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VOL. 44 | NO. 36 | Friday, September 4, 2020

Copeland offers expertise on LGBTQI housing

By David Laprad

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Nashville Realtor Brian Copeland, founder and owner of Doorbell Real Estate, wants to open up the discussion on inclusion and diversity for the real estate industry, with an emphasis on the LGBTQI community.

A popular keynote speaker about the real estate market, he served as the 2017 president of Tennessee Realtors and was the 2019 vice president of the National Association of Realtors. Inman News named him one of the 100 Most Influential Real Estate Leaders in America.

The Council of Residential Specialists in Chicago uses Copeland’s expertise in understanding the market in the South. He recently spoke with Hamilton County Herald editor David Laprad about better understanding the buying and selling needs of the LGBTQI community.

What prompted your discussion about the LGBTQI community and real estate?

“Right before marriage equality became the law of the land, there was a lot of confusion and bubbling in the real estate industry about family units, housing and how all this fit together. People started asking for my opinion on the matter, and I always shared. From there, I’ve always been willing and interested in sharing as much as I could about how we can best serve all clients.”

What unique challenges face LGBTQI homebuyers and sellers today?

“I received a call from a young lady who was about to write a contract on a home with me. She knew it would be very competitive. She was scared to death to put her name and her same-gender partner’s name on the contract out of fear it would be rejected.

“She shared with me how a new construction community in Florida had done that very thing to her a few years prior, so it was a great concern.

“I had another buyer who was looking outside of Nashville in Williamson County. When he and his husband put an offer on a house that had been on the market for a while, word got out that it was a same-gender couple. They started receiving anonymous mail from people claiming to be a part of the homeowner’s association telling them they were not welcome there and to go find another home.

“My real estate team had a trans client who called us because she had heard we were transfriendly. Several investors had approached her in a threatening way, telling her she needed to leave her neighborhood and that she was going to be [physically] hurt.

“They offered her $60,000 for her home. When we ran the numbers, it was marketable at $155,000.

“We sold it for her in as-is condition, not because she was scared of living there, but because it gave her the money to complete the expensive gender reassignment she desired.

“Beyond housing, there is housing support, vendors and service providers. When [my spouse, Greg, and I] were putting in a pool at our house, one installer came with raving reviews.

“He came out, met us, gave us a competitive quote and left. When we reached out to hire him, we heard nothing. We tried multiple times. After two weeks, we reached out to the referring friend, who informed us that the pool installer didn’t “serve our type of people.”

“There are many challenges many people take for granted. So many, we simply don’t have the time or space to go into all of them.”

What is it important to know about the LGBTQI community?

“Terminology is very important. We all fear what we don’t understand, so we’ll go over a ton of definitions and how they fit into the landscape of homebuying.

“Consumer counseling is also huge. We’ll cover how to take that initial call or contact and treat the LGBTQI consumer just like we would every other client.

“The Black LGBTQI community, especially Black trans women, face even more challenges inside and outside of housing. We’ll go over how we can be a part of the solution rather than simply being a group of aware people.

“The Realtor Code of Ethics goes beyond Fair Housing laws when it comes to sexual orientation and gender identity. We’ll explore the law versus the code and how we apply it to our daily business.

“Finally, lead generation in all areas is a huge interest for all agents. We’ll talk about specific ways to reach out to the LGBTQI consumer and send the message that we’re open for their business.”

Why is this important now?

“It’s not a timing issue; it’s a proactive issue. We tend to react to social injustice, and it becomes the social media topic of the week.”

Most people are familiar with the “LGBTQI” abbreviation. Talk about the “I” and what it means.

“Intersex is someone whose anatomy doesn’t match one specific gender. Many times parents and doctors make a decision regarding which anatomical gender to assign the child early in life. Those children grow up in a very difficult world between two genders, or being both genders, or being neither gender.

“I feel it’s an important category to discuss because my extended family has an intersex member. It was a tough road for the person, and their voice and ideas need to be heard.”

Are there areas where you feel Realtors need to improve their interactions with LGBTQI homebuyers and sellers?

“Realtors do a great job with LGBTQI consumers. Nationally, we are known as a group of professionals who value all people and serve tirelessly regardless of what separates us. Realtors, however, are also a group of professionals who always want to be better.

“We crave next-level thinking at every corner. We’re involved in the most important, private and intimate purchase of anyone’s life. We provide them with one of the big essentials of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.”

What are the challenges of being an LGBTQI Realtor?

“I’m not comfortable placing many of the stories I would share about the discrimination I’ve faced as a gay Realtor in print.

“They are very personal, hurtful, life-altering stories.”

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