Buying or selling a home isn’t an easy process—especially not in today’s ultracompetitive housing market. But for transgender individuals the process can be even more fraught with anxiety and misunderstandings.
There are certain hurdles that members of the transgender community face in real estate transactions that cisgender individuals, people whose gender identities align with their sex at birth, likely don’t even realize exists. Navigating name changes can force transgender individuals to “come out” to a myriad of people involved in the transaction—whether they are emotionally prepared for it or not.
This may be one of the reasons why transgender individuals have the lowest homeownership rate, at just 25%, of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer community, according to research by the Williams Institute at the University of California. They may also have a harder time securing steady employment in a higher-income field.
“There can be a lot of challenges for trans buyers or sellers,” says Jamie Zapata, who is transgender and a Realtor® with Coldwell Banker D’Ann Harper in San Antonio. “You never know who you can trust and open up to.”
Name changes can force transgender buyers, sellers to come out
Among the biggest hurdles many buyers and sellers face are their names.
Whether or not they’ve legally changed their names, that they live as a different gender than they were born as is likely to come up in the home selling and buying process. When those different names are revealed, it can be traumatizing and make transgender individuals feel vulnerable as they don’t know how complete strangers will react to that information.
“For some trans people it can be extremely off-putting because they don’t want to out themselves,” says transgender mortgage lender James Monastero. He is the branch manager at HomeVantage Mortgage in Austin, TX. “It can be very daunting.”
With so many people involved in these sales, from real estate agents and lenders to title and insurance companies, many transgender people worry they are opening themselves up to discrimination. About 44% of transgender individuals said they had either experienced or suspected they were victims of discrimination, according to a recent Realtor.com® survey of more than 1,500 members of the LGBTQ community.
“There are so many people who touch the file who may have bias,” says Monastero. “It can manifest itself in something that’s outward, like not giving you as good of a [mortgage rate]. Or it could be something not so in your face, like not returning your calls as often.”
Lenders also have to verify employment, which can expose someone who recently changed their name to reflect a different gender to their former colleagues, perhaps before they were ready to do so themselves.
Even those who did legally change their names still need to have their credit checked. The process will bring up all names associated with the borrower’s Social Security number. This results in most lenders asking applicants for a letter of explanation, which borrowers are required to submit.
When someone misgenders them along the way or calls them by their old name, “that can really make people shut down. It’s embarrassing, especially if it happens in front of other people,” says Zapata.
Finding a welcoming community is also important for transgender homebuyers
Finding a home in a community where transgender individuals feel safe and they can also afford real estate is another hurdle. Many of the more welcoming places are in big, more expensive cities.
More than 89% of recently surveyed members of the LGBTQ+ Real Estate Alliance say it’s at least somewhat important to live in a gay-friendly community.
“You want to live where you’re going to feel comfortable, where you’re going to be happy,” says Zapata.
But more welcoming communities can be more expensive. And many members of the transgender community have faced workplace discrimination that can hold back earning potential. Transgender individuals were almost four times more likely than the general population to have household incomes well under the poverty level at less than $10,000 a year, according to the National LGBTQ Task Force.
In addition, transgender buyers, particularly those of color, may not receive as much financial assistance from their families if loved ones aren’t supportive, says Feroza Syed, an associate real estate broker with Atlanta Fine Homes Sotheby’s International Realty. That can make it more difficult for buyers to come up with the down payment needed to secure homes.
This doesn’t mean transgender homebuyers should give up and consign themselves to a lifetime of renting.
Zapata recommends transgender buyers and sellers be prepared for the questions—and have all of their documentation ready. She and Monastero also suggest finding real estate agents and lenders they can trust.
“Don’t let the fear of discrimination stop you” from buying a home, urges Zapata. “If you could have one person helping you navigate [the process] without having to come out to so many people, that should help take some of the stress out of it.”
The post The Hidden Challenges Facing Transgender Home Sellers and Buyers appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.com®.