Arizona's housing market is hot but LGBTQ buyers face unique issues

Phoenix has been one of the hottest real estate markets in the U.S. recently, with the Greater Phoenix housing market showing strength for the summer season.

But with Arizona being one of 28 states without comprehensive statewide protections for LGBTQ+ peoples, advancing equity in housing is very important.

Many Americans dream of becoming homeowners. But for Americans who are part of the LGBTQ community, that dream can often be a nightmare due to the potential discrimination they face when trying to find housing or pursue home ownership. 

[A report] from the LGBTQ+ Real Estate Alliance, a trade group for LGBTQ+ real estate professionals, surveyed their members and found that 10.6% of respondents said they experienced discrimination from real estate professionals during the renting or buying process, with 13.8% reporting they had to sign a form or document that didn’t “adequately represent their life experience.” Additionally, the report stated that homeownership among the LGBTQ+ community is just 49% compared to 65% for the broader U.S. population.

According to the Movement Advancement Project, [Arizona is one of 28 states] that do not have laws explicitly prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity (although eight of those states have moderate protections), meaning that prospective homeowners of the 286,000+ LGBTQ people living in Arizona are not legally protected against discrimination in the housing process.

Joshua Miller, GM for Homie, Arizona branch

Joshua Miller, the General Manager for the Arizona branch of the real estate startup [Homie,] is LGBTQ, and shared his feelings on the housing process for LGBTQ citizens and how he believes Arizona has made great progress as a state in the last decade. 

“As someone who was born here, I would say that the AZ community has made a lot of improvements,” Miller said. “Part of that is the diversity that has developed organically over the last few years.”

Miller emphasized that Homie has strong values of inclusivity when it comes to housing. “In our mission statement, our goal here is to make housing convenient and affordable for all, because we know the value that comes along with home ownership and how that sets individuals and families up for a better financial future,” Miller said.

Homie advertises itself as a non-traditional real estate business that claims it is neither a “iBuyer platform” nor a traditional brokerage. Homie says it charges only a flat rate ($3,000) for its services and does not charge commission fees.

Miller says that he is part of a “diversity and inclusion team” at Homie that takes “deeper looks” at various opportunities to identify gaps or opportunities for the workplace and for training their agents to best treat their customers regardless of their backgrounds.

Holly Mabery, the 2012 President of the Arizona Association of Realtors and a member of the LGBTQ+ community, also spoke on the progress Arizona has made and what is left to be done. 

When asked to sell Arizona as a destination for LGBTQ+ homeowners, Mabery said that the outdoorsy and friendly atmosphere of the state makes it very welcoming for everyone, not to mention the variety of activities and what she called “affordability” of homes. When asked about summer weather, Mabery joked that she’d “rather have 100 degrees in dry heat than 90 degrees with lots of humidity.”

Holly Mabery, Arizona Association of Realtors

But Mabery also said that it is important to understand the wants and needs of prospective LGBTQ+ clients because they often value different things in a home.

“The valuation is different because for LGBTQ+ people it's their protection and their safety. They want to know if the neighborhood is safe and if people will be accepted in those communities,” Mabery said.

Mabery has been working in real estate since 1998. Through her years in the industry, she’s experienced a changing landscape in how sellers treat LGBTQ+ clients. Early on in her career, she witnessed a seller saying that they didn’t want to sell a home to any LGTBQ+ clients, which only served to motivate her to continue working in real estate.

It was heartbreaking to hear that all those years ago. What I found in that moment is that I wanted to continue to live and be me. My partner and I got married and we were open about it in our small community.

Holly Mabery

According to Mabery, the REALTORS association is always trying to keep up with the times when it comes to clients of all kinds. 

“The Arizona realtors always have constant training and education. Sometimes it is as simple as awareness of something that is happening with laws and changes in policies,” Mabery said. “We reach out to agents nationwide to understand what is changing with our market and with trends.”

Miller claimed that Homie watches carefully for potential discrimination or problematic behavior during the hiring process.

“During our interview process, that’s kind of our first opportunity to probe for cultural impressions, probe for situational scenarios, how people might approach things,” Miller said. “We do try to ensure that we’re checking the boxes for a lot of different things, how they would treat their customers gives us a pretty good indication to trust if they might be a good fit for our company.”

Miller emphasized that Homie has a “non-tolerance” stance on any discrimination from their agents and takes those claims “very seriously.” 

And the LGBTQ+ landscape is changing in Arizona rapidly for housing. The cities of [Glendale, Scottsdale and Mesa] passed anti-discrimination ordinances earlier in the year that include specific protections for LGBTQ+ people, joining six other Arizona cities (Phoenix, Tucson, Flagstaff, Tempe, Winslow, and Sedona) in having some form of a non-discrimination ordinance.

Yet not all is well in Arizona for the LGBTQ+ community. [Senate Bill 1511,] which has yet to be voted on, would classify gender-affirming health care for LGBTQ+ children (which mainly applies to transgender children) as child abuse. And a Senate Bill that would have barred teaching LGBTQ issues in sex education courses (unless parents opted-in) only failed because it was [vetoed by Governor Doug Ducey.]

Still, Harris hopes that the positive progress in Arizona continues into the future.

“People know that Arizona is a melting pot, where people are coming from all over the country, and even further to to set roots, because of the affordability because of the space, because of all these great things like the weather and the climate,” Harris said. “I would just emphasize those  really wonderful things and reinforce the fact that if we can make this much progress in the last 15 to 20 years, we should be particularly optimistic about what we can accomplish over the next 15 years.”

As Mabery emphasized, buying a home is more than just property you own.

“It’s not just about buying a house, it’s also about connecting and being a member of the community that you live in,” Mabery said. “We’re very active in our communities, we love building strong relationships with those communities. You’re moving not just for the house, but for the lifestyle.”

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