Monmouth County Realtor Steven Porzio remembers a time when gay and lesbian couples were not necessarily pining for the American Dream — marriage, kids and the house with the white picket fence.
“It’s not like when I came out where the trend was to go have fun and live in a condo,” said Porzio, a Re/Max Realtor who serves several Monmouth County towns including Asbury Park, Belmar and Red Bank. “Now I see gay and lesbian couples having kids and moving to the suburbs with better school districts. Gay marriage has affected this over the last several years. Gay and lesbian couples are rethinking their strategy and thinking about planting their roots. We have shifted as a community based on the opportunities allowed to us.”
And those opportunities have helped the LGBT community become a major driver in today’s real estate market.
In 2013, New Jersey officially recognized same-sex marriage, with marriage equality becoming the law of the land two years later after an historic U.S. Supreme Court ruling.
A 2017 home-ownership survey by the National Association of Gay and Lesbian Real Estate Professionals found the ruling not only spurred an increase in marriage ceremonies but may also have fueled a greater interest in home buying amongst LGBTs.
Forty-seven percent of NAGLREP members surveyed said more LGBT married couples are buying homes, with nearly 50 percent reporting their LGBT clients would soon be three times as likely to be move-up buyers as opposed to downsizers.
Timothy Tyler, a Realtor with Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage in Maplewood, said the idea of family formation is nothing new in the LGBT community.
“I’m seeing it as a mature trend,” Tyler said. “This has been taking place in this country for quite a while. The LGBT community comes into a place and makes it more desirable, then straight people follow us in. That has helped the LGBT community as far as reputation.”
Tyler said he began to see a trend of suburban gay-centric communities after he moved to New Jersey almost three decades ago.
“There were a handful of gay ghettos in the suburbs like Asbury Park and Maplewood,” Tyler said. “We’ve kind of fixed up these places but now we’ve been priced out of our own ghettos, so to speak. I see a lot of straight people buying in LGBT hubs like Maplewood. Young LGBT couples can’t even look at these areas because they don’t have the resources for it. The LGBT community has been portrayed as flush with cash but the disproportionate number of gay people are in service or retail industries, so they are lower paid.”
Reginald “Regi” Reeder, a Realtor/broker with Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices New Jersey Properties in South Plainfield, said he has seen a rise in LGBT couples having kids and moving to the suburbs.
“Couples are moving from New York City and wanting to buy a house with a yard,” Reeder said. “There are lot of gay marriages happening in New Jersey. I see this trend increasing.”
Plainfield has become increasingly attractive to LGBT homebuyers due to lower property taxes than in places like Asbury Park and Maplewood, according to Reeder.
“We get quite a bit of LGBT homebuyers from Jersey City and Hoboken in their 30s and 40s,” he said. “Older couples are selling their houses and downsizing to townhomes. The difference now with legal same-sex marriage is that the LGBT community want kids and that was not a big thing years ago.”
Although many “gay ghettos” have become unaffordable to the gay community, Tyler said it’s important to take a broader view.
“Places like Maplewood are more welcoming now and that’s the bigger picture,” he said. “It’s the LGBT legacy.”