First and foremost, I want to give a shoutout to Michael Markus for joining this week’s Real Talk Podcast. Michael is an all-around Allstar who has been serving the Tampa Bay region for over 15 years. In our session, we talked about the LGBTQ+ community and how real estate has evolved in relation to it.
Topics we discussed:
- Getting Started as a Gay Realtor
- Real Estate Support for the LGBTQ+ Community
- Concerns Still Exist Today
- Final Thoughts
Getting Started as a Gay Realtor
Michael first joined the real estate community in 2004 and did his research to find a brokerage that would be accepting and supportive of who he is. By bluntly asking brokers, “are you okay with having an openly gay realtor in the office?” he was able to find the right one that would help contribute to his success today.
We didn’t dive into detail on how many no’s he received before getting the yes he was looking for, however I imagine the early 2000s was a time when it was still a difficult conversation to have. I’ll be honest, I was in elementary school then, and a decade and a half away from my own coming out experience.
Michael mentioned that those in the LGBTQ+ community tend to look for a realtor who is like them. By unapologetically being himself, he made it easier for community members to find him and feel comfortable that he was going to look out for their best interests.
Although he was building a network of his own clients, it wasn’t until 3 years later that the largest LGBTQ+ network for real estate professionals was formed.
Real Estate Support for the LGBTQ+ Community
The National Association of Gay and Lesbian Real Estate Professionals (NAGLREP) was established in 2007 as a networking/referral group for real estate professionals in the LGBTQ+ community. The organization states on their website that one of their purposes is to, “advocate on behalf of the rights of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) community as it relates to housing and discrimination laws.”
Michael mentioned that being a member of an organization like NAGLREP creates a sense of family and friendship. Real estate professionals in the organization look out for each other. It also provides a platform for members to rally in support of advancing the LGBTQ+ community as it relates to the real estate industry. He also stated that there are some other groups in the industry that are forming, and I imagine this will continue to happen as the LGBTQ+ community gets more of a voice in directing policy and legislation.
A few years back I attended the St. Pete Pride Festival that took place the day after the parade. This was my first time attending an event like this, and I was blown away. Not only by the number of people who showed up, but by the number of allies and families who were there showing their support as well.
Booths lined the street with a variety of vendors who were selling food and drinks, souvenirs, pride flags, stickers, bandanas etc. What I didn’t expect to see was real estate agencies, title companies, and lenders with booths as well. I think it’s pretty fair to say that no one is coming to a pride festival with a plan to buy a house. But these companies weren’t there advertising listings or trying to collect emails. They were there just to show support for the LGBTQ+ community.
Concerns Still Exist Today
Michael gave some insight into the concerns that still exist today. He mentioned that one of them doesn’t necessarily apply to our region as a whole, but is definitely still a concern in others. That concern is safety. When someone who is in the LGBTQ+ community looks to purchase a home, one of their biggest concerns is if they area they are looking in will be safe. He’s been able to find safe communities for clients all throughout the Tampa Bay region from urban to rural. But there are still times where a safe neighborhood may be questioned because of the actions of one person.
Michael mentioned a situation in which a lesbian couple wanted to buy a property that was on the same street he lived on. The real estate agent who had the property made a comment to Michael asking if it was going to be two women purchasing the property. It was said in a tone that made the couple feel uncomfortable with choosing that neighborhood, even though Michael himself lived there. There was another lesbian couple he was working with who had bi-racial children. Their top concern was finding a neighborhood that would be safe for their entire family.
Although these cases illustrate a need for society as a whole to progress towards accepting those in the LGBTQ+ community, it also goes to show that there are situations where safety is a concern when buying a home.
Housing discrimination is also still a concern. According to NAGLREP’s 2018-2019 LGBT Real Estate Report, although members of the National Association of Realtors are forbidden from discriminating, full LGBT protections still do not exist at the federal level. The report also states, “45% of those surveyed believe a sizeable number of their LGBT clients will experience the same or more housing discrimination this coming year than over previous years.” This tells us that there is still a lot of work that needs to be done in order to ensure that LGBTQ+ people are protected at all levels.
Although we have come a long way overall, and real estate has come a long way since Michael started in 2004, there is still a lot of work to be done. If we continue to raise awareness and rally together to influence policy and legislature change, we are on the right track. Significant advances have been made in the real estate industry, and it’s up to all of us, real estate professionals, title, insurance, lenders, home inspectors, etc. to continue moving in the right direction.
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