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Gay Realtors welcome advocates for LGBTs

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Meeting the needs and concerns of LGBT homebuyers can be challenging.

Just ask Joseph Ianiro, an openly gay Realtor and minister in North Jersey.

“It’s not, ‘here’s a gay real estate agent showing a gay couple a house,’” said Ianiro of Real Living Gateway Realtors in Hasbrouck Heights and a member of referral network National Association of Gay and Lesbian Real Estate Professionals. “There’s more to it than that. It’s a gay couple sitting down and saying, ‘my husband and I want to buy a home,’ and the person across the table doesn’t understand. It’s like a white, Anglo-Saxon Protestant in Vermont trying to buy a home in Harlem.”

NAGLREP Founder Jeff Berger said he started the nonprofit in 2007 after he identified a need for LGBT-focused real estate marketing services.

“I founded NAGLREP because I noticed there was not a national organization advocating for LGBTs in housing,” Berger said. “Being a Realtor, I’ve personally seen too much discrimination over my career and decided it was necessary for LGBT and allied real estate professionals to have a collective voice. Our recent survey shows LGBTs are strongly concerned about discrimination by real estate professionals when buying, selling, renting, in addition to neighbors. NAGLREP real estate professionals often bring LGBTs comfort and understanding to the real estate transaction.”

“Being a Realtor, I’ve personally seen too much discrimination over my career and decided it was necessary for LGBT and allied real estate professionals to have a collective voice.”

Jeff Berger, NAGLREP Founder

Based in Jupiter, Fla., NAGLREP has more than 2,000 members in local chapters nationwide, with about 60 LGBT and LGBT-friendly Realtors and brokers in New Jersey.

A recent NAGLREP survey reveals that 73 percent of LGBT individuals are strongly concerned about some aspect of housing discrimination.

“There’s often discrimination against LGBTs in housing,” Berger said. “While it’s not rampant, experience has shown some agents don’t want to work with LGBT couples and some sellers don’t want to sell to LGBTs. Our country, including New Jersey, is polarized. While many parts of the state remain liberal and LGBT-friendly, other parts not as much.”

NAGLREP also advocates for legislation such as the Fair and Equal Housing and Equality Acts and encourages efforts among the civil rights community and local, state and national realty associations to support fair housing for the LGBT community.

“All real estate must be marketed to all communities so it’s not to suggest a home would or would not be marketed to a community,” Berger said. “However, professional real estate services do have their marketing techniques and NAGLREP does market through search and social media to LGBTs seeking LGBT and allied real estate services. LGBT-friendly and safe areas are most important to LGBTs, and more often LGBTs are having children so schools are also a priority.”

Robert White, branch vice president and managing broker at Coldwell Banker’s Spring Lake office, said NAGLREP has been a big help in marketing to his LGBT clients.

“Bring openly gay, married and part of the NAGLREP network gets me a lot of referrals,” said White, who works in Monmouth and Ocean counties. “It’s all about knowing your marketplace. Diversity and inclusion are very important to my LGBT clients. They want to be a part of a community where they are comfortable. Sometimes I have LGBT clients looking at one community and I have to steer them to another.”

Ianiro cites inclusion as a crucial component throughout the entire buying process.

“It’s not just that they are looking for a home,” he said. “It’s the whole thing from the very beginning. It’s the mortgage, it’s the movers, the home appraisers. Are they gay-friendly? My clients also want to know if the schools accept a kid of a gay or transgender couple. The neighborhood is very important.”

And then there is the flip side to being an “out” Realtor.

“I am a gay agent, I advertise that I’m gay and I have been subjected to ridicule,” he said. “Ninety percent of the people are great; I have straight clients who don’t care. But there is the other side to the coin. I’m subjected to what my clients are subjected to. Being gay is only a part of me. I’m Italian, I’m a man, I’m a minister. I try to tell my neighbors who love me and my partner that being gay is just one part of me.”

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Elana Knopp

Elana Knopp

Elana Knopp covers all things real estate for NJBIZ. You can contact her at eknopp@njbiz.com.

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