how to . . .
reach out to gay couples
Understanding the LGBT Niche
Marriage equality laws are a;ecting the purchasing decisions of
same-sex partners. You need to be aware of what’s changed.
Everyone in real estate has to deter- mine how he or she is going to make a living. The most successful practitioners also figure out how they can make
a meaningful impact. Wendy Levy, CRS,
broker-owner of IDEAL Properties of Denver has found her calling helping lesbian,
gay, bisexual, and transgender clients.
“It’s been a pleasure to work with
people in my community who have
similar concerns. For me, it’s about doing
a service for people,” says Levy, who has
been in the business 30 years.
Broader social acceptance and
increased legal protections have been
empowering for LGBT consumers, but
bias remains a reality. A HUD study
released last June found that same-
sex couples were less likely to receive
favorable responses to e-mail inquiries
about advertised rental housing than
heterosexual couples—even in states with
legislative protections. Meanwhile, Article
10 of NAR’s Code of Ethics prohibits
REALTORS® from discriminating based on
sexual orientation and gender identity.
Indeed, the commitment to providing
equal treatment is also a smart business
move. According to a Harris Interactive
survey, about 66 percent of LGBT adults
say that they would remain loyal to a brand
they believed to be friendly to and supportive of the LGBT community. Levy, whose
business is nearly all referral, focuses on
client outreach with regular events such as
dog park gatherings and picnics.
Levy also belongs to the National Association of Gay and Lesbian Real Estate
Professionals, a networking and referral
resource that provides services to more
than 25,000 LGBT home buyers and
sellers each month.
Eric Axelson, a sales associate with
Kurfiss Sotheby’s International Realty in
Philadelphia who is openly gay, says that
25 percent of his business is with LGBT
clients. “As a population, we still like to be
marketed to, whether it’s by a beer or a
car company or a real estate agent or
real estate franchise,” he says.
Though the federal Fair Housing Act
does not include sexual orientation as a
protected class, more and more states
and municipalities o;er protections.
Practitioners who reach out to the
LGBT community, though, should be
mindful not to “reverse discriminate”
against heterosexuals. Here are
advertising practices to keep in mind.
b Don’t steer LGBT clients—or any
client—to a specific neighborhood.
b Use consistent language in all adver-
tising for the same property.
b Describe a property’s attributes
without using gender-specific terms.
Refer to “double sink vanity” rather
than “his and her vanity.”
b You can express that you’re LGBT-
friendly, but use a variety of adver-
tising vehicles and don’t exclude
Gay couples face a variety of legal scenarios in regard to purchasing property,
depending on the state they live in and
legal relationship status, says Los Angeles
real estate attorney Wendy Hartmann.
“People in the [ 17] states that recognize same-sex marriage have an easy
situation; not only does the federal government recognize their marriage, but the
state does as well,” she says. That means,
for example, that the death of one member of a couple does not trigger federal
estate taxes for the surviving member.
Since property tax and title transfer
laws are set by states, a couple who get
married in Illinois but purchase property
in Florida will be subject to Florida’s tax
laws, since that state doesn’t recognize
Real estate professionals should be
sure to understand the status of their
clients’ relationship, Hartmann says, and
refer them to a real estate attorney who
can help draw up any contracts they need.
By Erica Christo;er PH