For lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender homebuyers, a mortgage application can be denied simply based on their sexual orientation or gender identity. And in 30 states without equal protection laws – including housing – it’s perfectly legal.
“LGBT couples are 73% more likely to have their mortgage application declined, and when they are approved, they are on average paying half a percent more in fees,” says Sam Olson, Team Leader of the Olson Group with RE/MAX Realty Affiliates in Reno, Nevada, citing a recent study from Iowa State University. “That equates to $86 million the LGBT community paid in mortgage fees in 2018 just for being LGBT.”
The Equality Act, which would prohibit discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation on the federal level in the U.S. – could help change things. RE/MAX recently joined the Business Coalition for the Equality Act, a group of almost 200 leading brands – including Target, Spotify and Under Armour – in support of the bill.
Olson says supporting the Equality Act isn’t about choosing a political side – it’s about living up to the Realtor Code of Ethics.
The Equality Act was passed by the U.S. House of Representatives in mid-May and is currently awaiting review by the Senate.“It dovetails perfectly with the Realtor Pledge, which talks about increasing access to housing to as many people as we can,” Olson says.
“The more corporations take a stand on these issues, the sooner they won’t be issues,” says Amy Ruzick, an agent with RE/MAX Results in Minneapolis, Minnesota. “I was super happy to hear that RE/MAX joined the Business Coalition. It makes me prouder than ever to be a part of the brand.”
A brand committed to diversity
RE/MAX also works to make the dream of homeownership achievable for everyone by partnering with the National Association of Gay and Lesbian Real Estate Professionals (NAGLREP), one of the largest LGBTQ trade organizations in the U.S.
“Seeing the RE/MAX balloon on all the NAGLREP documents is pretty fantastic,” says Olson, who sits on the President’s Council of the organization’s Northern Nevada chapter. “It communicates, ‘You are Associates at the best real estate network in the world, and we have your back. We’ll all succeed together.”
In addition to providing training and networking opportunities for RE/MAX Affiliates, NAGLREP also advocates for housing laws that protect the LGBTQ community. As part of the strategic alliance, RE/MAX Senior Vice President Mike Reagan recently joined NAGLREP in Washington, D.C., at the organization’s annual policy conference.
“RE/MAX has a culture of being involved, we don’t sit on the sidelines,” Reagan says. “It’s important that we have a seat at the tables as these discussions, which impact our agents and their clients, occur.”
(That’s tables, plural. Reagan is quick to point out that in addition to NAGLREP, RE/MAX has strong connections to the Hispanic and Asian American Pacific Islander housing advocacy groups NAHREP and AREAA, respectively.)
The brand’s promotion of inclusivity at every level is good business, says Ruzick.
“I’ve always felt the culture of inclusivity at RE/MAX is very genuine, and it’s a win-win because it opens doors to clients that agents might not have had access to before,” Ruzick says.
Here are three ways real estate professionals can support LGBTQ clients and help promote diversity in their communities.
1. Know the local laws that can protect LGBTQ clients
When looking for a new neighborhood to call home, 95% of LGBTQ homebuyers identify feeling safe in their community as a top concern, according to a report from Freddie Mac. Understanding local protections for LGBTQ clients is just as important as knowing their wants and needs in their next home, says Olson.
“At least 82% of LGBT homebuyers are extremely focused on local protection policy when deciding where to purchase their next home,” Olson says, citing the latest housing report from NAGLREP. “If you want to best serve your LGBTQ clients, you should of course help them find a neighborhood that fits their lifestyle and makes them feel safe, but also be tuned in to what your city is doing to protect them.”
If you suspect a client is the victim of housing discrimination, NAGLREP is a great resource to help determine your next steps.
“NAGLREP has a massive knowledge base. If you don’t know the answer to a question, they can certainly find it,” Olson says.
According to Ruzick, NAGLREP isn’t just a resource for agents, but for clients as well. RE/MAX agents who join NAGLREP are listed in a searchable database of LGBTQ allied real estate professionals.
“If you’re coming into a new place, fear of discrimination is a top concern for the LGBTQ community. NAGLREP is a great resource for buyers who are moving to a new part of the country and are looking for a real estate agent who’s going to be able to help them out,” Ruzick says.
2. Demonstrate your commitment to inclusivity
“If you want to show you support the LGBTQ community, make it clear you want to work with the entire community,” Olson says. “That means being active and visible at events we have, from a memorial candlelight vigil for AIDS victims to supporting your local Pride event. Loyalty is built from loyalty.”
Olson says that after his team decided to actively promote its support of the LGBTQ community, new business opportunities naturally appeared.
“I realized this was an underserved niche. Why wasn’t I focusing on a community I was a part of?” Olson says. “Now I’m diligently marketing to the LGBTQ community, and they make up about 20% to 25% of my business.”
A great way for agents to demonstrate their commitment to a diverse client base is by joining their local NAGLREP chapter. Olson says the organization is the most successful referral network he’s ever joined.
“I’ve received six NAGLREP referrals within the past year, and client searches on the NAGLREP database have certainly helped to grow my business.”
3. Align yourself with other allies
From day one, RE/MAX and its agents have strived to be a brand dedicated to helping all homebuyers and sellers find their way home.
“Every RE/MAX broker I’ve met is super inclusive. It’s built into our culture,” Olson says. “It’s even in our core values: ‘Do the right thing.’ It’s not just about equality for LGBTQ people, it’s about opening the doors to homeownership to as many people as possible.”
Ruzick points out that it’s as important for Broker/Owners to show they stand behind their LGBTQ Associates as it is for Associates to demonstrate their support for clients. She credits the leadership of RE/MAX Results, including founder John Collopy, CEO Brenda Tushaus, manager Becky Durham and her office manager Heidi Pruitt – for creating an inclusive atmosphere were diversity is celebrated.
“The culture at RE/MAX is incredibly welcoming,” Ruzick says. “The leaders at my brokerage always support their agents and staff members. We feel very comfortable being ourselves.”
By living out their values of inclusivity on the individual level, especially when unified under the RE/MAX brand, Olson says RE/MAX Affiliates can help change the world. “From the boardroom down, RE/MAX has made a commitment to diversity,” Olson says. “The impact expands far beyond the U.S. By helping to drive the conversation of inclusivity, RE/MAX is also showing support for agents in countries where being LGBTQ is still considered a crime. It shows the No. 1 brand in real estate stands with them.”