REALTORS® as Change Agents

Row of colorful miniature houses

The world changed on June 26, 2015, when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that marriage equality will be the law of the land. The LGBTQ community rejoiced as Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote, “No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family. In forming a marital union, two people become greater than once they were.”

According to the 2017 National Association of Gay and Lesbian Real Estate Professionals (NAGLREP) Homeownership Survey, the ruling may have brought even more than an increase in marriage ceremonies, including the LGBTQ community showing a greater interest and desire to own a home. The survey found 47% of NAGLREP members believe more LGBTQ married couples are buying homes than prior to the decision, while 46% believe the entirety of the LGBTQ community is more interested in homeownership.

Jasmyn JeffersonWashington REALTORS®’ Diversity Committee Chair Jasmyn D. Jefferson, says that when it comes to fair housing, much of the focus is on ethnicity and the fair treatment of certain protected classes of people. “We forget that there are other groups also experiencing issues with fair housing,” Jefferson points out. That oversight trickles down to the REALTOR® community, where not all brokers understand or recognize the need to use inclusive marketing materials, business approaches, and conversations that help the LGBTQ community feel comfortable and secure. 

At Washington REALTORS®’ last conference, the Rainbow Center—a non-profit in Tacoma that provides education, advocacy, resources, and a safe space for the LGBTQ community—gave a presentation to show brokers statewide the need for more awareness and embracing of this protected class of buyers and sellers. 

“The overall message we want brokers to hear is that it’s time to seek out and find places like the Rainbow Center in their own communities,” says Jefferson. During the 1-1/2-hour presentation, the group shared key statistics about homeownership rates in the LGBTQ community, the employment challenges that this community faces (i.e., even just finding places to rent can be an obstacle), and the high level of homelessness associated with this protected class. 

“This is a great time for our members to be allies of the LGBTQ community and to put time and effort into developing marketing materials (i.e., an email signature that reflects a safe, LGBTQ-friendly space) and taking other steps to ensure that discrimination doesn’t happen,” says Jefferson. “This is yet another way for REALTORS® to serve as leaders in their communities.”

Did you know...?

While working with this protected class of buyers, sellers, and renters, it’s helpful to keep in mind that this group of people may have experienced particular challenges: 

Housing, Homelessness, & Shelter Access

Statistics and survey results from the Rainbow Center in Tacoma and 

  • 37% have experienced homelessness at some point in their lives.
  • 13% experienced homelessness in the past year because of being transgender.
  • 33% of respondents who experienced homelessness in the past year avoided staying in a shelter because they feared being mistreated as a transgender person.
  • 56% of Rainbow Center clients report they are living at or below the national poverty line and 33% self-identify as homeless. As a result, the LGBTQ demographic is at risk for additional marginalization; especially elders, transgender, and people of color.
  • Queer people of color (QPOC) experience intersecting forms of discrimination which can threaten their personal safety, housing security, employment, health care, and destroy family bonds.
  • The elderly LGBTQ population is vulnerable to employment discrimination, poverty, and housing insecurity. They often experience less family support and higher family conflict over coming out. They also re-experience intense isolation after partners and friends pass away.

What can you do?

Ask for pronouns. Pronouns are the replacement word for someone’s name in a sentence. If you use the wrong pronoun, it is the equivalent of calling someone by the wrong name. If you introduce yourself first with your pronouns, it’s easier to get other people to follow along! “Hi, I’m Kim; I use he/him pronouns...” or “Hi, I’m Danny; I use they/their pronouns...”

Use symbolism. When you wear a rainbow pin or have a name tag that includes your pronouns, this symbolizes that you are friendly to LGBTQ people. This makes it easier for people to recognize you as a possible ally or at least as someone who is not going to turn an individual away for identifying as part of the queer community. 

Keep learning! Rainbow Center offers educational opportunities to the South Sound region and beyond. If there are workshops/trainings/presentations/events that you can attend to further your learning about the LGBTQ community and how you can be more sensitive and inclusive to LGBTQ people in your business—take it! 

Brush up on Article 10 of the REALTOR® Code of Ethics. REALTORS® shall not deny equal professional services to any person for reasons of race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status, national origin, sexual orientation, or gender identity.  REALTORS® shall not be parties to any plan or agreement to discriminate against a person or persons on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status, national origin, sexual orientation, or gender identity. 

Use these Fair Housing Tips from REALTORMag:

  • Don’t steer LGBTQ clients—or any client—to a specific neighborhood.
  • Use consistent language in all advertising for the same property.
  • Describe a property’s attributes without using gender-specific terms. Refer to “double sink vanity” rather than “his and her vanity.”
  • You can express that you’re LGBTQ-friendly, but use a variety of advertising vehicles and don’t exclude particular groups.


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