Home Buying Trends among the LGBTQ+ Community

By Tara Mastroeni

As of 2019, an estimated 11.3 million Americans, or 4.5% of the US population, identify as a member of the LGBTQ+ community, according to a recent poll by the Williams Institute at UCLA. However, it seems like that number may soon be too conservative because this population appears to be steadily growing.

In its third annual Accelerating Acceptance report done with Harris Poll, GLAAD (formerly the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation) found that 20% of adults ages 18–34 identify as part of the community, compared to just 12% of Gen X and 7% of Baby Boomers. 

With numbers like those, it’s important to realize what a driving force this group can be. In fact, the National LGBTQ+ Chamber of Commerce (NGLCC) recently shared that LGBTQ+ individuals collectively have an estimated $917 billion in buying power among them. 

To that end, below is a list of home home buying trends among the LGBTQ+ community and how LGBTQ+ individuals are impacting today’s real estate market.

Overall, LGBTQ+ people are less likely to buy homes than the general population

To start, it’s worth noting that LGBTQ+ people are less likely to be homeowners than the general population. A 2018 survey by Freddie Mac—one of the two largest government-owned buyers of mortgages in the United States—found that just 49% of the survey’s participants were homeowners, as compared to 64% of the nation’s general population.

Of those surveyed, gay men had the highest homeownership rates at 54% while “gender-expansive community members,” the survey’s term for transgender and gender non-conforming individuals, had the lowest homeownership rates at 33%.

As for why the community is less likely to take the leap into homeownership, Jeff Berger, Founder of the National Association of Gay and Lesbian Real Estate Professonals (NAGLREP) and a Florida-based real estate agent, points to a pervasive fear of discrimination during the home buying process and a lack of affordable housing options in popular LGBTQ+ enclaves, or so-called “gayborhoods.”

For now, lesbian and gay buyers are gravitating toward urban environments, but that may be changing

Following his assertions, Berger brings in the data to back him up. In honor of the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots—an event thought to be synonymous with the birth of the LGBTQ+ Rights Movement—NAGLREP worked with Freddie Mac to publish their LGBT Real Estate Report for 2019–2020.

Among its findings, the report stated that large or medium cities and, in particular, LGBT enclaves still attract a majority of LGBTQ+-identified individuals. The report found that 28% of LGBT homeowners and 44% of LGBT renters centered their searches around those areas. 

Similarly, in their Profile of LGB Buyers and Sellers, the National Association of Realtors (NAR) found gay and lesbian buyers were over twice as likely to have purchased in an urban area than heterosexual buyers.

However, both groups feel that a shift to the suburbs may be coming, if it isn’t here already. On the shift, Jessica Lautz, Vice President of Demographics and Behavioral Insights for NAR had this to say:

While [LGBTQ+ buyers] are still purchasing in these areas, many people are finding that there are fewer properties available for purchase, especially in affordable price points.”

For his part, Berger agrees, but he also points to the passage of marriage equality and the growing numbers of LGBTQ+ people who are starting families as major factors behind a growing migration out to suburban areas.   

“There is a trend of LGBTQ+ people moving out of urban areas to be able to afford a home, raise a family, and be in good school districts,” he said.

Bisexual buyers are purchasing houses younger than other demographics

Another interesting insight from the NAR profile is that, while the median age for homeownership among gay and lesbian individuals and heterosexuals was relatively comparable at 45 and 44, the median age of homeownership among bisexual individuals was much lower. For their part, the median age was just 36 years old. 

Similarly, and perhaps in part due to the age difference, the profile found that bisexual home buyers typically earn substantially less than both gay and lesbian buyers and heterosexual buyers. While lesbian and gay buyers earned a median income of $92,200 and heterosexual buyers earned close to that at $91,200, the bisexual buyers surveyed earned a median income of just $62,400.

“We did see that the bisexual buyer has a lower median age and a lower median income [than either heterosexual or gay and lesbian buyers],” admits Lautz. “That said, we also saw that the bisexual buyer is more likely to be a first-time home buyer, so those go hand in hand.” 

She also points out that this income disparity might bring some unintended challenges for the bisexual buyers who may be looking to own a home.

With bisexual buyers having a lower median income, they’re more likely to face the affordability crisis than a higher-income buyer. They’re less likely to have inventory in their price range and to compete against multiple buyers for the same home.”

Discrimination is still a big concern, especially among transgender and gender non-conforming buyers

Aside from the regular stresses of buying a property, like affording your down payment or landing on the home that’s the best fit, LGBTQ+ buyers have another big concern to worry about. Though Americans have generally become more accepting of the LGBTQ+ population over the years, the fear of discrimination still looms large for this community.

“Discrimination is definitely still a challenge,” says Berger. “There’s a fear [among the LGBTQ+ community] of being discriminated against by the professionals they work with and the people who they move in next to.”  

According to the Freddie Mac survey, 46% of all LGBTQ+-identified renters report fearing being discriminated against in their future home buying process. While things like having an offer rejected entirely are concerns for some, the top fears seem to be more interpersonal. They included having to be cautious about hiring the right real estate professionals and wondering whether their new communities will be accepting of their family structure. 

In particular, this fear was greatest among transgender and gender non-conforming respondents, 69% of whom reported that they’re worried about the potential of discrimination impacting their home buying experience.

While only 13% of all survey respondents actually reported experiencing some level of discrimination while buying a home, that number is still far too great to be dismissed. That’s why Jeff Berger and the professionals at NAGLREP are working so diligently toward creating a better future for these individuals.

LGBTQ+ homeownership is expected to rise once sexual orientation and gender identity are included in the Equality Act

One of the things that NAGLREP and several other well-known names in the housing industry are doing to secure that brighter future for LGBTQ+ home buyers is lobbying for the passage of the Equality Act.

The Equality Act was reintroduced in Congress on March 13, 2019. This bill would amend the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity in employment, public accommodations, public education, federal funding, credit, the jury system, and housing. 

When the Equality Act ultimately passes, NAGLREP feels that it will pave the way for a future where LGBTQ+ folks feel safe from discrimination and become more likely to enter the real estate market.

As of the time this article was published, the Equality Act was passed by the House of Representatives but still faces an expected uphill battle in the Senate before it can become law. Still, those involved see the win in the House as a step forward for equality in housing, as well as many other sectors.

“I think raising awareness of LGBT-people being protected under the Fair Housing Law will increase buyer confidence,” predicts Berger. “It will also send a signal that discrimination is no longer allowed under the law, which will create a fairer market.”

Tips for LGBTQ+ home buyers buying a home in 2019

 

  • Find a team of professionals that understands—For those who fear potential discrimination, working with an understanding team of professionals, namely your real estate agent and your lender, is paramount. You can visit NAGLREP’s website for assistance in finding the right real estate professional for you.
  • Be patient—Submitting the winning offer on a home can take a while, especially if you’re in a highly competitive market. Try to stay as patient as you can with the home buying process and know that your time will eventually come, even if you have to submit a few different offers to get there.
  • Take steps to report any discrimination—If you do experience discrimination during your home buying process, don’t just let it slide. Contact your local Fair Housing Authority to file a complaint or call the Lambda Legal help desk to speak to an attorney who may be able to help you decide on the best next steps to take.

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