The first-time home-buying experience is exciting, but stressful for most couples. Add to that finding a home in a gay-friendly area, selecting a realtor who fully respects you as a couple, and navigating the do’s and don’ts of ownership rights as a same-sex, unmarried couple, and you have the perfect storm for stress, anxiety, and exhaustion.
For couples like Luis Sabogal and Jonathan Parker, however, the home-buying experience can be an extremely pleasant experience, especially when paired with a hard-working and friendly LGBT Realtor like Caitlin Jones from Keller Williams.
OUTCOAST sat down with the duo to find out about how they met, what made their home buying experience successful, and what advice they have for future homebuyers.
How did you two meet and how long have you been together?
J: We have been together for a little over four years. We first connected through OKCupid when we were both living in Orlando, and broke the very first rule of online dating by having our first date at my apartment on Christmas Day 2013. I was working a crazy schedule at the time and it was my only free afternoon, but thankfully everything worked out! We got engaged a year ago and are getting married on May 12th.
Are you originally from the Tampa area, or new to the area? If new, where are you from and what brought you here?
L: Jonathan was born and raised in New Orleans and first came to Florida after high school to attend the University of Florida. I was born in Peru and moved to Florida with my family when I was three. I grew up mostly in Miami, and moved to Orlando to go to UCF. A job opportunity for me brought us to Tampa 2 years ago and we love it here.
You mentioned that this was your first home purchase. When did you decide to take the plunge to purchase a home now?
J: It’s definitely something that we had talked about for the better part of a year before we even met with a realtor. We felt ready to be homeowners, but were unsure of if we could afford the upfront costs at the same as we were planning for a wedding. I met Caitlin last November at the Trans Fashion Expo at Metro Wellness and really felt comfortable with her. After talking it over with Luis for a few days, we decided to set up a meeting. Caitlin was incredibly knowledgeable and showed us that it was possible to buy a home this year, even with everything we have going on, instead of waiting another year.
Is this your “forever home” or a starter home for you?
L: Starter home for sure. We are hoping to live in our townhouse for a few years and then begin renting it to start gaining some passive income.
How did you decide which realtor to use? Was it important to have an LGBT realtor?
L: We met several realtors when we were going to open houses by ourselves, and to be honest, they seemed annoyed when we would tell them we’re just looking and trying to gather information. Caitlin seemed genuinely excited to help us. While it wasn’t something that we were adamant about, it turned out to be a great advantage to us to have an LGBT realtor. At our first meeting Caitlin let us know how we would need to have our loan and deed set up to ensure we both had rights to our property, and didn’t have to pay a fee to get that taken care of after we were married.
Prior to meeting Caitlin, were you concerned in any way about looking for a home as an same-sex couple?
J: Honestly, not really. We have a pretty firm rule to avoid doing business with close minded people whenever possible, so we didn’t really have concerns that we would find the right team of people to be supportive of us.
Was Caitlin the first realtor you used, or did you have a realtor prior to her?
L: Caitlin was the first realtor we met with, and the best one for us. She was extremely knowledgeable and as first time home buyers we really wanted someone who could guide us through the process.
Why her? What qualities did Caitlin have that set her apart from other realtors you’ve met?
J: I would recommend her to anyone, but especially to first time buyers because 3 qualities she possesses: Attention to detail, Responsiveness and Relentless Positivity. Throughout the process she would remind us almost daily that at the end of all the stress we would have our home, and she proved her commitment to us getting there.
How did she go above and beyond to make you a satisfied client?
J: Caitlin clearly spelled out each of the steps that would go into the process and helped walk us through each step of the way. Each time there was an unexpected speed bump with paperwork, Caitlin was on the phone with a potential solution before I even had time to freak out and get nervous. She let us guide the process and never tried to push us toward options that weren’t the right fit for us.
How long did you look for your house before finding your home?
L: Only a few weeks. I think we looked about 6 or 7 houses with Caitlin before we found our home.
Where did you purchase? What was it about that area that appealed to you?
J: We bought in Carrollwood near the Veterans Expressway. Buying there shortened Luis’ commute to both work and school (he’s working on an MBA at USF) but honestly, the house mattered more than the location to us.
What about this house felt like home to you?
L: It’s hard to describe, but we both knew instantly. It was the only home we toured where the seller was present which makes things a little bit awkward. We were able to go tour the bedrooms without the seller and we looked at each other and said, “Yep. This is it.” We put in an offer the same day.
If you had to give advice to a new homebuyer, what would it be?
L: If you’re thinking about buying, don’t be afraid to talk to a realtor just because you aren’t 100% sure. They will help guide you through the process! Also, get ready to spend a lot more weekends at Home Depot!
Interested in purchasing a new home in the Tampa area? Contact Caitlin Jones for more information.