Our industry is made up of all types of people – in fact, if I tried to name all the various ethnic backgrounds and cultures that make up the millions of real estate professionals in this country, no doubt I would miss many, if not most. The more time I spend in this profession, the more I have come to respect and embrace those who are different from me. I think it’s healthy having differing cultural backgrounds, with differing views of life or the real estate industry. It can only benefit our industry to debate and disagree, but also to find common ground – those common denominators that can bring us closer.
Recently, I had the opportunity to attend the inaugural National LGBT Real Estate Conference hosted by the National Association of Gay and Lesbian Real Estate Professionals (NAGLREP) in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
The conference is spread out across a couple of days and includes fantastic opening sessions and speakers, multiple breakout sessions to address specific issues to improve your business, social experiences that help build your referral network, and so much more. I was asked to participate in a panel discussion titled “Real Estate by Design: A Lifestyle Approach.” I completely enjoyed myself participating in this panel discussion.
I have to be honest, I wasn’t sure I wanted to attend this event at all. If I were to list the way I view myself, being gay wouldn’t even make the top 10 list. I have never considered myself to be a gay REALTOR®, I just happen to be a REALTOR® who is gay.
I felt that by participating in an event designed for a niche population, that I was in some way agreeing to marginalize that population, to exclude them (me) from the rest of society. I have never felt like a minority before, why start now? I truly thought by attending, I would be accepting myself as part of the problem, and not part of the solution.
I was wrong.
I should mention here that Better Homes and Gardens® Real Estate lives by a set of core values that we call P.A.I.G.E.
I do not have the authority to edit these values, but I would offer an additional letter: “D.”
Although I had my own fears of attending this event, I chose to do it at the request of BHGRE® because the company believes in Diversity, and it believes in me. BHGRE believes in expanding our industry to be inclusive versus exclusive – it embraces those who are different. It believes in helping its brokers and associates to better their lives, expand their knowledge and widen their possibilities in an effort to “Ignite their Futures,” one and all.
So the questions I had about this NAGLREP conference were:
- What can a trade show designed for the LGBT community teach an individual who is LGBT?
- Is a trade show that is singularly focused on a minority population a worthwhile endeavor to attend?
- Why would the LGBT community want to attend a trade show that may be viewed as being exclusive versus inclusive, when we have fought so hard for inclusion?
- And lastly, who should really attend this type of event?
Let’s take them one at a time, shall we?
What can a trade show designed for the LGBT community teach an individual who is LGBT?
The National LGBT Real Estate Conference should be viewed by the LGBT community as a gathering place for you – it is an event that allows you to be you. It is also for you to interact with your peers and find industry support from those who may have some of the same issues and challenges you have in growing your business. It’s a chance to share best practices that will help you to broaden your market. For example, if you are marketing to the LGBT community, are you doing it in a way that will get results? By attending this event, you will have the opportunity to learn how to do just that. This time spent together, learning from each other is exciting and can ignite you to Be Better!
Is a trade show that is singularly focused on a minority population a worthwhile endeavor to attend?
Absolutely! This conference is not just a gathering place of LGBT people. It is an event designed to engage and teach anyone who wishes to market to or engage the LGBT community. It is also a great way to increase your referral network from around the country. We are a tight-knit community, so take the time to expand your network here. You will learn much more about the business of working within the LGBT community. You already have an inside track, now expand that knowledge to become a top producer.
Why would the LGBT community want to attend an event that might be viewed as being exclusive versus inclusive, when we have fought so hard for inclusion?
Because this event is not exclusive. Many participants are not gay. What it shows is that there are many allies out there who work hard day in and day out to support the needs of our community. From lenders to escrow to title to any service that might be needed throughout the process of a real estate transaction. Other companies such as Community Marketing & Insights (CMI), a global leader in LGBT consumer research and marketing offer some of the most interesting insights to our community you will find today. You’ll find lenders such as Wells Fargo, Union Bank and Bank of America. You’ll meet industry-leading REALTOR®’s who have broken through with best practices to share, and you’ll hear from top real estate companies such as Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate that understand that the LGBT community represents a very large real estate transactional market, but might require a unique approach and understanding.
And lastly, who should really attend this event?
The simple answer is everyone who is involved in the real estate industry. As a REALTOR® if you are not marketing to or engaging the LGBT community, you are missing out on a large revenue stream. This market on the whole has a much higher discretionary spending capability, they are not afraid to spend money to buy a home, make improvements to that home, and to improve the values of homes in whole communities. If you don’t know the best ways to attract this market’s attention, then you should be attending this event. And if you are a business that supports the real estate industry, wouldn’t you want to know how to tap into a whole new market and expand your business? In the U.S., the LGBT community is roughly between 7-10% of the population – on the low end, that’s about 23 million people and on the high end, 32.5 million. It just makes sense to learn how to engage this market.
To paraphrase NAGLREP,“Today is a new day and before us now are new opportunities for the LGBT community and the brands who have stood beside us in solidarity. At this event, and the ones to follow it in the years to come, we aim to inform, inspire and engage you in ways that help you grow your business, expand services to LGBT homebuyers and sellers, and learn more about our allies who are your partners in business.”
I hope to be invited back next year to represent Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate in our endeavors to expand our belief in Diversity. I hope to see you all there, LGBT or straight, join us to experience the diversity of our industry and expand your business.
If you would like to learn more about the National Association of Gay and Lesbian Real Estate Professionals, visit their site, and of course, save the date for the 2015 conference! And please take a moment to stop by our website to learn more about Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate.
You have been P.A.I.G.E.D. I look forward to seeing you next year in Fort Lauderdale, October 13-15, 2015.