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4 Ways to Address Bias Against LGBTQ Clients in Real Estate
January 21, 2021

4 Ways to Address Bias Against LGBTQ Clients in Real Estate

by The CE Shop Team

Learn These 4 Steps to Better Serve LGBTQ Clients

LGBTQ homeseekers often face an uncertain journey when going through the home search and buying process. Like most minority identity groups, they are at significant risk of discrimination. Take homeownership - LGBTQ individuals are roughly 15% less likely to be homeowners than heterosexuals.

Discrimination can manifest itself in a variety of ways, both when attempting to rent or own a home. Beyond discrimination from landlords, lenders are less likely to approve loans for LGBTQ folks. Sellers may unexpectedly pull their homes “off the market” without explanation. Even then, discrimination doesn't end when LGBTQ people are able to purchase a home; they frequently fear not being accepted by the neighborhood once they move in.

The Current Landscape for LGBTQ Homebuyers

As real estate schools teach students, all U.S. citizens are protected from discrimination by the 14th Amendment. Since real estate agents act as guides for LGBTQ buyers through the home buying process, they should ensure that they can recognize and correct bias against clients who identify as members of the LGBTQ community. Doing so requires an awareness of the local laws, communities, and markets. The first step is learning what the legal landscape looks like for this community.

Graph provided by NAR REALTOR®

Navigating the Legal Protections of LGBTQ Clients

The Fair Housing Act is the most well-known legislation to provide protection against discrimination for minority groups. It prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status, and disability.

However, it does not explicitly prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. This has led to more instability regarding the LGBTQ community’s protections against housing discrimination.

While some Circuit-level courts have ruled that the Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, no nation-wide ruling on this protection has been established yet. There are also a variety of state and municipality-level protections in the U.S. for LGBTQ people against housing discrimination.

4 Ways Agents Can Recognize and Mitigate LGBTQ Bias

While the LGBTQ community faces a range of discriminatory behaviors in the housing process, real estate agents also have a range of methods to mitigate that discrimination. Here are four impactful ways to do so.

1. Avoid Steering LGBTQ Buyers Based on Their LGBTQ Status

“Steering” is the practice of showing homeseekers housing options based on their identity. This is most commonly known in the context of racial steering. However, it is also prevalent for LGBTQ folks.

Experiments in multiple metropolitan areas with anti-discrimination statutes found that LGBTQ renters were shown fewer options on average, and the options tended to be more expensive. This shows that discrimination can still be present despite legal protections.

Agents should evaluate what rentals or home listings they are showing customers and for what reasons. They may intend to focus their home search on welcoming communities for LGBTQ folks, but limiting the options that their clients see can still constitute discrimination. Agents should be careful about steering LGBTQ customers, even with the best of intentions.

2. Consider Your Marketing Messaging

Marketing and promotional materials can often be a source of unintentional bias or discrimination. Agents should consider who is represented in their materials -- and who isn’t represented. These images can unintentionally signal to clients who is being considered and catered to in an agent’s business.

Agents should make sure that they are representing a wide range of demographics and identities in their promotional materials so that as many people as possible feel welcome and included before ever contacting the agent themselves.

3. Speak Up in Your Spaces

Real estate agents often possess an unusual level of visibility in their local community. This visibility presents agents with an opportunity to speak against instances or trends of discrimination and advocate for protections for their LGBTQ clients and community members. Agents should be aware of the impact they can have in their local spaces, whether they’re speaking up in their offices, their brokerages, their professional associations, or their local communities.

4. Consider Real Estate Diversity & Inclusion Training

Recognizing and addressing LGBTQ discrimination in the real estate industry, like other spaces, relies on continual education and improvement. Consider Continuing Education opportunities for established agents that focus on Ethics, as well as tapping into what real estate schools can offer newer agents who are still working on their certifications and qualifications. The real estate industry may not be able to eradicate discrimination on our own, but it’s vital that every agent takes steps to make their businesses and their communities accessible to all, regardless of sexual identity.

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