Editor’s note: This post was originally published in June 2020.
This year’s Pride Month (June) will look a little different than previous years. There won’t be parades or concerts or large gatherings—unless, of course, they’re virtual. But the sentiment behind Pride remains the same: It’s all about inclusivity.
Because Pride is more than parades.
“It’s a celebration of strength and community,” says James Mabey, a second-generation REALTOR® and broker of Century 21 Masters with three offices in the Edmonton area.
This fits well with the Canadian Real Estate Association’s (CREA) REALTOR® Code, which states a REALTOR® won’t deny professional services or be party to any plan to “discriminate against any person for reasons of race, national or ethnic origin, religion, colour, sex, family status, age, gender identity, or sexual orientation, marital status or disability.”
The real estate industry as a whole is “very inclusive and multi-faceted,” says Mabey, who is also a director-at-large with CREA. And that inclusivity is a “microcosm” of Canada.
“I’m a proud gay man and I came into real estate certainly not worried or concerned what my experience might be like—my mom was more worried about me,” he says. “I can honestly say after 15 years I still don’t think I’ve had any negative experiences working with the general public or working with REALTORS®. That’s wonderful to be able to say.”
Oftentimes, buyers or sellers who identify as LGBTQ+ actively seek out a real estate professional from the community.
“When you’re showing homes to somebody and you’re gay and they’re gay, there’s an instant ability to understand each other and to be more honest,” says Mabey. They might also be looking for certain market information; if they’re new to the city, for example, they might want to know which neighbourhoods are LGBTQ+ friendly.
But those who identify as straight may also specifically seek out someone from the community. “Luckily lots of people watch HGTV,” he says. Being LGBTQ+ can “actually be a feature that unbeknownst to them, [the client] might like in a real estate agent.”
That’s been the case for Trish Mutch, broker with Keller Williams Neighbourhood Realty and owner of Mutch Property Group, an LGBTQ+ friendly real estate company that offers residential, investment and construction expertise. Mutch is also the owner of Mutch Better Properties and has two decades of hands-on experience in the residential construction industry, renovating and renting homes.
Originally from the Sunshine Coast in Australia, Mutch has lived in Canada for around 20 years. “It’s my chosen city—I love Toronto. I really felt I could be myself here,” she says. “People are encouraged to keep their culture and their language. I have friends from every different possible place you can imagine, which means I get to enjoy all of their cultures.”
Working in real estate is her dream job, since she gets to help people express themselves through their space. And in Toronto, “I have the privilege to be gay here,” says Mutch. “People do seek me out to help them with housing because I am gay, which I appreciate.”
But real estate professionals who identify as LGBTQ+ don’t necessarily want to be pigeon-holed, either—especially if they’re looking to build their business. One way to do this is by promoting inclusivity in their messaging.
“None of our stories are the same,” says Mabey. “Being authentic and telling your own personal story and being inclusive of everybody is going to [ensure] you’re appealing to everybody.”
For Mutch, that means sharing a little bit about herself with prospective clients. She’s a lesbian, but she’s also part of a modern family of eight adults who co-parent two boys. No relationship is cookie-cutter and she approaches all prospective clients with that outlook.
For real estate professionals who don’t identify as LGBTQ+, working with the community means being informed and knowledgeable, says Mabey.
“Just because you’re not a gay-owned and operated business doesn’t mean you can’t be an advocate or supporter,” he says. “Be that ally, be able to speak the language. Make sure that you don’t make assumptions, that you use language that’s inclusive.”
That means not asking a man, “What does your wife do?” or similar questions that are immediately off-putting and potentially embarrassing or awkward. “Enable yourself to ask questions in a way that is thoughtful. Using gender-neutral language is something you have to get accustomed to,” he says.
“I understand what it means to get the pronoun right,” says Mutch. “It’s best not to assume, it’s best to ask what pronouns do you prefer… It’s not embarrassing to ask that question; what’s embarrassing is not asking.”
This is also important from a professional point of view. A family might have two dads or two moms, and “you want to know this, because it’s going to come into play in their home environment,” she says. “You’re a professional and your job is to truly understand your clients.”
They might have concerns that are unique to the LGBTQ+ community, like “if we move into this neighbourhood and our kids go to this school, is it going to be cool if they have two moms or two dads?” says Mutch. For two female-presenting clients, they might want to know if they’re going to feel safe in a building.
Oftentimes, the older the client, the more this will affect them. She’s found that clients in their late 60s or 70s are more concerned about their neighbours than people in their 20s—they’ve lived through a much different experience coming out than Gen Z or millennials.
Asking clients what their personal pronouns are isn’t necessarily “a concept that’s instantly going to feel comfortable to a REALTOR® in the baby boomer generation,” says Mabey. For those who don’t know what language to use, “talk to somebody in the community, use them as a resource.”
The annual National Association of REALTORS® (NAR)’s REALTOR® Conference and Expo in the United States has entire sessions dedicated to LGBTQ+ issues. Mabey recommends REALTORS® target some of their continuing education in this area.
“We joke about the alphabet soup, but straight people are part of that mix too,” says Mabey. “Pride is very inclusive; it’s about us sharing strength in a community with other communities.”