LGBTQ+ couples who want to buy a home could still face a number of hurdles that make the process challenging.
Skeptical? Consider a 2020 report from the National Association of Gay & Lesbian Real Estate Professionals which shows that 46 percent of LGBTQ+ renters fear they’ll face discrimination when buying a home. That’s troubling considering these same experts believe homeownership among LGBTQ+ people could rise by 9 percent within five years of passage of the Equality Act, a bill that would ban, among other things, housing discrimination against people based on sexual orientation and gender identity. The House of Representatives passed the bill in February, but it continues to face a battle in the Senate.
Wyndham Capital Mortgage champions equality for all people pursuing homeownership and stands in solidarity with the LGBTQ+ community. To help boost homebuying among LGBTQ+ individuals, we’ve compiled a rundown of six things beneficial to LGBTQ+ couples looking to buy a home.
- Homeownership is within your reach.
Aside from your own personal and financial reasons, there’s nothing preventing you and your partner from becoming homeowners. Like they would for any borrower, your lender will evaluate your credit, income, debt obligations, employment history and other essential information before approving you for a mortgage. Who you love should have no bearing on your approval odds. (That said, discrimination unfortunately still exists. We’ll talk a little more about this later.)
- The home belongs to you both.
Buying a house is as much a legal transaction as it is a financial one. When you and your partner purchase your home, you’ll be able to claim your ownership by titling it as “tenancy by the entirety*.” This means that, legally, you and your partner own the property together, just like any married couple that’s considered a single legal entity.
You get certain benefits when you’re tenants by the entirety, such as protection against creditors who may try to seize or sell your property to collect debts you or your spouse may owe. Tenancy by the entirety also ensures that the property remains with the surviving spouse if one of you dies. In legalese, it’s called rights of survivorship.
It wasn’t always this way for LGBTQ+ couples. Before the Supreme Court legalized gay marriage in 2015, this classification was only available for husbands and wives. (A bill is currently pending in Congress that would replace the “husbands and wives” language with “spouses” to clarify and expand the statute to include LGBTQ+ couples.) Now, gay and lesbian couples can enjoy these same benefits, depending on where they live. Not all states recognize tenancy by the entirety; here’s a list of the ones that do.
- You can decide who owns what.
Even if you’re not married, you and your partner can still buy a home together. In that situation, you can consider another legal arrangement called “tenancy by common,” which spells out how much of the property each person owns. You could both hold equal stakes in the property or divvy it up by a percentage, depending on your circumstances and preferences.
For example, let’s say Sara and Kate are buying their first home together. They love each other and have been together for 10 years with no plans to tie the knot. They’re also pragmatists who are concerned about ownership rights should they part ways. So, they decide that Sara will own 50 percent of the property while Kate will own the other half. If their relationship turns sour, Sara can sell her 50 percent interest while Kate retains hers.
Here’s where things can get difficult, if Kate passes away, Sara still owns her share of the property, but Kate’s share goes to her heirs or estate, meaning things can get tied up in probate court. Sara isn’t granted automatic ownership of the property. That’s something you’ll need to weigh carefully before establishing your tenancy by common status on your property deed.
- You can become “joint tenants.”
LGBTQ+ couples can also be considered joint tenants with rights of survivorship. It’s similar to tenancy by the entirety in that you and your partner own the property together and are granted rights of survivorship if one of you dies (i.e., the ownership rights transfer fully to the surviving spouse). It’s different in that a tenancy by the entirety is only available to married couples, while unmarried partners can be classified as joint tenants and still benefit from survivorship rights. Another difference: A tenant can break the joint tenancy at any time. With tenancy by the entirety, neither spouse can transfer their half of the property alone; it must go to the surviving spouse. Joint tenancy also doesn’t offer the same protections against creditors or legal judgments.
- Know your rights.
Once you’ve navigated all the legal calisthenics of property law, you’ll need to make sure your city, county and state don’t uphold discriminatory statutes that could make things difficult for you down the road. Gay marriage may be legal nationwide, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t any old laws on the books in smaller jurisdictions that deny privileges to same-sex couples or only recognize rights afforded to straight couples. Trulia’s Local Legal Protections feature can help you find the non-discriminatory laws that exist for the LGBTQ+ community in the jurisdiction where you’re looking to settle.
- Work with professionals who support you.
While the Fair Housing Act bars lenders from discriminating against borrowers, it doesn’t specifically mention sexual orientation as a protected class (hence, the Equality Act). And, unfortunately, housing discrimination against the LGBTQ+ community still persists. A 2019 study from Iowa State University that examined national mortgage data from 1990 to 2015 shows that same-sex partners were 73 percent more likely to be denied for mortgages. Those who were approved paid more in interest and fees.
It may not be important to everyone, but you and your partner may want to find a lender that’s recognized for treating LGBTQ+ couples equitably. Wyndham Capital is one such lender, but there are plenty of others whose policies, mission statements and corporate values promote and support diversity, inclusion and equity for all borrowers.
You’ll also want to find a real estate agent with your best interests in mind, especially if you’re concerned about moving into a gay-friendly community. GayRealEstate.com is a helpful resource that will show you top-rated gay and gay-friendly real estate agents who do business in your city.