The Many Ways to Hold a Title

When you purchase a home, the actual piece of paper that says you own that property and everything on it is the deed.  Without the deed, or without clear title to the land, it’s possible someone else can make a claim on your property, which is why you’ll most likely see something called title insurance on your closing paperwork.  This basically says anyone else’s claim to the land is null and void.

Title OwnershipThere are four main different ways you can hold title to a property.  Note that this can differ from state to state, so there may be other ways of actually owning your property.  However, these three different methods are the most common.

The first is the simplest: sole ownership of the property.  If you’re unmarried or if for whatever reason you decide to take title solely in your name, this is the form of ownership you will take.  There may be several reasons to do this, but there are also several downsides.  The spouse will need to sign a quitclaim deed that states he or she gives up all claims to owning the property, and the property may end up in probate court when the owner dies.

Generally, when a married couple (or two or more unmarried people) purchases a home, they do so as joint tenants.  This means they hold an equal share in the property.  When one tenant dies, that person’s share is divided among the other tenants.  There are usually stipulations about how one person can sell his or her portion of the property.

Tenants in Common is similar but slightly different.  Often, this is the method used by two or more people who are not married.  Tenants do not need to hold an equal share in the property, and each tenant can sell his or her share at any time to anyone.

Finally, a property title can be held via tenancy by the entirety.  This is an interesting method of allowing a married couple to hold a property as a sole ownership.  It holds forth the idea that a married couple is legally one entity.  When one spouse dies, the other receives sole ownership of the property.  No probate or will is necessary or will be recognized, which means one spouse cannot will any portion of the home to anyone else.  If the couple divorces, they automatically become tenants in common.

If you’re uncertain which form of ownership is best for you, discuss it with your gay realtor.

Prejudice or Harassment Against LGBT During the Real Estate Process

Unfortunately, there are real estate agents, lenders and others involved in the process of purchasing a home that may discriminate against you because you are gay or lesbian. Some examples include agents charging you a higher commission, or refusing to allow you to make an offer on a particular home that you are interested in, possibly steering you away from certain neighborhoods, and/or inflating the asking prices of homes. Mortgage lenders may discriminate by refusing to give you a loan, or charging higher interest rates than it would heterosexual people with comparable credit ratings.

LGBT DiscriminationHousing laws have been enacted in some states, counties and cities that prohibit discrimination due to sexual orientation or identity in most aspects of buying a home. To determine whether your state has enacted anti-discrimination laws to protect LGBT, you should contact your local human rights enforcement agency. If your state has enacted laws against LGBT discrimination, the human rights agency can inform you of the procedure to file a complaint against the person or agency that you feel has discriminated against you.

In those states that have no LGBT protections, filing a claim against a person or entity that you feel has discriminated against you may be difficult. It is possible that your claim could fall under another aspect of the federal and/or state discrimination laws. For example, your claim could be filed under the Federal Fair Housing Act, or the state Real Estate Commission, if you were discriminated against due to other reasons including race, color, national origin, sex, familial status or disability.

The federal government does not have laws that prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation or identity. The only federal protection was issued by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, HUD, in 2012 when they enacted a rule that dictated that owners and lenders of HUD-assisted housing are prohibited from discriminating based on sexual orientation or sexual identity.

If you feel that you have been discriminated against by a HUD-assisted owner or lender, you can contact HUD’s Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity for help at (800) 669-9777 or file a complaint online from HUD’s website. HUD also recommends that you contact your local HUD office for assistance.

An excellent way to help protect yourself against discrimination is to hire a local LGBT real estate agent from He/She knows the market and the lenders and other parties involved in real estate transactions and will represent you, and work to ensure that you are not discriminated against during the process of finding and buying your new home.

Gay Couples, Estate Issues and Real Estate

Gay couples that live in states that do not recognize same sex marriages have unique concerns when it comes to estate issues and real estate. Below are some legal avenues that you can use to protect your gay partner and ensure your assets are distributed according to your wishes.


Gay WillsWills are important estate planning documents that allow you to distribute your assets according to your wishes upon your death. If you do not create a will, your estate will be distributed according to the intestate laws of the state that you live in. This presents challenges for gay couples that are not married or in a legal partnership or who live in a state where same sex marriages and partnerships are not recognized. In those states, your gay partner cannot inherit your real estate unless they are listed on the deed as joint tenancy with right of survivorship, named in your will, or other estate planning measures have been taken.

With a will, you can name your partner or another person as an executor to manage your estate after you die, record how you want your assets distributed, and nominate a guardian for your children and to handle any assets that they may inherit from you. You can leave all or a portion of your estate, including your real property, to your gay partner through a will.

Revocable Living Trusts

Revocable living trusts are similar to wills but title to your assets is transferred into a trust while you are living. A living trust allows you to avoid probate, a drawn out process where the court oversees distribution of your estate. The trust is revocable, meaning that you can revoke it entirely or change the terms while you are alive and are mentally competent. It is legal for you to appoint yourself as the trustee of the trust during your lifetime so that you retain control over the power to sell, invest or do whatever you want with your assets.

A revocable living trust allows you to direct who will inherit your property and to name a successor trustee to fulfill the directives of the trust. Your gay partner could be named as the successor trustee and it would be his obligation to distribute your property as you directed. You can leave all or a portion of your real estate, bank accounts, jewelry and other assets to your partner.

Transfer on Death Deeds

Some states allow a transfer on death, TOD, real estate deed to be filed with the county registry of deeds. The TOD should state specifically that it only takes affect upon your death. You can name your gay partner or anyone else as the beneficiary on the TOD. It can be revoked at any time while you are alive. You should check the laws in your state to determine whether TOD’s are allowed if you are interested in this type of estate planning.

Each state has its own estate planning and real estate laws. It would be wise to consult with a professional gay realtor at for a referral to a real estate attorney who is familiar with LGBT issues when considering the options available to you and your gay partner.

Questions to Ask At An Open House

Going to an open house is a great way of seeing a property, but there’s more you can learn than just how large the house is.  In fact, some people go to open houses for properties they have absolutely no desire to own.  Why?  There are a number of facts they can learn about a neighborhood from going to an open house and asking the right questions.  Here are a few things you may want to ask the real estate agent.

Know Which Questions to AskWhy are the owners selling?  You’re most likely not going to get a straight answer on this one, although some agents may accidentally let it slip.  This is especially true if the house has sat on the market for a good length of time and the sellers really want to unload it.  However, if the reason is because of something with the property or its location, expect a dodgy answer.

Have there been any offers yet?  If you do want to buy the property, this will help you get an idea of any competition you might have.  You might also want to ask if the sellers have outright rejected them.  If they have, getting the agent to tell you why, will help when you put in your own bid.

What other costs are involved with the property?  This is important if you’re buying a condo or are looking at properties in planned communities.  Sometimes, there are things like association dues, extra taxes, or other expenses that aren’t listed upfront.  You may also want to ask about the homeowners association and what you specifically can’t do on the property.  Historic neighborhoods may also have rules regarding what can be done to homes.

Does the property have any liens against it?  You don’t want to find out that there’s a tax lien, construction lien, or other issue with the property after you’ve put in a bid.  Even something like unpaid homeowners association dues can lead to a lien, and even if those dues aren’t a lot, a lien is still a lien.

How long has the property been listed?  If the property has been on the market for six months or more, the sellers may be open to a lower offer.  Also ask if the price has been reduced and, if it was, when.

In addition to giving you insight about the property itself, these questions can also give you an idea of what the selling price of the neighborhood is like and if homes there tend to get snatched up quickly.

Exploring Forms of Home Co-ownership for LGBT Unmarried Couples

The forms of co-ownership available to unmarried LGBT couples include joint tenancy and tenancy in common. Note that while tenancy by the entirety is a common designation, it is only available to married couples. When you put both your names on a deed, you must designate the form of co-ownership that is best for both of you.

Gay Realtors Can HelpJoint tenancy automatically gives ownership of the property to the surviving partner when one of you dies. In some community property states including California, the term ‘with right of survivorship’ must be added to the joint tenancy designation to ensure that the parties intended the other party to inherit. The right of survivorship overrides any attempt to change ownership including a will. When one partner dies, there is no remaining interest to give to anyone else because all interest in the property automatically vests in the surviving partner. Both partners will have an undivided equal ownership, share equal rights to possession of the property and cannot finance or sell the property without both parties consent.

Tenancy in common property can be owned equally or with unequal shares of the home. For example, one partner could own 60 percent and the other partner 40 percent. Each partner will have the right to sell or will all or a percentage of his interest in the property to a third party. If one of the partner’s die without a will, his percentage in the property will be distributed according to intestate laws in the state of his residency.

If you own a home and decide to put your partners name on the deed, it should be kept in mind that by doing so, you are giving a gift of some percentage of the home to your partner. You will have no legal right to remove or force your partner to deed the property back to you. Adding your partner’s name to the deed could also trigger gift taxes, and could trigger the mortgage company to force you to refinance if there is a due on sale or transfer provision in the mortgage contract.

Before signing a co-ownership deed, it would be a good idea to prepare an agreement that details how expenses and ownership will be shared and what will happen to the home if you separate. While this may not seem important, if the relationship deteriorates, an agreement will help avoid major disputes.

Property laws vary between states. Always consult with a gay realtor from or speak with a real estate attorney.

Finding the Perfect Neighborhood

Many people will tell you not to buy a house until you find the perfect one.  You don’t want to make a commitment to a mortgage payment if it’s not for the home you really, really want.  But a lot of people, especially first time buyers, get so overwhelmed by looking at properties that they become paralyzed, unable to make a decision.  One of the first steps to helping these buyers narrow down their choices is to tell them to forget about finding the perfect house at first.  Instead, narrow it down to the perfect neighborhood.

Your Perfect NeighborhoodThere are a number of ways to go about doing this.  One way is to talk to your realtor about what you need.  He or she can suggest neighborhoods.  This is where having a gay or lesbian realtor can really help you since they will be able to tell you the best LGBT areas.  By working their way through your list of priorities, your realtor will be able to highlight neighborhoods that fit your needs.  These can include prices, the style of the house, and more.

Don’t forget about school zones.  Even if you don’t have children and aren’t planning on having any, schools will affect your housing options.  This is because houses in zones of top-ranked school systems are almost always more expensive than those served by schools that rank on the lower to middle range.  If you are thinking of having children sometime in the future, there’s more at stake here than just price.  You want to be sure you’re in a position to send your kids to the school you want.

Another factor that can increase a house’s cost is how close the property is to public transportation centers and even major highways.  Neighborhoods that don’t have easy access to bus stations or major thoroughfares may seem nice at first, but they can end up costing homeowners a lot more in gas.  This can also be a factor in selling the house.  If it’s off the beaten path, it may not appeal to as many people, especially commuters.

Is there a sales tax difference?  It might seem odd at first to think about a city having different rates, but often, large metro areas are made up of one large city that has grown into a number of smaller towns.  These towns may set their own sales tax rate, and it may be higher or lower than the surrounding areas.  You may be able to save a little bit with each purchase if you pay attention to this fact.

Dear Gay Realtor, My partner and I are getting married, do we need to do anything with the mortgage and home he owns individually?

You are not legally required to do anything with the mortgage and home that your partner owns when you get married. However, if legal arrangements are not made, you may not have a right to inherit the home if your spouse dies.

Dear Gay RealtorIf your name is not on the deed and no will has been made, his home will be inherited according to intestacy laws in the state that you live in. For example, since same sex marriages are not legal in Colorado, the spouse cannot inherit. In New Mexico, where same sex marriages are legal, New Mexico Statutes 45-2-102 dictates that the spouse will inherit his deceased spouse’s separate property if there are no surviving children and one fourth of the estate if there are surviving children.

If your spouse decides to add your name, he will need to file a quitclaim deed adding you as an owner of the property. When filing a quitclaim, you will need to decide how you would like to designate ownership. If you live in a state that has the designation, you could choose tenancy by the entirety. That designation gives equal ownership and transfers the ownership of the home to the surviving spouse when one of you dies.

Joint tenancy, or joint tenancy with right of survivorship in state’s that require that language, works in the same way as tenancy by the entirety. If you live in a state that requires the joint tenancy right of survivorship language and do not add it, you will own the property equally but you will not automatically inherit the home based on the deed.

The last option is tenants in common. That designation does not give right of survivorship. The deceased spouse’s half of the home will go to the person specified in his will or, if he had no will, according to the intestacy laws in the state where you live.

If you add your name to the deed but not the mortgage and your spouse dies, the mortgage holder may foreclose on the property if there are not enough funds in the estate to pay it off. Note that some mortgage holders include language in the mortgage contract that requires you to add your name to the mortgage before it can be added to the deed.

There are no legal requirements that a spouse be added to an existing mortgage other than what may be included in the mortgage contract. If you would like your name added, some mortgage companies may allow it and others may require that you refinance in both your names. If your name is added, you will both be liable for repayment of the mortgage.

The advantages and disadvantages of adding your name to your spouse’s existing house and mortgage should be evaluated before a decision is made. It would be wise to consult a real estate attorney who is experienced in LGBT law to find out what your options are and what would work best for your particular situation.

Top 5 Warm Climate Cities with the Friendliest LGBT Policies chose the top 5 warm climate cities with the friendliest LGBT policies in part on the cities that received high scores in the Human Rights Campaign 2013 Municipal Equality Index, MEI, 2013 report. HRC is the largest civil rights organization working for equal rights for LGBT Americans. Their ratings are based on factors including anti-discrimination laws and relationship recognition.

Our choice for the top 5 warm climate cities are San Diego, CA., Atlanta, GA., Austin, TX., Phoenix, AZ. and New Orleans, LA.

#1 San Diego, California

imagesSan Diego lies on the Pacific Ocean coast in Southern California close to the border of Mexico and has miles of ocean and bay shoreline, hills, valleys, mountains and desert. The climate is semi-arid with an average high of 77 degrees in the summer and 49 degrees in the winter. The weather tends to be humid during the summer months but is generally mild and sunny.

There is a large and active LGBT community in San Diego. Hillcrest is the city’s uptown gay village. It is a charming neighborhood that contains many supportive businesses and organizations including boutiques, cafés and shops. Numerous LGBT events are held throughout the year including an annual Pride parade.

Same Sex marriage is legal in the State of California.

#2 Atlanta, Georgia

Atlanta is located in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains in the North Central part of the state. The city is hilly and surrounded by forests. The climate is subtropical with average highs of 70 degrees and high humidity in the summer and 52 degrees in the winter.

Atlanta has a vibrant gay community that participates in local events including Pride festivals. Midtown is the cultural hub of gay life with art restaurants, galleries, theatres, nightclubs and lounges.

Georgia residents may enter into legal domestic partnerships through the domestic partnership registry program. The city government has policies in place and advocates protecting the rights of the LGBT community. A lawsuit was filed in April of 2014 challenging Georgia’s ban on same sex marriages and is currently pending in the court system. The lawsuit follows a string of successful cases filed in other states.

#3 Austin Texas

Austin is the capital of Texas and is located in Central Texas on the Colorado River. There are three manmade lakes within the city limits. The land varies from flat to rolling hills. Austin has a humid subtropical climate with temperatures averaging 98 degrees Fahrenheit in the summer and 42 degrees in the winter.

Austin has a large and diverse LGBT community spread throughout the city. There are many gay owned and gay friendly businesses in Austin along with LGBT sports teams and leagues. There are two Pride festivals held each year.

Austin is part of Travis County. The county maintains a registry of opposite and same sex domestic partnerships, even though the state does not recognize the agreements. In February 2014, a Federal judge ruled that the Texas ban on same sex marriages was unconstitutional. The state attorney general appealed that ruling and it is currently pending in the court system.

#4 Phoenix, Arizona

Phoenix is the capital of Arizona. It lies in the northeast section of the Sonoran Desert in a flat valley that is surrounded by mountains. The climate is subtropical desert with relatively low humidity. The average temperature is 85 degrees Fahrenheit in the summer and 67 degrees in the winter.

The LGBT community is spread out over the city. There are many LGBT friendly businesses including restaurants, shops, bars and nightclubs in the Melrose District of Central Phoenix and scattered throughout the valley. Phoenix hosts numerous LGBT events including the Pride and the Rainbows Festival.

Same sex marriage is not recognized in Arizona. A lawsuit was filed in January 2014 against the state seeking recognition of same sex marriages that is currently pending. Earlier in 2013, Phoenix passed an ordinance that expanded protections against discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity or disability in employment, public accommodations, housing and government contracts.

#5 New Orleans, Louisiana

New Orleans has a humid subtropical climate with average highs of 77 degrees during summer and 62 degrees in the winter. The city is bordered by waterfront on three sides and has numerous lakes, marshlands and bayous that expand out of the city.

New Orleans has had a well-established, vibrant gay community for decades that live throughout the city. Social life is mainly centered in the French Quarter and Faubourg Marigny. There are many gay friendly shops, restaurants featuring authentic Cajun food, theatres and museums as well as supportive groups and organizations such as The Community Coalition. Gay parades, festivals and events are held throughout the year.

Same sex marriage is not legal in Louisiana. The city of Atlanta does have a registry for opposite and same sex domestic partnerships, but the couples must both be residents of the city of one of them must work for city government. There are currently two lawsuits pending that seek to have same sex marriage in other states recognized by the state of Louisiana. To date, there are no lawsuits specifically seeking to overturn the ban on same sex marriages.