A local realty company has created a first-of-its-kind client services team, in hopes of meeting emerging, specific needs of LGBT people in the housing market.
During the past several weeks, Dream Town Realty publicly launched a division that includes more than a dozen LGBT-identified brokers, who are ready to help couples and families navigate real estate issues in a rapidly changing legal landscape.
In the process, company leaders say, they hope to inspire a "pride of ownership" in the community.
"We anticipate this division to be a space where we can give and receive support, making it a win-win for everyone involved," said Yuval Degani, president of Dream Town Realty. "We feel that it's very important to take a stand, and we've weighed the risks."
Marketing specifically towards a community demographic segment is an unusual, if not unheard of move for a real estate company, one that Degani didn't take lightly. Near the eventual passage of Illinois' equal marriage bill last fall, he and other company leaders decided to embark on a six-month exploratory process that resulted in a new LGBT wing of the business.
Leveraging a pool of LGBT talent and straight employees who openly support the community, Degani said he was confident about making the leap.
"We felt some people might be upset or view this in a negative way and we said, that's okay," he said.
In the brokers' combined decades of experience and multiple accreditations, they've had to help LGBT couples and families as best as they could given the many legal provisions that weren't available for them. Doing their best work often meant adapting for clients as best as possible. And, more often than not, they did the work of LGBT community outreach alone and without support.
"I had to advertise in gay publications everywhere and my company was not supporting me at all. In some ways, they were unsupportive," said Chad Duda, a residential specialist for Dream Town Realty. "It's nice to be at a company that supports the community."
Jim Schiefelbein, an outside consultant who works closely with management at Dream Town Realty, said, "The company is moving this instead of the employees moving it
With Illinois' equal marriage law now being implemented in Cook and a few neighboring counties prior to the law's statewide effective date of June 1, legal changes have arrived much quicker than employees at Dream Town Realty could've anticipated.
However, a new section of the company's website was ready well ahead of time, featuring a comprehensive resource directory that includes broker contacts, a variety of resources, and frequently asked questions for LGBT home buyers and sellers. Some common concerns that arise include transitioning from civil unions to marriages, how to manage financial documents and end-of-life considerations.
Most of the content was informed by research commissioned by the company's leadership, which revealed that LGBT people were being underserved or treated unfairly while navigating the home buying or selling process.
In developing an LGBT client services division, Dream Town Realty executives wanted to ensure that the community's specific desires and needs were being directly addressed both online and by their team of brokers, said Schiefelbein.
"[Degani] had an unwavering commitment to making sure there was substance," he said. "We've all been to the pride parade, we've seen people roll through and then they're gone. Here, there's a company that's committed to keeping the resources in play."
Dream Town Realty also plans to host community education sessions on an ongoing basis. The team recently organized an "Pride of Ownership" on April 26 at Center on Halsted, featuring a panel of political and real estate experts discussing how the equal marriage bill changes the game for LGBT housing in Illinois. They've also planned an "Out of the Office" event in June to show appreciation for their clients during Pride Month.
Getting in touch with the community in an authentic way has stirred excitement for both straight and LGBT brokers alike at Dream Town Realty. For some, it's creating an atmosphere that they say makes it one of the best places to work.
"Before they even make a call, they can read online and make a decision. They don't have to ask awkward questions to an agent they don't know anything about at all," said Amie Klujian, one of Dream Town's LGBT client consultants. "I'm proud to work at a brokerage that's at the forefront of this revolution. It makes you feel supported ... and it helps our clients feel good to know they're working with a broker who cares."
For more information on Dream Town Realty's LGBT client-services group, visit dreamtown.com/lgbt .