Editor’s Note: This story has been updated from its original posting.

Finding fair housing free from discrimination is a significant challenge to those in the LGBTQ community, and local real estate professionals are determined to do their part to help. Lonnie Hand and Matt Stone, both gay males and real estate brokers serving the Charlotte, N.C. area, have their own takes on the challenges, resources and rewards of being LGBTQ and looking for a home.

Matt Stone

“I believe the LGBTQ community is actually at an advantage in this industry,” Stone told qnotes. “Our community is used to rejection and challenges and the real estate industry certainly provides a bit of both!”

This optimistic take provides a peek into an issue that affects countless people nationwide. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) notes that “The Fair Housing Act does not specifically include sexual orientation and gender identity as prohibited bases.” However, the HUD passed a rule in 2012 ensuring that HUD-funded housing programs are prohibited from discrimination on these terms, and in 2016, another rule that affirms transgender people’s right to access public shelters.

None of this, however, helps the LGBTQ homeowner or aspiring homeowner, left unprotected by federal law. State laws vary. In North Carolina, no state laws exist protecting against housing discrimination based on either sexual orientation or gender identity.

North Carolina is known by real estate professionals as a challenging place for LGBTQ people to find fair housing, especially in the aftermath of House Bill 2. A 2015 survey conducted by the National Association of Gay and Lesbian Real Estate Professionals (NAGLREP) in partnership with Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate noted that 70 percent of 1,700 respondents rated living in a progressive community as “very important.” Charlotte professionals note that such progressive cities provide a beacon of hope.

Lonnie Hand

“LGBTQ clients that had initial concerns with relocation to N.C. due to the current political climate have found Charlotte in particular to be a very welcoming city,” Hand told qnotes. “In general I think that LGBTQ people should support each other and other LGBTQ businesses … my LGBTQ clients are appreciative of how I can relate to them specifically and guide them through what can be one of the biggest financial decisions of their lives.”

This monumental choice to buy a home is one that many in the LGBTQ community intend to pursue. The 2015 survey revealed that 75-89 percent of the 1,700 LGBTQ people surveyed believe home ownership to be a sound investment.

“Individuals who identify themselves as LGBT represent an estimated buying power of $840 billion and reportedly live in 99.3 percent of all counties nationwide,” NAGLREP founder Jeff Berger told PR Newswire. “The LGBT community is a key part of the nation’s landscape and a powerful market segment that is increasingly achieving social milestones that are historical triggers to home purchases, such as partnerships, marriage and having children.”

Stone and Hand are determined to aid their peers in reaching the milestone of owning a home.

“Real estate has been a lifelong passion of mine [and] I love helping my community prosper and make wise real estate choices,” said Stone. “Despite state-level setbacks to progress, Charlotte is still a great city to live and own a business.”

Other resources exist for those in the LGBTQ community in pursuit of a fair, safe place to live. NAGLREP’s website offers a search engine to find queer-friendly agents nearby. The Gay Lesbian Directory features a similar searching option. GayRealEstate.com has a search tool and more, including relocation kits for home buyers and seller’s market analysis.

An LGBTQ-friendly helping hand can make all the difference for those in search of a home.

“The biggest reward,” said Hand, “is seeing the impact I can have on my sellers, navigating them through a transaction to ensure that it goes as smooth as possible, and the joy on my buyers’ faces on settlement day when their dreams of home ownership are realized.”