With about 59 percent of Americans now living in at least 30 states where same-sex couples can marry, a South Florida-based national association of LGBT real estate professionals says it’s ready to make its mark at exactly the right time.
“We feel the overall climate of marriage equality is going to continue to drive the housing market and lead to household formations, in addition to more LGBT couples to buy homes together,” said Jeff Berger, founder and CEO of the National Association of Gay & Lesbian Real Estate Professionals in Jupiter, which opens its first national convention Tuesday night in Fort Lauderdale.
“We’re an advocacy organization that works closely with the National Association of Realtors diversity committee,” Berger said. “It was our organization that brought forward the proposals to NAR to include both sexual orientation and gender identity to the NAR code of ethics.”
Former San Antonio, Texas, Mayor Julian Castro, now U.S. secretary of Housing and Urban Development, will deliver a welcome message Wednesday morning via video.
“Our nation will never fulfill its full promise if any of its citizens are being denied a fair chance to own or rent a home because of what they look like, where they come from or who they love. That’s why HUD issued the equal access rule, to stop discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity or marital status in HUD programs,” Castro says in the video. “You have a partner and a friend who’s eager to collaborate with you.”
Berger, who is bisexual, grew up on New York’s Long Island and worked on Wall Street as a stockbroker after he graduated with a marketing degree from Boston University.
Eventually, he relocated to Boca Raton to be closer to his grandfather in Tamarac, then moved to Delray Beach. A single dad, he headed up to Jupiter to raise daughter Caitlin, now age 4. “I was looking for a quieter place with good schools,” Berger said.
Berger founded NAGLREP in 2007. “I saw a marketplace where there was not an organization serving the advocacy and business concerns that the LGBT home buyers and sellers required,” he said.
In 2008, Berger’s group began lobbying the National Association of Realtors to adopt rules and protections regarding sexual oriention and gender identity. The former took effect in 2011; the latter on Jan. 1 of this year.
The LGBT real estate association boasts 750 paid members including real estate agents, brokers, licensed mortgage professionals, home inspectors and title and insurance professionals. There are 35 chapters across the U.S., including one each in Broward and Palm Beach counties.
“Our website receives about 75,000 unique visits per month from LGBT home buyers and sellers who are specifically seeking to do business with an LGBT professional,” Berger said.
Many members say “we prefer to support people who support us,” said Berger, 44. “Networks, business relationships, friendships also build from this.”
The conference is sponsored by mainstream and LGBT businesses including Coldwell Banker, Century 21, Union Bank, Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate, Berkshire Hathaway, PrimeLending, Bank of America, Wells Fargo, Miami Association of Realtors, Greater Fort Lauderdale Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce, Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention & Visitors Bureau, Emerald Title Group, Pink Banana and McCalla Raymer.
About 250 attendees are registered for the conference, which will feature topics including topics such as “Wowing The LGBT Relocation Buyer to Generate Repeat Business and Referrals,” “LGBT Networking & Referrals Through Social Media” and “I Thought You Were Only A Gay Agent.”
Not all the topics are LGBT specific. Danny Hertzberg, son of The Jills’ Jill Hertzberg, on Thursday will address the topic “List Like a Lawyer, Sell Like a Realtor.”
“I’m going to be speaking about the team dynamic,” said Hertzberg, 32, of Miami Beach, who began working at The Jills after he graduated from University of Miami with a law degree and a master in business administration.
He is one of five agents on The Jills sales team, along with his mother, his sister Hillary, Jill Eber and Eber’s sister, Felise. The rest of Hertzberg’s team includes 13 others who are non-agents who handle tasks including marketing, contract management and administrative support.
“A lot of times, real estate agents see themselves as the lone wolves. That’s a product of the industry, but in reality, you have much more potential if you think about it in a team framework,” Hertzberg said. “You’re not competing against other agents, you’re working with other agents regardless of the company. By doing that, you add great value to the transaction.”
Hertzberg said the conference is “a reflection of our city.”
“The LGBT community in South Florida is dynamic, extremely professional and growing,” he said.
If you go
What: 2014 National LGBT Real Estate Conference
Where: Embassy Suites Fort Lauderdale, 1100 SE 17th St., Fort Lauderdale
When: Tuesday through Thursday
On-site registration: $449 National Association of Gay & Lesbian Real Estate Professionals members; $549 nonmembers; $799 corporate guest
Info: http://naglrep.com/conference2014 or 561-865-6117