Des res takes on a pink tinge as estate agents spot a sale

Building developers and estate agents are increasingly targeting the gay community as a potential market for new and renovated homes.

Around the country building firms are advertising houses and flats in the gay press and at gay events in an effort to increase sales.

In select parts of central London such as Covent Garden, where homosexuals can form up to half the residential population, the trend is going one step further, with some offices and homes being developed specifically to appeal to the gay community.

At one Covent Garden estate agent a spokeswoman said flats were being built with more style and features, and at higher cost than normal to reflect what is perceived as the both the higher artistic expectations and larger spending power of wealthy gay professionals.

The spokeswoman said: "Developers are paying attention to providing clean lines, extra space, wooden floors, nickel taps and that kind of thing. A lot of gays who live around here are very successful, working in the City, or the media, and have the money and the taste to pay for it." She added: "Their homes are making a statement to visitor."

Developers have also built offices in nearby Soho which are advertised as "gay-friendly", she said.

Tim Mulligan, director of Bridge estate agents, who handle developments in London's Shoreditch area, said they marketed in the gay press as an additional marketing tool to sell properties such as loft apartments.

"It's not solely about having gay people in the properties - they are open to anyone. But we are trying to please them and satisfy their needs. It's more about location than anything else." Homebuilders Bellway advertise at the annual Mardi Gras gay festival in Manchester but stressed this is simply part of their policy to market their homes as widely as possible.

"There are a number of other companies - Bellway is one of them having a sales office there."

Paul Clements, editor of The Pink Paper, Britain's largest gay paper, which carries adverts for housing in its pages, said the move was another step towards the integration of the community.

"I absolutely support the way that gays are having houses marketed for them."

Peter Tatchell, of gay-rights campaigners OutRage!, said the trend reflected the perception that many lesbian and gay people with no children had high disposable incomes, but warned that it only concerned a section of the community.

"This is a solution for well-off middle-class professional gay people but it does nothing to remedy the intimidation experienced by less well- off homosexuals living in run-down inner city housing estates."

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