All Charlotte-based realtors can agree that 2021 is truly a seller’s market. We’ve reached out to three LGTBQ realty agents based in North Carolina, who have offered their thoughts on affordable housing, the rise of young realtors, gentrification, buyer/seller interactions and the impact of market evolution on minority communities.
“The Charlotte market is becoming more diverse,” says Matt Stone of Stone Real Estate, a sixteen-year veteran in the business. “Used to be a southern town that was just opening its arms to outsiders, now the outsiders are absolutely welcome.”
Stone continues: “The industry is slow to adapt. More young folks, people of color and LGBTQ people are getting into the business, and my company is like entering a family. We now have three Spanish-speaking agents because our goal is to make everyone feel more comfortable.”
These values of inclusivity in the workspace translate also to Dawn Pugh of the Dawn Pugh Team and Zachary Harris of Charlottean Realty. Similar to their clients, each of these realtors have had different obstacles and differing experiences within the same geographic space; exemplifying the true diversity that buyers, sellers and realtors embody.
As any realtor can attest, Charlotte is facing a severe lack of unoccupied land and properties, coupled with an influx of real estate agents, as well as potential buyers.
“It’s a strong seller’s market. Almost all properties will have multiple offers, but in some cases a seller may be undeterred by the amount if their heart strings are pulled by a buyer’s letter,” Harris explains. “I can’t write these letters for the clients, it has to be heartfelt and from the buyers themselves.”
These so-called “love letters” are a somewhat taboo conversation piece within the real estate community. Their main purpose is for buyers to be able to humanize themselves in the eyes of the sellers; essentially acting as a personal essay might for a college application. “Love letters” are a way of saying that, despite not providing the highest bid for a property, the buyers would still take tremendous care of the home/land.
“If all terms were equal, a mixed race LGBTQ couple may not have the same advantage in a multiple offer situation as a cisgender Caucasian couple would, if both couples were to submit a “love letter” to the seller,” says Pugh. “Or a Caucasian lesbian couple may have an easier time than LGBTQ people of color or transgender people.”
Working with individuals or couples in minority communities requires an amount of attention to detail that includes the aforementioned “love letters.” Harris reflects on his early days as a realtor, saying, “Being in real estate as an African American male, I thought that most of my clients would be African-American like me, but that’s not the case. My clientele is 75-85 percent immigrant families, including LatinX, Asian and Middle Eastern families.”
The wide range of identities within clientele means that several factors are taken into account when helping buyers find the perfect home. The first obstacle that comes into play is the buyers’ reactions to working with LGBTQ real estate agents. “My husband is mentioned in my bio page,” Stone explains. “This weeds out people who wouldn’t be comfortable with the LGBTQ community. So we lose homophobic or racist clients before we’ve even met them.”
Pugh and Harris’ companies take a similar approach, but Harris stresses, “Acceptance has leap frogged a good bit. There’s no distinction between gay and straight and black and white in certain establishments in Plaza Midwood. Certain aspects have improved; however, being an African American male and LGBTQ can make the world difficult to navigate because you are a ‘double minority.’”
Neighborhoods such as Plaza Midwood have grown socially to accommodate those of all races, religions, genders and sexualities; unfortunately, the lack of inventory has made it nearly impossible for these neighborhoods to expand physically. “Since I work primarily with investors, I’ve noticed that neighborhoods change over time from being places that people would not go to hang out to now having kids playing in the streets,” Harris observes. “The bad side of gentrification is that it has displaced a good bit of older persons of color.”
The idea of families being evicted or foreclosed upon due to their financial state is, tragically, nothing new. Solutions that would allow these groups to remain in their residence are scarce and would have to involve a change in legislation relating to the housing market, as well as the economy. Of the state of gentrification, Pugh says, “Gentrification has been happening in Charlotte for longer than I’ve been in real estate. I have seen first-hand people taken advantage of by unscrupulous real estate industry professionals. People and families that want to stay in their homes should be able to stay in their homes, but they may not be able to due to a number of circumstances including property tax increases and property condemnation.”
As a potential solution to the current gentrification issue in Charlotte, Pugh offers this upside for individuals and families in their later years that might be misidentified as victimized: “We do have to consider that in some of the ‘hotter’ neighborhoods, families have been in their homes since the ‘60s and ‘70s. They made really great investments in purchasing their homes, but might not have a lot of money in savings. Sometimes, people want to sell their homes in some of the ‘hotter’ neighborhoods, move into newer homes outside of the city, and have money left over for retirement.”
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