For the LGBTQ+ community, the experience of finding and buying a home has been changing for the better, but buyers do still face some challenges. These home-buying tips can help make your path to homeownership more fair and equitable.
Understand your rights
Zillow believes you have the right to buy a home free from discrimination. That means no one can refuse to sell you a home or deny you a home loan based on your identity. Those rights are broadly protected by the federal Fair Housing Act, but in practice, federal law generally does not apply to gender identity/expression or sexual orientation.
Because sexual orientation and gender identity/expression aren’t included as protected classes in the federal Fair Housing Act, many states and local governments have taken steps to protect LGBTQ+ buyers from housing discrimination. The Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) provides information and resources on fair housing laws, enforces the Equal Access Rule (which can apply to HUD-insured mortgage loans), and has an up-to-date list of states with laws prohibiting housing discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and/or gender identity/expression.Â
Learn how to identify and respond to housing discrimination
Housing discrimination may be subtle, or at least not explicitly stated. A buyer is unlikely to say, either in person or through a real estate agent, “We won’t sell our home to you because you’re gay.” However, the following scenarios could be possible indicators of discrimination:
- You made an offer, and later found out it was passed over for a lower offer with no other obvious benefits to the seller.Â
- You made the only offer, which was rejected, and then noticed the house went off the market but was relisted a short time later.
- A seller walked away from a purchase agreement with no explanation after they became aware of your identity.
If you believe you have been the victim of housing discrimination, you can file a fair housing discrimination complaint with the federal government. If you are in a city or state with LGBTQ+ protections, your locality will have a process for filing a complaint as well. Finally, the National Fair Housing Alliance maintains a list of local fair-housing organizations that may serve as an additional resource.
Choose a supportive real estate agent
It’s important to feel comfortable with your real estate agent, and finding an agent with experience helping LGBTQ+ buyers can be a huge benefit to you. They are more likely to recognize discrimination and know which fair housing resources are available to you.
Zillow’s real estate agent directory can help you find and connect with highly rated local agents. You can browse agent profiles and read reviews from other buyers and sellers to get a sense of whether the agent seems like a good fit for your needs. When you do reach out, be upfront about what you’re looking for in an agent and any concerns you may have about the buying process.Â Â Â
Consider the neighborhood
Finding a neighborhood that’s a good fit is important for all home buyers – your local parks, businesses and neighbors are likely to influence your feelings about your home. LGBTQ+ buyers often list inclusiveness among their “must-haves” when looking for an ideal neighborhood, so learning how to screen places for this quality is important.
If you’re unfamiliar with the neighborhoods where you’re looking for homes, your real estate agent can be a great resource for helping identify areas that have the qualities you want. It’s also a good idea to spend some time in those neighborhoods, if possible, during the day and evening to get a feel for the community and the sense of belonging it provides.Â
There are many organizations that provide information and support for LGBTQ+ buyers. Here are a few resources that may be available to help:
- The Human Rights Campaign State Laws & Policies Map
- Local ACLU Affiliates
- HUD’s LGBTQ Resources
- U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs LGBT Service Members and Veterans
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