Affordability remains a pressing issue for homebuyers, as mortgage rates continue to climb and home prices have yet to level out. For LGBTQ+ house hunters, finding affordable housing comes with the added challenge of finding it in a safe and welcoming city.
Homebuyers can expect to pay as much as 63%1 more to live in an area with explicit protections for the LGBTQ+ community, as compared to areas with none. These protections can include laws that explicitly outlaw discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in housing, healthcare, and more.
The cost of such a premium has had a dramatic impact on the community. The rate of homeownership for the LGBTQ+ community is just 49.8% as compared to the U.S. average of 65.8%.2
And progress on closing the gap is slow: A profile of homebuyers and sellers in 2022 reveals that 91% of homebuyers identified as straight, with only 2% of identifying as gay or lesbian, 2% identifying as bisexual, and less than 1% identifying as transgender.3
So where can homebuyers maximize their buying power with the peace of mind of equal protection under the law? Orchard analyzed more than 500 metro areas for LGBTQ+ protections, home affordability and competition, and quality of life to identify the top under-the-radar cities for LGBTQ+ homebuyers (full methodology below).
Pittsburgh didn’t stand out as a top contender in any single metric, but its solid performance across all categories pushed it to our top spot. The median list price in Pittsburgh is just $229,200 with an average price for square foot of $163. Pittsburgh also enjoys low competition among homebuyers, with homes spending a median of 65 days on the market. But it was the bonus point that pushed Pittsburgh to number one: The Williams’ Institute estimates that the Pittsburgh metro area has an adult LGBTQ+ population of 3.3% — though that number may seem small, compare it to well known LGBTQ+ hubs like New York City (4.5%), Austin (5.9%), Los Angeles (5.1%), and San Francisco (6.7%).
Known for its iconic bridges and rich industrial history, Pittsburgh also offers homebuyers a diverse and thriving cultural landscape, including a vibrant queer community. The LGBTQ+ scene in Pittsburgh is celebrated through events like the Pittsburgh Pride Parade and PrideFest, while LGBTQ+-friendly establishments like the LGBTQ Community Center contribute to a welcoming environment year round.
Moving up nine spots from our 2022 rankings, the Motor City offers artistic expression and a resilient LGBTQ+ community. Detroit's rich queer culture is vibrant and diverse, with organizations like Equality Michigan advocating for LGBTQ+ rights and an array of LGBTQ+-owned businesses, bars, and clubs contributing to the city's inclusive atmosphere.
Detroit was pushed up in our rankings by its low list price ($77,100) and price per square foot ($70), the lowest on our list), and low competition for housing (66 DOM), the second least competitive city on our list). It also received bonus points for being a metropolitan area with a high LGBTQ+ population.
Huntington took our third spot thanks to its affordable home prices. The median list price is just $134,450 and the price per square foot is only $86. Residents also enjoy low commute times, averaging just 18 minutes. However, the employment rate in Huntington lags behind other cities on our list at just 48%, and there wasn’t data available on the percentage LGBTQ+ population there, which also hurt its score.
Nestled along the Ohio River, Huntington is a vibrant city with a burgeoning arts scene, a revitalized downtown, and a welcoming queer community. The city's LGBTQ+ community finds support through organizations like the Huntington Pride Foundation, which organizes the annual Huntington Pride Festival, showcasing local talent and promoting inclusivity.
Cleveland jumped three spots from our 2022 rankings, due to an affordable price per square foot at just $77 — the second lowest on our list — a bonus point for its high LGBTQ+ population of 3.8%
Situated on the shores of Lake Erie, Cleveland is a vibrant city with a resilient queer community that embraces inclusivity and activism. LGBTQ+ individuals in Cleveland can enjoy a range of LGBTQ+-friendly establishments, such as Twist Social Club and Bounce Nightclub, and participate in events like Cleveland Pride, which celebrates the community's diversity and achievements.
Situated on the Mississippi River, Davenport is a charming city with a strong sense of community and a growing LGBTQ+ presence. The queer culture in Davenport is nurtured through organizations like QC Pride, which hosts an annual Pride Festival and organizes community events that highlight local queer artists and performers.
Homes in Davenport are some of the most affordable on our list, with a median list price of $213,500. Davenport also boasts a high quality of life, with a low average commute of just 18 minutes, a strong student-teacher ratio of 13:1, and a strong employment rate.
As a bustling metropolis known for its jazz heritage and mouthwatering barbecue, Kansas City is also home to a vibrant queer community. The LGBTQ+ scene thrives in Kansas City with diverse events like the Kansas City Pride Festival and the Gay Pride Parade, while LGBTQ+-friendly neighborhoods like Westport offer inclusive spaces and nightlife options.
Homes here spend a median of 50 days on the market, with a median list price of $247,500.
Located in the heart of South Dakota, Brookings is a welcoming college town with a developing queer community that embraces inclusivity and support. LGBTQ+ individuals in Brookings find solace through organizations like Spectrum, which provides a safe space for queer students at South Dakota State University and organizes events promoting acceptance and visibility.
Brookings has the third highest median list price on our list at $347,950. However, the low competition among buyers and high quality of life there, pushed Brookings to our number seven spot.
As the capital of Connecticut, Hartford combines a rich cultural heritage with a thriving queer community. LGBTQ+ individuals in Hartford find support through organizations like True Colors, which provides resources, support groups, and a vibrant annual LGBTQ+ youth conference that celebrates diversity and empowers queer youth.
Hartford boasts a growing LGBTQ+ community, estimated to be 4.6% of the population by the Williams’ Institute. Homes here cost an average of $141 per square foot, for a median list price of $209,900.
Situated along the Cedar River, Cedar Rapids is a culturally rich city that fosters a strong sense of community, including a growing LGBTQ+ presence. The queer culture in Cedar Rapids is nurtured through organizations like the LGBT Alliance of Eastern Iowa, which hosts events, support groups, and educational programs to create an inclusive environment for the community.
Homes in Cedar Rapids have a median list price of $199,950 but they spend just 42 days on the market, making Cedar Rapids one of the most competitive cities on our list.
Home to the University of Illinois, Champaign is a lively college town with a thriving queer community that benefits from the city's progressive mindset. The LGBTQ+ scene in Champaign is bolstered by organizations like the UP Center, which offers support services, educational programs, and community events, including the annual CU Pride Festival.
Homes in Champaign are among the most affordable on our list, selling for a median of $213,200, but they sell fast, spending a median of just 48 days on the market.
Known for its thriving arts scene and beautiful lakes, Minneapolis is home to a strong and progressive queer community. LGBTQ+ individuals in Minneapolis can engage with organizations like OutFront Minnesota, which advocates for LGBTQ+ rights and organizes events like Twin Cities Pride, fostering a vibrant and inclusive atmosphere.
Minneapolis has the highest employment rate on our list and scored a bonus point for its high LGBTQ+ population.
Home to West Virginia University, Morgantown is a welcoming city nestled in the scenic Appalachian Mountains and features a supportive queer community. The LGBTQ+ scene in Morgantown thrives through organizations like the LGBTQ+ Center, which provides resources, support groups, and social events, including Morgantown Pride, an annual celebration of queer culture and visibility.
Homes here are among the most expensive on our list, with a median list price of $315,000 — the fifth highest.
As a lively college town and home to the University of Iowa, Iowa City fosters a progressive environment and a vibrant LGBTQ+ community. The queer culture in Iowa City is celebrated through events like Iowa City Pride, organized by Iowa City Pride, and through LGBTQ+-friendly establishments like Studio 13 and The James Gang.
But competition can be stiff here compared to the other cities on our list. Homes sell in just 45 days, for an average list price of $342,000.
Located on the shores of Lake Erie, Erie is a charming city with a rich maritime history and a growing LGBTQ+ community. The queer culture in Erie is supported by organizations like the Greater Erie Alliance for Equality, which hosts events like Pride Erie and advocates for LGBTQ+ rights, fostering a sense of acceptance and visibility.
Homes in Erie list for $157,225 with an average price per square foot of just $130.
Dropping seven spots from our 2022 rankings, Philadelphia still ranks as one of the best under-the-radar cities for LGBTQ+ homebuyers. Homes there list for a median of $257,500 with an average price per square foot of $200. Commute times are longer there, averaging around 33 minutes, and employment is just 57%. But Philadelphia has one of the highest LGBTQ+ populations on our list at 4.2%, which pushed it to our number 15 spot.
Known as the birthplace of American democracy, Philadelphia is a vibrant and historic city that offers a rich blend of cultural attractions, iconic landmarks, and a thriving queer community. The city's LGBTQ+ culture is deeply rooted and celebrated, with the annual Philadelphia Pride Parade and Festival drawing thousands of attendees from all walks of life. In the renowned "Gayborhood" in Center City, LGBTQ+-owned businesses, bars, and clubs create a lively and inclusive atmosphere. Additionally, organizations like the William Way LGBT Community Center provide resources, support groups, and events that cater to the diverse needs of the queer community.
Nestled in the stunning Alaskan wilderness, Juneau is a unique city known for its natural beauty and close-knit queer community. LGBTQ+ residents of Juneau have a welcoming space in the Southeast Alaska LGBTQ+ Alliance, which hosts events, provides resources, and advocates for LGBTQ+ rights, creating a sense of unity and belonging.
Juneau has the least competition out of all the cities on our list —with homes spending a median of 72 days on the market — but the highest list price at $418,900.
A vibrant and culturally diverse city, San Antonio boasts a lively LGBTQ+ scene that celebrates both its Texan and Mexican heritage. The queer culture in San Antonio is showcased through events like Pride San Antonio, the city's largest LGBTQ+ celebration, while establishments like the Bonham Exchange and Heat Nightclub provide inclusive spaces for the community.
Up from #16, San Antonio climbed our rankings thanks to its continued affordability and high quality of life. Homes in San Antonio list for a median of $300,416 and spend 53 days on the market.
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Located along the Ohio and Erie Canal, Akron is a vibrant city with a growing queer community that embraces diversity and inclusivity. The queer culture in Akron is nurtured through organizations like the Akron Pride Initiative, which hosts events like Akron Pride Festival and creates safe spaces for LGBTQ+ individuals to connect and celebrate their identities.
Formerly our #3 city for LGBTQ+ homebuyers, Akron fell in our rankings due to relatively high competition among homebuyers — the second most competitive city on our list — and a middling quality of life,relative to our top 20. Still, LGBTQ+ homebuyers can find affordable housing here, with homes listing for a median of $119,000.
In the high desert of New Mexico, Albuquerque offers a culturally rich city with a unique blend of Native American, Hispanic, and Western influences. The city offers stunning natural landscapes, vibrant arts, and a welcoming queer community. LGBTQ+ culture thrives in Albuquerque, with events like the Albuquerque Pride Parade and PrideFest celebrating the community's diversity and providing a platform for advocacy and visibility.
Albuquerque has an estimated LGBTQ+ population of 4.4%, but some of the more expensive homes on our list. Houses here list for a median of $352,120 at $200 per square foot, and spend only 45 days on the market.
Situated in the heart of Kansas, Lawrence is a lively college town with a thriving queer community that adds vibrancy to the city's artistic and cultural landscape. The queer culture in Lawrence is supported by organizations like the Lawrence LGBTQ+ Pride, which hosts events, offers resources, and advocates for LGBTQ+ equality, fostering a sense of acceptance and visibility.
Lawrence boasts a high quality of life, with a student-teacher ratio of 13.5:1, an easy commute of just 19.5 minutes, and a strong employment rate of 68%. Homes sell in just 41 days for a median price of $371,175.
Here are all of the data points for our under-the-radar rankings. Including more specific data on household income differences between same-sex male, same-sex female, and opposite-sex married couples, as well as monthly housing costs.
Homebuying power is a measure of the mortgage a person can qualify for, as well as the type of home that mortgage can buy. For example, if you qualified for a $300,000 mortgage in 2019, you would have been within striking distance of purchasing a home for $313,000 — the median priced home at the time. However, if you qualified for that same mortgage today, a $436,800 home — the cost of a median priced home in 2023 so far — would be out of reach.
The record appreciation of homes in the past three years has greatly impacted homebuying power of first-time buyers, pricing many out of the market. However, these under-the-radar cities still offer affordability.
Want to know how much house you can afford? Use our mortgage calculator.
Household income greatly influences the type of financing someone qualifies for, and thus the kind of house they can afford. It follows that discrepancies across same-sex household incomes play a role in their homebuying power.
A 2019 study by the U.S. Census Bureau found that same-sex male married couples make significantly more than their opposite-sex and same-sex female counterparts — with the median household income being $123,600 for same-sex males, $95,720 for same-sex female married couples, and $96,930 for opposite-sex married couples. While same-sex female couples made the least, the discrepancy is not statistically significant compared to opposite-sex households.
The 2019 study by the U.S. Census Bureau did not offer any insight into differences across gender identity, effectively erasing these communities from important conversations about income equality and access to homeownership. More recent data shows little progress leveling the playing field for LGBTQ+ homebuyers, but it does offer a more nuanced picture of the LGBTQ+ community.
These cities offer LGBTQ+ homebuyers more buying power and inclusive municipal laws, policies, and services for the LGBTQ+ community. Here’s what we looked at:
If you’re thinking of buying a house, here are some steps to get you started.
Orchard’s proprietary under-the-radar score combines home sale data and quality of life factors. To find the top under-the-radar cities for LGBTQ+ homebuyers, we applied these metrics to more than 500 municipalities across the country.
Here’s what we looked at and how much it accounted for:
Winnie Ng contributed to data collection and analysis for this report.
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