Welcome to KellerINK’s latest column – these monthly articles are aimed at helping you achieve greater success by highlighting the groundbreaking research that informs our award-winning books and drives Keller Williams’ industry-leading coaching and training.
Pride Month is in full swing, and it’s important for allies within the real estate industry to not only think about how they can celebrate this vibrant community, but welcome them as clients. A recent survey from the LGBTQ+ Real Estate Alliance reported that “10.6% of survey respondents said they experienced discrimination from a real estate professional during the renting or buying process.” While these unfortunate moments are often not intentional, they offer us an opportunity to learn and improve.
You can take these five small steps to help make your business and the real estate industry more inclusive.
1. Don’t Assume, Ask
The biggest piece of advice to keep in mind when you’re trying to be as welcoming as possible is to avoid making assumptions about your clients. You won’t come off as rude if you inquire about how they identify or want to be referred to – they will see you as caring about communicating in a way that centers their needs.
Tip: If you have an online intake form or talking points for onboarding a lead, add a space where people can tell you their “preferred name” and “pronouns” ahead of time. Not only will this help you avoid gaffes later, you may come to find that other clients have preferences you didn’t know about, like wanting to be called “Jimmy” instead of “James”!
2. Communicate Client Preferences with the Team
In a real estate transaction, there can be up to a dozen or more cooks in the kitchen. To ensure that your client is comfortable and treated with consistent respect, you need to make sure that everyone is on the same page.
Once a client has communicated a preference to you, make sure that all members of your team understand and use that information. As with any business standard, communicate your expectations with your colleagues ahead of time. The same is true for any of your finance partners – in my own experience as a queer homebuyer, it was a letdown on my otherwise-joyous closing day to have to explain that my fiancée wasn’t the “he” the lender kept referring to.
Tip: When onboarding a new lead to your database, record personal preferences so they are visible for your whole team. For example, how do they refer to their spouse?
3. Consider Your Paperwork
Everything in your business should be a reflection of the relationship and trust you want to establish with your clients. This includes the way that you communicate with them on paper and in DocuSign too. According to the LGBTQ+ Real Estate Alliance survey, “13.8% of surveyed Alliance members have had to sign a real estate form or document that didn’t ‘adequately represent their life experience.’” Commitment to inclusion in these areas won’t go unnoticed!
Tip: Look over your business’s forms for opportunities to top-grade to more inclusive language or opportunities to self-define. You don’t need to know the ‘right’ words, simply offering a space for the client to write in their responses can help.
4. Look at Your Real Estate Language
As a property professional, you know the ins and outs of architectural language. You can tell a turret from a tower, a duplex from a detached space, and your ability for description allows you to accurately represent a house without relying on language that while well-intentioned can be exclusionary. As an agent, you know that getting your clients to picture themselves living in a space is key to unlocking an offer. Avoiding gendered language and top-grading helps invite more people to think of themselves as welcome in the property you’re representing.
Tip: If you find yourself using gendered language, chances are you’ve found an opportunity to remove unconscious bias. For example, instead of describing a bathroom as having “his and hers” sinks, consider “dual sinks.”
5. Let the “Love Letter” Go
There are a million stories out there about how “love letters” from buyers to sellers have sealed the deal. Love letters, or offer letters, have been used throughout the years as a means of appealing to the seller in a competitive market. However, while many people still try to use these letters to give their offer an edge, they can (intentionally or otherwise) lead to discriminatory housing practices.
In 1968, the United States government passed what is known as the Fair Housing Act. This act ensured that no renter or buyer could be discriminated against by race, religion, sex, national origin, family, or disability status. This law was largely drafted as a part of the larger civil rights movement at the time in order to get rid of discriminatory housing practices. It helped clamp down on things like redlining or unfair lending practices. And, although it does not explicitly include gender identity or sexual orientation, many of the biases against LGBTQ+ communities fall under its jurisdiction. (You can learn more here.)
While having a client write a letter to someone they want to buy a home from, or reading letters from prospective buyers for your listing, may seem harmless; the reality is it violates this law. By disclosing details like family status, or any other personal details – these letters could be unintentionally appealing to any bias a seller has.
Housing and generational wealth are rights that everyone should have equal access to. So, no matter how well-intentioned you may be, we encourage you to not send offer letters in an effort to create a happier, more equitable world for everyone.
Tip: You can visit our training archives to sharpen your skillset and expand your offer toolkit. If you’re representing a listing, simply avoiding love letters altogether will help you and your client make an objective decision without accidentally invoking unconscious bias.
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