The homebuying process can be stressful. And astronomically more so for members of the LGBTQ+ community who face unique challenges—not the least of which is legal discrimination in housing in most states, including Ohio—in their pursuit to secure a new home.
To help smooth the journey, a new partnership has been signed between Ohio REALTORS, the state’s largest professional trade association, and the LGBTQ+ Real Estate Alliance, a nonprofit dedicated to empowering the LGBTQ+ community on the path to homeownership as they also advocate on behalf of the community on housing issues.
To understand the potential pitfalls of LGBTQ+ homeownership and the benefits of this new partnership, The Buckeye Flame spoke with Alex Cruz, a Cleveland-area realtor, National Vice President of the LGBTQ+ Real Estate Alliance, a member of the Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion Presidential Advisory Group of Ohio REALTORS, and a Board Member of Plexus LGBTQ & Allied Business Chamber of Commerce for Northeast Ohio.
I was reading that LGBTQ+ homeownership is less than the general population?
It is. As far as home ownership, the percentage is 49% where the general population rate is 65%. The goal is to help grow that percentage to be on par with the general population. A lot of that has to do with the fact that you can still be discriminated against in 27 states for home ownership, including in the state of Ohio. I could present a purchase agreement to an Ohio seller on behalf of two male homebuyers, and the owner could say, “I don’t want to sell to them because they’re gay,” rip it up, and call it a day.
Are there other contributing factors to this lower percentage of homeownership?
There are a few. There are concerns about the safety of the neighborhood and whether the LGBTQ homeowners will be accepted there. Also specifically, the approval rate on mortgages is far less for LGBTQ couples than for the general population.
I didn’t know that.
There was some research done back in 2018, an Iowa State University study in mortgage lending, that said that same sex couples were 73% more likely to be denied than heterosexual couples. Even people in our community don’t know that. They live in such bubbles. “We have marriage equality and everything is fine.” But it’s not. There is so much more work to do.
How does Ohio Realtors partnering with the LGBTQ+ Real Estate Alliance help that?
We’re a consumer and community-facing organization, working to empower the LGBTQ community to the path to home ownership while advocating on their behalf. This partnership will help give individuals the tools, education and resources in every part of the process, from mortgages to LGBTQ-friendly lenders, to title companies, to insurance. We provide a safe space to help people achieve the American dream, which is home ownership.
It’s huge that Ohio REALTORS is supporting this work, but also not surprising. They have previously spoken in favor of House Bill 369 [the Ohio Fairness Act]two years ago.
The more people that have home ownership, the more that communities can thrive. You build generational wealth that way. This partnership tells the real estate community that the LGBTQ+ community is here and they are important. They actually represent 917 billion dollars in buying power, which is equal to the 10th largest economy in the world. That’s a lot of houses!
If I give you the magic wand, what would you change in the real estate industry to support LGBTQ+ homebuyers?
Inclusivity. You need to be able to be yourself, and not hide or try to be someone you’re not. Whether you’re with a real estate professional, applying for a loan, or visiting a home for the first time, you need to be able to be your authentic self.
The first house I bought was before I was in real estate. I got my realtor from a straight couple and I was looking at houses with her. After about the fifth house, she noticed that I never looked in the kitchen. Well I don’t really cook and get take out a lot. But she made a point of saying, “One day you’ll be married and your wife is going to take care of that.” That’s just an awkward scenario. In my mind, what do I do? Do I tell her I’m gay? Do I laugh it off?
Those situations still occur all the time, even though the realtors don’t necessarily mean anything bad by it. “Hey wife, here’s the kitchen. Hey man, here’s the basement/man cave. Oh look! His and her closets!” That kind of stuff is ingrained within the profession and we have to change the vocabulary and the way we do business so that everyone can be themselves at all times during this important process.