How the Marriage Equality Bill Impacts Real Estate

By Bill Primavera

The Home Guru

More years ago than I care to remember, I arrived in New York with a college buddy and, together, we sought an apartment for which we would share the rent and expenses. Apartments were easy to find in those days because the rental market had been overbuilt, so we had a wide choice of possibilities, including new buildings that were offering concessions of three to six months free rent to sign a lease. Imagine that?

I experienced my first awareness about discrimination in housing at that time when an on-premise landlord of one of our favored apartments asked directly “are you two just buddies or are you a ‘couple’?” From the way he asked the question, I strongly suspected that if we had been a “couple,” the apartment would not be ours.

While I didn’t know anything about Fair Housing laws at that time, it was only as late as 1986 when New York City, where the gay revolution began with the Stonewall riot in 1969, passed a law banning discrimination in housing based on sexual orientation. In 2000, Westchester County followed suit, as did New York State in 2002. Understanding and complying with Fair Housing laws are an important part of every realtor’s training, and every listing contract requires that the owner of a home agree to its tenets as well.

And, with the passage last Friday of the Equality in Marriage bill by the New York State Senate, observers agree that will be further impact regarding sexual orientation in real estate..

In sheer numbers alone, the bill can bring the benefit of marriage to an estimated 42,000 committed couples raising 14,000 children, according to, the organization that championed the cause in encouraging voters to petition their legislators in Albany.

Amid the jubilation of gay and lesbian couples in the past couple of days for winning their hard-fought battle, there is a healthy economic prospect to the bill’s passage concerning real estate. In the simplest of terms, it should provide a tremendous economic stimulus as couples from anywhere in the country will come to New York State to be married. They will be spending their money here, resulting in more jobs, and more jobs mean more people will be buying homes.

It probably won’t make a noticeable difference in the fabric of our neighborhoods because committed gay couples have always been part of them, but perhaps under the radar. I remember how surprised I was at a political campaign meeting some years ago to learn that, according to statistics supplied by the LOFT, a Westchester-based LGBT organization, my town was one of two identified as having the largest concentrations of gay and lesbian residents in Westchester County. So who knew?

Immediate legal and financial issues related to the new law were articulated by some of my friends who deal on a daily basis with home buying and selling.

Lawrence Horowitz, a lawyer based in White Plains, said, “Now that the legislation is law, it will be both easier and harder for gay couples to deal with the issue of ownership of real property. 

“It’s easier because, if they are considered legally married, for estate purposes, they would be protected against the loss of their residence. It’s harder in a divorce situation, unless there is a ‘pre-nup’ – which now may be more common in gay marriage – because the couple would be subject to the same laws that married couples have always faced, including equitable distribution and custody.  There are of course many more issues which can come into play.”

One of those issues, according to Irene Amato, owner of A.S.A.P. Mortgage with offices in Cortlandt Manor and Yorktown Heights, will be the impact on qualifying for a mortgage with the gifting of cash for the purpose of buying a home, allowed only among those related to the purchaser. “Now, for the first time, one member of the gay marriage will be permitted to gift money to his/her spouse or spouse’s children for the purchase of a home,” she said.

Amato classified her agency as “gay proud” and directed me for further comment to a branch manager of her company who happens to be gay. He is Doug Petri, well known and much respected for his long term work as a mortgage broker in the region.

“The most important benefit of this new law is its impact on the concept known as Tenancy by the Entirety, a form of ownership that is for married individuals,” Petri said. “It means that if two people are married and they own a home together, if something should happen to either one of the spouses, the surviving spouse automatically gets ownership of the house without probate or any other form of estate issues.”

When I interviewed Petri, it was by phone at his East Hampton home where he and his partner were throwing an annual fundraiser to benefit young gay people for educational scholarships. Petri’s wrap-up statement on the news was, “It’s about time, isn’t it? And, really, why should anyone care about who loves who?”

For gay and lesbian couples planning to be married in this area and contemplating buying a home, you might check for legal counsel with Larry Horowitz at 914-282-7171. To discuss mortgage needs, call Irene Amato or Dough Petri of A.S.A.P. Mortgage at 914-736-9230. And, of course, any realtor I know would be more than happy to work with you in finding the perfect neighborhood and home in which to enjoy your new legal status.

Bill Primavera is a licensed Realtor® (, affiliated with Coldwell Banker, and a marketing practitioner ( For questions or comments about the housing market, or selling or buying a home, he can be reached directly at 914-522-2076.