Discount Brokers: Should you list with one to sell your home?

As buyers hibernate for winter after a heated-up year for the real estate market, sellers search for ways to lower the prices of their homes. In an increasingly competitive environment, everyone wants discounts, and so-called “discount brokers” promise exactly that. But are they a viable alternative for you?

As the name implies, discount brokerage firms’ offer discounted prices, compared to their “conventional” competitors. Whereas all real estate brokers earn their fees through charging a commission, discount brokers will offer lower rates, in exchange for reduced services. But do the fees still represent a sufficient level of professional involvement? Each particular discount brokerage tries to set itself apart from the crowd by tailoring its services and fees in a unique way. The responsibility of the seller is to scrutinize the details of each listing contract and see what works best for them.

I had a seller once go so far as to obtain his real estate license to save money on his real estate commission… really? Can you imagine if you put that much effort into your own job? You’d probably get a raise equal to the commission savings – a raise that would last year after year! Don’t be so short sighted.

Here are a few features that discount brokers (who are also referred to by other names like “flat fee” brokers) often include in their repertoire of services. By understanding the features and what they entail, you should be able to sort out the whole concept and decide for yourself if a discount broker is appropriate to your circumstances.

1)   How much do they charge? Most will offer fees that are about 50% less than “conventional” listing agents, but you should still expect to pay a 2.5 to 3% buyer broker fee to any outside broker who brings a buyer to the table. Find out how that fee is calculated into your costs before you sign the listing agreement. Some brokers will charge a flat fee, instead of a percentage of the selling price. One broker we surveyed charges $1,800 (plus the 3% finder’s fee) regardless of how much the house sells for – be it $50,000 or $2.5 million.

2)   Marketing: Brokers will expose your home to potential buyers in a number of ways, primarily through a listing in the MLS database (a computerized listing service which is the main resource used by real estate professionals for buying and selling property), buying print-media advertisements, doing special promotions like Open Houses, and placing a “for sale” sign with their phone number on it in the yard.

If your broker doesn’t plan to list your home in the MLS and the multitude of viable and necessary avenues on-line, like,, etc. then you would be wise to look elsewhere, because you will lose almost all of the significant exposure to potential buyers by being excluded from one or all. On the other hand, if you are being added to the MLS, you should expect to pay as much as $500 and up for the service. When itemizing expenses paid to a listing agent, MLS inclusion is one of the more costly but worthwhile expenditures.

Print-media ads are sometimes effective, sometimes not. It depends on the particular market you are in, and the specific placement and distribution of the advertisement. Many sellers choose to handle this kind of exposure themselves, with some minimal guidance from their Realtor. And in some markets where print ads are less effective, sellers often decide to skip the expense altogether, and concentrate on other methods. The one things that is critical are professional photos! Over 70% all home searches begin on-line – make sure your photos shine!

Open Houses can be a good way to attract customers, and some discount brokers will agree to host them, but they may charge extra for that service. It is reasonable to pay anywhere from $150-$500 to have your Realtor do an Open House, and if you ask them to explain the expenses involved in the process, they should be happy to show you everything that such a promotion entails.

A sign in the yard with their phone number on it, instead of yours, means two things: First, the Realtor will get free advertising for his or her own business. Second, and most important to you, the random calls from “window-shoppers” as well as serious calls from qualified buyers and their agents will go to your Realtor. You won’t be interrupted during dinner or caught off guard without answers, and you won’t miss calls because you were away from your phone.

3)   Handling the showings, the contract negotiations, and the details of closing the sale:     

If you find a discount-fee broker who is willing to handle all the calls, book the appointments, conduct the tours of your property, negotiate the contract on your behalf, and take care of the numerous and often complicated details between the contract and the closing, you will have found a valuable broker and will likely get more than your money’s worth. Conversely, many brokers who offer discounts will not perform those various services, so in that case the maxim “you get what you pay for” holds especially true. For instance, you may save money on the commission but wind up doing all your own property showings, appointments, and price negotiations. This can cost you not only valuable time, but thousands in potential loss revenue.

Interview both kinds of brokers and then weigh the pros and cons for yourself and make an informed choice. To connect with a qualified traditional broker, visit the real estate professionals at They are committed to excellent service to our LGBTQ community.

Jeff Hammerberg is the Founding/CEO of – serving our LGBTQ community for over 25 years!

5 Keys to Buying Rental Property with Friends

Buying rental property with your friends is a business deal and, as with any business deal, there are issues that should be considered before taking that step. Below are 5 keys to buying rental property with friends.

1.         Be sure that your friends can be relied on. Entering into a partnership with friends who are not dependable or do not follow through with promises may not be your best choice for purchasing a rental home with.

2.         Discuss how much you can collectively afford to spend on a rental property and what each friend’s contribution will be. You should also decide how you will hold ownership of the rental property. Generally, when friends buy property together, they hold ownership by tenancy in common. This means that each owner has an equal right to the property and can sell his interest without the other owner’s approval.

Any number of individuals may own different percentages in one piece of property under this type of ownership. For example, you own 25 percent, a friend owns 25 percent and another friend owns 50 percent. Generally, the percentage of ownership is decided by how much each person has invested to purchase the property.

3.         Create a written partnership agreement outlining the details of ownership and how future transfers of ownership will be handled. For example, if one friend decides to sell, the other partners have the first right of refusal. The agreement should also spell out the financial obligations of each friend and what will happen if one friend stops meeting his financial obligations.

Other details to consider include who will be responsible for ensuring rent is collected and that the mortgage, insurance, taxes and maintenance are paid for? Who will be responsible for maintenance and repairs? It would also be wise to include a procedure for resolving disputes. For example, by unanimous vote or by a majority of the vote.

4.         Consider forming a limited liability company, LLC. Purchasing rental property as an entity rather than an individual can help protect the owner’s personal assets. Each friend will become a shareholder, but you will not be personally liable in the event that the owners, you and your friends, of the rental property are sued. LLCs have the ability under law to conduct business including purchasing, owning and conveying real estate, the power to make contracts, and to borrow money when necessary.

5.         Make sure the rental home is a good investment! A top producing LGBTQ real estate agent at will help you find an investment property, analyze the numbers and represent you with your negotiations, inspections and purchase of the property.

The advice contained in this article is for informational purposes only. It would be wise to seek the advice of a real estate attorney and CPA to assist you with the legal aspects of buying rental property with friends.

Jeff Hammerberg Founding/CEO |

4 Mistakes Same Sex First Time Home Buyers Make

Owning your first home together is an exciting dream that can come true with a minimum of stress if you prepare before you begin your search. Many people, including same sex couples, make the mistake of jumping right into the search for their perfect home and then end up stressed out and exasperated with the unknown. Following are the top five mistakes first time same sex home buyers make.

1.         Not Getting Pre-approval from a Mortgage Company

Getting pre-approved for a mortgage is not a requirement for writing an offer on a home, but it can put you in a better position for having your offer accepted over a bidder who does not have preapproval. In addition, since you will know how much the mortgage company is willing to lend you for the purchase of a home, you will not waste your time, or the professional you’ll be working with by making offers on homes that you cannot afford.

2.         Not Fully Understanding and Budgeting For the True Cost of Homeownership

A general rule of thumb is to budget one-third of your income to housing costs. While many assume that budgeting for a monthly mortgage payment is enough, that is not the case. Other costs that must be factored in include property taxes, homeowners insurance, utilities and property maintenance (mowing, painting, trimming, repairs and replacements). While maintenance is difficult to estimate, you should commit to saving a small amount of money each month that is dedicated to unexpected purchases. For example, your furnace or hot water heater breaks down and you need to have it repaired or replaced. While you could call the landlord if you were renting and problems arose, you will be required to correct any problems with your new home on your own.

3.         Not Understanding Fluctuating Real Estate Markets

Real Estate, even today, has made more millionaires than any other investment – but we must always understand that real estate fluctuates up and down depending on the state of the general economy. Be very careful if you’re purchasing a home today expecting to stay and year or two and sell for a profit! The real estate crash of 2008 left many individuals that were “playing the market” in bankruptcy… this isn’t Monopoly.

4.         Not Hiring The Right Real Estate Professional

While some people are savvy enough to stumble through the purchase of a home themselves, most are not. There are many aspects to purchasing a home including offers and negotiations, inspections, appraisals, multiple deadlines, closings, etc. that are best left to the professionals. A third party professional negotiating on your behalf could potentially save you thousands of dollars. A Top LGBTQ real estate agent can assist you with every step in purchasing your new home. You can also search for real estate professionals through online services such as, a company serving the LGBTQ community for over 25 years. Hiring a real estate agent based upon a 5 minute visit at an Open House is not that way to find an agent that will stand in full support of you – it’s important to know the person representing your best interests in what may be the largest purchase of your life, also stands in full support of the person you are and the life you live!

Purchasing a home is a major event in your lives. If you take steps to prepare, you will endure less stress and will have more time to enjoy the search to find your dream home. connects buyers and sellers with trustworthy gay, lesbian and gay-friendly real estate agents to remove potential discrimination from all real estate transactions. The team maintains personal connections with reliable agents to ensure their clients are treated equitably and with respect. All agents are interviewed and investigated extensively and many have retained partnerships with for decades. With more than 25 years of experience, focuses on establishing reliable real estate connections with professionals who understand the unique needs and desires of the LGBTQ community.

For more information, visit:

The Best Gay Neighborhoods in Austin, Texas

Thinking about moving to Austin, Texas? It’s one of the South’s most progressive cities; in fact, it may be one of the most LGBT-friendly cities in the entire country. A lot of people who want to remain in Texas or the Southern part of the U.S. move to Austin because it is so welcoming. As with many LGBT people, you might ask your gay or lesbian real estate agent if the city has any gay neighborhoods. Some would say that all of Austin is a gay neighborhood, but there are some specific areas that tend to attract members of the LGBT community. Here are a few of these neighborhoods.

The Best Gay Neighborhoods in AustinEast Austin. Close to downtown, East Austin in an up and coming neighborhood that has recently risen to the top of this list. A number of new restaurants, clubs, and bars have opened in East Austin since its revitalization. While there are houses and condos for sale in the area, note that because of its increasing popularity, prices are going up.

Clarksville. An historic neighborhood, this area is near 6th Strete, one of Austin’s most famous entertainment districts. It has a very small town village feel to it, so it’s great for those who want to live in a large city, but yet don’t like the atmosphere that comes with that. You’ll find unique restaurants, boutiques, and other small shops here. As with East Austin, home prices may be a little higher than you’d like, but it’s because many of the houses are well-maintained historic homes.

The Downtown Area. Downtown Austin has a certain appeal to it, just like the downtown areas of any large city. Austin’s downtown is expanding and is now home to many restaurants, businesses, and outdoor areas. There’s always something going on here, and many LGBT men and women have decided to move into some of the new downtown housing so they don’t miss a minute of it.

Mueller. This area is actually fairly new—in 2005, the old airport was demolished and transformed into a neighborhood. The homes and buildings here were intentionally designed in the classic style so you’d never know the area was less than 20 years old. Mueller is only a few minutes from downtown, too.

Westlake. Set between the center of the city and the fringe area, Westlake has some of the biggest houses in the city. The school system is also often voted as the best in the city, making this neighborhood a draw for LGBT parents.

Top Austin Real Estate Agents

My Partner and I Purchased a Property That Includes an Easement, What Does That Mean?

Easements allow someone other than the owner of a property to use it for a limited purchase such as a right of way, right of entry or right to water. For example, your neighbor has a landlocked property that, without an easement to drive through your property, he or she would be unable to use it because there would be no way to access a public right of way. Landlocked means that the property is completely surrounded by land or water that is owned by other people or businesses. In legal terms, the dominant property is the land that benefits from the easement, and the servient property is the land that is burdened with the easement.

Types of Easements

imagesThere are two types of easements, affirmative and negative. Affirmative easements give the holder the right to do something, such as travel on a road or path through your land. This type of easement is called an appurtenant and is attached to the land. This means that when the property is sold, the easement transfers with it. Negative easements prevent the owner from doing something, such as erecting a building that obstructs a view or obscures light. For example, your neighbor has solar panels installed and erecting a building on your land would obstruct the sunlight.

What Rights Does an Easement Give to the Holder

In general, easements do not give the holder of the easement rights to exclusive possession and he or she cannot improve or take from the land and cannot sell it. The holder can only use the easement in the manner specified in the agreement. The owner is normally free to use the property as he or she sees fit, but cannot impair the rights of the holder to use it. You should review the written easement agreement to find out what your obligations to the holder actually are.

If you do not know the purpose of the easement, you can review the legal description given in the title to your home to find out if it notes that there is a legal easement. If so, it should note a reference number that may include a book and page number. You can then go to your county clerk who can locate the document based on the reference number and make a copy for you. It would be wise to get a copy since you could be liable for damages if you unknowingly interfere with the holder’s easement rights.

What if an Easement Agreement Has Not Been Recorded?

If a surveyor labeled an easement, but there is no agreement on record, your title would have more than likely listed it on your title policy and noted that it is not covered under your insurance. This means that is, at some future date, someone decides to claim the right to use the easement, the title insurance company would not pay the costs involved to have the issue resolved.

There are other forms of easements and the laws related to them vary by state. For purposes of this article, we have only covered easements that transfer with the property when it is sold. If a home you would like to purchase notes that there is an easement, you may ask your real estate agent to obtain the information related to it for you.

If you are interested in purchasing a home, one of the best places to find an experienced and knowledgeable LGBT real estate agent is by conducting a search on They have taken care of the legwork required to find a real estate agent that understands the needs of the LGBT community. For more information on finding a real estate agent, see our article Choosing the Best Realtor.

Living LGBT in Oklahoma

If you’re considering a move to Oklahoma, you may be very afraid about what you’ll find.  While the stereotypical image of Oklahoma is of horse-drawn wagons, teepees, buffalo herds, and dry, red dirt, many people are surprised by the state’s two largest cities, Oklahoma City and Tulsa.  Skyscrapers dominate the downtown areas of both cities, and Oklahoma has become a surprising leader in space research and renewable energy.  But one area in which the state does live up to its stereotypical image is in its very conservative, anti-LGBT stance.

Living LGBT in Oklahoma May Not Be as Daunting as Many People ThinkOklahoma passed a same-sex marriage ban on November 2, 2004.  The ban was in effect for almost ten years.  The ban was challenged and found unconstitutional in a district court, a ruling that was upheld by the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals.  On October 6, 2014, the ban was officially overturned following the Supreme Court’s decision not to hear an appeal to the Tenth Circuit’s ruling.  However, Oklahoma still has no protection for LGBT employees.  The Cimarron Alliance is just one of a few LGBT groups that continue to fight for equality in the state.

Despite this, there is actually a good sized gay community in the state, the majority of which live in Tulsa or Oklahoma City.  Oklahoma City has a gay district, in fact, that is centered around 39thstreet.  The annual Pride Parade marches through the area, and there are several gay and lesbian bars, clubs, and LGBT-owned businesses in the area.  The historic Mesta Park area, which is located near downtown Oklahoma City, is another gay-friendly community.  Many LGBT students attend Oklahoma City University and live in the surrounding neighborhoods, which include Mesta Park, the Gatewood District, and the Paseo District (one of the main arts districts of the city).

In Tulsa, there are two neighborhoods where LGBT people tend to gather.  The first is Brady Heights, which is often called Tulsa’s gayest neighborhood.  This area is near downtown and is conveniently located near a few universities, highways, and popular entertainment and shopping areas.  This diverse neighborhood is fairly affordable, too.

The Florence Park area is also very LGBT-friendly.  It’s also located near the downtown area, and it’s full of older homes that have a lot of charm and class to them.  There are a number of small shops, bistros, and restaurants near the area plus a few major grocery stores, so Florence Park has just about everyone one would need.

The cost of living in Oklahoma is fairly low, and the state wasn’t hit as hard by the recent recession as many areas were.  As a result, its economy is still fairly strong and hasn’t had to go through quite as big of a rebuilding period.  The housing market is also fairly strong, and there are a number of gay and lesbian relators in the state who can help you find the perfect home.

Surprisingly Welcoming Cities

Some cities are known for welcoming LGBT people—San Francisco, Portland, and New York City are all very open places to live.  Gay and lesbian real estate agents have no problems finding their clients great homes there.  But then there are some cities that aren’t so welcoming.  It can be difficult to even find a LGBT-friendly realtor in those areas!  Some cities, however, might surprise you.  People would expect them to not be the most gay-friendly places to live, but they actually are.

More and More Cities Across the US Are Opening Their Arms to the LGBT CommunityOne of these cities is Dallas, Texas.  Texas is the home of the Bush family and former Republican Governor Rick Perry, people who aren’t exactly supportive of gay rights.  However, Dallas is a pocket of liberalness in a very red state.  The city has some anti-discrimination laws on the books, plus a number of gay bars, clubs, and other businesses.  It’s also home to the Cathedral of Hope, the largest LGBT church in the world.  San Antonio and Houston are also fairly open-minded cities in the Lone Star State.

Louisville and Lexington, Kentucky, are also unexpectedly LGBT-friendly.  The gay community in these two cities is very public about who they are, and most people accept that.  They’re one of the most open cities in the South.  The Lexington Pride Festival is a major event, and June 29, 2013, was even proclaimed Pride Day by Mayor Jim Gray, the first openly gay man to be elected to the office.

Another Southern city on this list is Atlanta, Georgia.  The city has a long history with LGBT culture and is actually the third-largest gay population in the country with 12.8 percent of its residents identifying as LGBT.  The city has an amazing annual pride parade, plus a good number of LGBT business owners call Atlanta home.  The downtown area is gay-friendly, as are a number of nearby suburbs.

North Carolina has passed a number of discriminatory pieces of legislation recently, and there is a debate going on regarding constitutional amendments that would ban same-sex marriage forever.  Many gays and lesbians would do just about anything to avoid moving there, but if you have to, the western part of the state is much more welcoming.  Asheville, Boone, and other parts of the state around the mountains are both very beautiful and surprisingly liberal.  Asheville is especially diverse because it’s a very artistic area full of many different types of people.

New LGBT Senior Homes Open in Various U.S. Cities

During most people’s lives, they may rent several apartments or houses and eventually buy a home.  Some might even buy and sell several homes in their lifetimes with the help of a good realtor.  However, everyone eventually becomes too old to maintain a home, and some make the choice to move into an elderly community.  But for years, it was difficult for members of the LGBT community to find a welcoming senior citizen home.  Some would simply outright reject older gay or lesbian people who wanted to move into these homes.  Some would find they were ostracized by the other residents or had to hide their sexuality.

There is a Growing Need for LGBT Retirement Communities Across the USAccording to polls, services that assist the elderly, including housing services, are actually slower in accepting the LGBT community than others have been.  This means that while there are a number of gay and lesbian realtors out there ready to help people find homes, it’s harder for the elderly to find care centers.

Today, though, a new trend has appeared: LGBT-friendly elderly housing communities are popping up across the country.  Many of the people who have elected to move into these communities say they feel very welcomed and that the community feels like home.  They love being around others who have shared some of their experiences and understand how they feel.  They also say it’s nice to be able to be open about who they are and not fear alienating others because they let something slip about their orientation.

One of the biggest of these LGBT elderly communities is called Town Hall.  This community is located in Chicago and promotes itself as a LGBT-friendly housing development.  The people who created Town Hall also understand that the elderly are often on a very fixed income, and they offer the community’s one-bedroom apartments and studios for an affordable price.  When the community opened, they had 79 apartments for rent.  They received over 400 applicants.

The Town Hall isn’t the only elderly LGBT community to open.  Similar developments have popped up in Philadelphia and Minneapolis.  These two communities opened in late 2013, and like Town Hall, both had many more applicants than apartments.  Other communities are planned for Los Angeles and San Francisco.  All of these developments are aimed at LGBT people who are no longer able to live alone, but don’t have the money to afford the often-expensive assisted living communities.

The U.S. has Some of the Best LGBT Travel Destinations in the World

There are a lot of different LGBT-friendly cities around the world.  Amsterdam, Barcelona, London, and Paris all welcome gays and lesbians from around the world.  Then there are famous islands like Lesbos and Mykonos, two major LGBT vacation destinations.  But what about the U.S.?  While we may be slow in the gay rights area, there are several cities that have become major gay destinations.  Surprisingly, these aren’t always the cities in which the most gays or lesbians live in.  You won’t find Seattle on this list, for example, even though it has a huge percentage of LGBT households.

San Francisco

Traveling the World for the Top LGBT Destinations Has Never Been EasierThe tales of San Francisco have gone global, and it’s no wonder that many people want to visit the City by the Bay.  It’s famous Castro District may no longer be the biggest LGBT area in the U.S., but it’s still a major player.  There are many different gay bars, restaurants, clubs, and other businesses in the area, plus San Francisco’s pride festival is still a must-see.  San Francisco is home to a large number of gays and lesbians, of course, but many more visit every year.

New York

While San Francisco may have the reputation, it’s New York that has the LGBT history.  The famous Stonewall Riots took place here, making the city the birthplace of the gay rights movement in the U.S.  Chelsea, Greenwich Village, and other areas of the city are home to many LGBT people.  But gays and lesbians make up just a small number of travelers who come to the Big Apple every year—the city is one of the top travel destinations in the world for people of all orientations.

Los Angeles

The home of Hollywood is also a major LGBT tourist destination.  West Hollywood, in fact, is practically a gay city.  There are a lot of gay-friendly parts of LA, including a number of amazing beaches and other outdoor areas.  There are some pretty big LGBT events in the city, too, although it can be difficult to know where the hottest event, club, or restaurant is because they change so frequently.


Miami, Florida, is another awesome tourist destination for LGBT people from around the world.  The gorgeous beaches, the great weather, and the nightlife are all amazing draws.  During March, the city and the surrounding areas become full of college students, both straight and gay, on spring break.  This is definitely a party town, and while it’s not to everyone’s taste, those who love what Miami is all about are sure to enjoy themselves.

5 Ways for Same Sex Couples to Prepare to Own Their First Home

Many same sex couples make the mistake of not preparing before purchasing their first home. The result is unexpected delays and disappointments. Following are five ways for same sex couples to prepare to own their first home.

images1. Calculate the Cost of Owning a Home

The first step is to determine how much home you can afford. You can do this by applying for preapproval from a mortgage lender. Before applying, it would be wise to obtain a copy of your credit report from one of the major reporting agencies and checking to be sure that is no inaccurate information included. If there are inaccuracies, contact the reporting agency to have it corrected before applying for preapproval. Note that the major credit reporting agencies are required under the Federal Fair Credit Reporting Act to provide individuals a free copy of their report once per year.

2. Open a Savings Account

While you are searching for your home, it would be wise to save, or add to your savings, the money needed for your down payment and for necessities that you will need once you move in. Necessities may include a lawn mower, new furniture or other items that you would like to personalize the home. You will also want to save some funds to pay for emergency repairs that may occur once you move in. For example, the furnace may go out or your roof may start leaking. It is important to have the funds on hand for those types of repairs should they arise.

3. Organize Your Financial Information

Before applying for preapproval for a home mortgage, you should make sure that you have all of the documents at hand that may be needed. Generally, lenders require your previous year tax returns, statements from your savings and other accounts, and your latest pay stubs. Organize those documents and take them, and any other documents the lender you choose might require, with you when you go to apply.

4. Understand Mortgage Loans

There are a number of options available to low and moderate income buyers to obtain a mortgage, including conventional, Federal Housing Administration (FHA) and Veterans Administration (VA).

Conventional mortgages are those that are not guaranteed by a government agency. These types of loans generally require more money down and somewhat strict credit requirements.

FHA guarantees loans from qualified lenders resulting in more flexible lending practices and lower interest rates.

VA loans are guaranteed by the Veterans Administration and obtained through qualified lenders. These loans do not require a down payment, but do require a funding fee of approximately one to three percent of the loan amount. VA loans are available to service members and veterans, spouses and other eligible beneficiaries.

Note that the above is a sampling and are not the only mortgage options available.

5. Develop a Perfect Home List

Make a list of the type of home that you would like to purchase and what it should include. For example, would you prefer a ranch, Cape Cod or an old farmhouse? Would you prefer that it has a garage, a small lot or acreage or a specific type of location? Once you have made your list, you should prioritize it. List the things that you must have at the top of the list. It is unlikely that you will find a home that has everything on your list so you should be prepared to be flexible. If you find the perfect home but it does not have some aspect that you wish, perhaps it is something that you can add once you move in or you may determine that it is not that important considering the other benefits of the home.

Once you are prepared, it would be wise to seek the assistance of an LGBT real estate agent at He or she will have the expertise to guide you through the home buying process and answer any questions that you may have.