On July 9, 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court declared that states did not have the right to deny a marriage license to same-sex couples, eliminating bans set forth by thirteen states and making marriage equality the law of the land. In the majority opinion, Justice Kennedy wrote “they ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law,” speaking of same-sex couples in the case. “The Constitution grants them that right.” This decision impacted not only couples, but many of the businesses and industries that cater to families, including real estate markets.
In May 2018, a survey of 485 Realtors, brokers, mortgage professionals and other real estate professionals was conducted to assess the impact the LGBTQ community was having on homeownership. Their findings were published in the “LGBT Real Estate Report 2018-19: A View of LGBT Homeownership Trends and Economic Impact”, which noted that significantly more LGBT clients are expecting to increase their real estate holdings either by moving into bigger homes or purchasing a second home (41% and 27% respectively), compared to only 20% expecting to downsize in the near future. As the number of married LGBTQ clients continues to increase, the demand for housing among these new families will continue as well, creating a real market and new opportunities for home buyers and sellers alike.
The survey also found that since many same-sex couples have only rented in the past, due to legal hurdles with co-ownership of homes, significant work needs to be done to educate and engage LGBTQ clients regarding home buying, how to qualify and apply for a mortgage, and how to capitalize on the financial benefits of owning your own home. The majority of survey respondents believed that LGBTQ renters need more information about home buying and that they are fearful and uncertain of the mortgage process.
Despite the progress made for marriage equality, housing discrimination continues to be a problem in some areas of the country. The code of ethics for the National Association of Realtors prevents gender identity or sexual orientation discrimination by its members. However, federal law and the Fair Housing Act do not yet include protections for LGBTQ clients. According to the Human Rights Campaign, twenty-one states and the District of Columbia currently prohibit housing discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity, with a further one state prohibiting housing discrimination based on sexual orientation but not gender identity.
According to the United States census’ “Characteristics of Same-Sex Households” report, in 2017:
- 66.2% of households with a same-sex couple (married or unmarried) owned their home, versus 79.8% of households with a married opposite-sex couple, and 44.3% of households with an unmarried opposite-sex couple
- The numbers varied between male-male and female-female couples:
- 68.2% of male-male couples owned their home
- 64.3 of female-female couples owned their home
- It’s more likely that both partners in a same-sex couple will work than in a married opposite-sex couple, but the numbers are about the same for unmarried opposite-sex couples
- Note: In 60.6% of same-sex households and 62.7% of unmarried opposite-sex households, both partners are employed, while in married opposite-sex couples only 48.7% of households have both partners employed.
Unfortunately, fewer studies have been done on how many transgender Americans own their own homes, but this is another potential market for real estate sales.
While some real estate agents specifically cater to clients on the LGBTQ spectrum, most agents are delighted to work with any clients regardless of their background or housing needs. It only stands to reason – by widening one’s’ circle of potential buyers, you create more demand for a home and can possibly see properties sell faster and for more money. One added advantage is that diverse neighborhoods are stronger neighborhoods, offering families a multicultural experience, providing support for a wider variety of restaurants and services, and add to the social climate of cooperation and tolerance that often becomes a driver for economic development.