the housing industry, we discuss housing discrimination often. But almost all of that talk is about ‘in the moment’ discrimination and/or the fear of it occurring during the buying and selling process,” says Weyandt. “We wanted to explore how discrimination throughout our lives—in high school, college and the workplace—can impact our ability to get into homeownership.”
This exploratory project was the first big task tackled by The LGBTQ+ Real Estate Alliance, which was founded in June of 2020. Earlier this year the non-profit advocacy group, which already has more than 1,000 members, issued an in-depth report outlining some of the ways that LGBTQ+ people are at a disadvantage when it comes to home ownership.
“The report was wide-ranging and that was a purposeful decision,” says Weyandt. “We wanted to go far beyond the home buying and selling process and provide real estate professionals with insight into what those in our community may endure, and how it impacts their ability and desire to enter homeownership.”
Federal Fair Housing laws do not include sexual orientation or gender identity as protected classes, which means that it is legal to discriminate against LGBTQ+ people who are trying to buy a home, obtain a loan or rent property in 27 states. 10.6% of respondents to The LGBTQ+ Real Estate Alliance survey experienced discrimination from a real estate professional during the renting or home buying process.
“We know that discrimination plays a role in LGBTQ+ homeownership rates,” says John Thorpe, president of the LGBTQ+ Real Estate Alliance. This discrimination is sometimes direct, as noted above, and is sometimes more incidental—a snowball effect of past experiences with discrimination. Thorpe continues, “So many in our community feel an added burden in their high school and college years, including a lack of family support, that can lead to reduced academic success, which in turn can impact earning potential and even lead to homelessness.”
One of the best ways to combat this inequity is through education. “Don’t be afraid to learn and ask questions,” says Weyandt. “LGBTQ+ people often don’t have the support system that others may take for granted.” The Alliance has many online resources that aim to bridge this gap, from the LGBTQ+ First-Time Home Buyers Guide to the LGBTQ+ First-Time Home Buyer Seminar. Weyandt continues, “we want to help bring information to our community and increase our homeownership levels, [so] don’t be afraid to reach out to our members. They understand the added fears, concerns and challenges that our community faces.”
The LGBTQ+ Real Estate Alliance can always use additional support. “Allies are so important to our community,” says Weyandt. There are specific course materials that The LGBTQ+ Real Estate Alliance created specifically for allies. “It is several hours long and shares so much great information including who we are as the LGBTQ+ community, and discussions about unconscious bias.”
The LGTBQ+ Real Estate Alliance has lived much of its life online so far, but as vaccination numbers increase, they are beginning to introduce real-world meetups as well. “We just opened the gate to in-person events on June 1,” says Weyandt. The biggest upcoming event is the annual convention in Las Vegas, which runs from September 22-24th. This event is the ideal way to connect with a group of real estate professionals who are creating meaningful, positive change for the LGBTQ+ community, and is open to anyone in the real estate profession.
“Most of us believe homeownership is a beneficial emotional and financial investment,” says Weyandt. “The more we can make this type of information readily available, the more we hope to even the playing field for the LGBTQ+ community.” The LGBTQ+ Real Estate Alliance is an invaluable resource whether you are a prospective homeowner who wants to know that your real estate agent understands your situation, or a real estate professional who wants to ensure the best possible experience for your LGBTQ+ clients.