Home Sellers Specialize in Helping Gays; Real Estate Agents Know Gay-Friendly Areas and Make Sure Partners Are Legally Protected

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Byline: JESSIE-LYNNE KERR

With social and legal nuances of same-sex relationships becoming more pronounced, a growing number of real estate agents in Jacksonville are specializing in helping gay and lesbian homeowners.

While the agents cannot legally steer anyone to or away from a particular neighborhood, some said it is important to know the gay-friendly areas of the market and be able to identify with this segment of society.

It is also important, they said, to make sure partners are legally protected should something go wrong.

"For instance, which one will get to deduct the mortgage interest from their income tax return is one concern. They need to make sure that the deed is written to include the rights of survivorship," gay-friendly Realtor Amy Wilson said.

She is one of about a half-dozen such agents in Jacksonville.

Shane Denmark is president of First Coast Pride, a group that aims to create equality and visibility for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender members of the community. He has been a Realtor for five years with a straight-owned company, Ocean Breeze Management.

"Once upon a time, gays and lesbians were more comfortable living in Riverside and Avondale, but with more of us moving into the mainstream, especially the Baby Boomers, we are everywhere," Denmark said. "We are now more comfortable living in the suburbs with everyone else. Jacksonville has evolved so much that the majority of people are accepting of gays and lesbians so it is not as important as it was in the past to have an enclave."

Every neighborhood is probably going to include some gay and lesbian residents, Wilson said.

No one knows how many Jacksonville homeowners are gay, lesbian or transgender, but a portion of the 2000 Census that enumerates Unmarried Partner Households can provide some insight.

Of Jacksonville households, 1,809 fit that category. In Nassau County, it is 97; in St. Johns, 240; in Putnam, 141; in Baker, 25; and in Clay, 221. The figures do not include those who live alone. An analysis of these Jacksonville households by census tracts shows that while Riverside and Avondale continue to be popular with gays and lesbians, a growing number are living at the Beaches, in Mandarin and in other neighborhoods in the southeastern part of the city.

Denmark said he was invited recently to address members of Jacksonville Community Council Inc. …