Homeownership is a part of the American dream and provides emotional and financial benefits to those who wish to live free from the restraints of renting. Underrepresented communities often face more challenges than most in buying a home, which, despite the Fair Housing Act of 1968, remains a huge issue today. But the LGBTQ+ community has recently made strides toward success.
The 2015 Obergefell v. Hodges U.S. Supreme Court case, which legalized same-sex marriage, played a dramatic role in improving homeownership opportunities for the LGBTQ+ community. In fact, 64% of LGBTQ+ Real Estate Alliance members report an uptick in the number of LGBTQ+ couples becoming homeowners since then, with 42% also noticing more LGBTQ+ singles doing the same.
We also know that buying a home can be a confusing, complicated process. LGBTQ+ buyers can be even more apprehensive about taking on such a huge task as there is often little-to-no guidance for the community. The LGBTQ+ Real Estate Alliance survey found that 44.1% of members reported that LGBTQ+ buyers often are discouraged from being homeowners because they need more education on the purchase and mortgage processes. LGBTQ+ people also have additional concerns about safety and being accepted in their new neighborhoods. These are some of the reasons why UCLA’s Williams Institute reports the LGBTQ+ homeownership rate to be 49.8%, which is far below the national average of about 65%, and even lower than the 73% general homeownership rate of white Americans.
The LGBTQ+ Real Estate Alliance created a 42-page LGBTQ+ First-Time Homebuyer Guide that offers a clear resource to assist in navigating the process. And here are some tips to help you get started:
- Do your research. Many people don’t even know the first thing to do when jumping into the home buying process. But it starts with identifying where you want to live. Do you want to be close to work, friends, and family? Do you want an urban, suburban, or rural community or maybe a “walkable” town? You also make sure these communities are LGBTQ+ friendly. HRC’s Municipal Equality Index is a great place to start. You can also talk with local Pride Centers, PFLAG or other LGBTQ+ groups.
- Be financially prepared. Making sure you are financially prepared is one of the key stepping stones in starting your home buying journey. Set a budget of how much you want to save and work to reach that goal. It is a common misconception that one must save at least 20% of the price of the home you are budgeting for, but that is both true and misleading. Not everyone can afford to save that much in today’s economy. You want to save as much as possible for your down payment, but there are a variety of loan options for those with less saved.
- Get pre-approved. Getting pre-approved is a critical and easy step that is non-binding with a mortgage company. Almost every real estate agent will want you to be pre-approved since this shows you are a qualified buyer and also lets you understand what price range you can afford.
- Put together the right team. Choosing the right professionals to work with is one of the most crucial factors in going through the home buying process. You want to choose a loan officer and a real estate agent you trust as they will work closely with you to aid you in the process. As a member of the LGBTQ+ community, you may want to select an LGBTQ+ real estate agent or an ally who understands your needs and can empathize with the struggles you may face and can help you bypass any discrimination. The LGBTQ+ Real Estate Alliance is a perfect resource for finding real estate professionals who are either part of the community or are strong LGBTQ+ allies. When picking your team, remember that you’re the boss. You’re in control of your future, and if you aren’t satisfied with how your professionals handle things, don’t settle for that.
- Watch out for signs of discrimination. Unfortunately it exists and 18% of LGBTQ+ Real Estate Alliance members reported that discrimination against potential LGBTQ+ homebuyers has increased over the past three years. Discrimination can include instances such as an agent discouraging a client from being shown a home on the market, inappropriate questioning, being denied loans or insurance on homes in certain areas, etc. Additionally, you want to watch for signs of “steering,” which occurs when you are guided to explore only homes in “known” LGBTQ+ areas.
Always know that there is no set way to buy a house; everyone’s experience is different. But being part of the LGBTQ+ community adds challenges that many who aren’t simply don’t have to face. Make this experience as safe as possible and make wise decisions that will benefit you and your loved ones during this process.