Five Things You Need to Know Before Buying a Second Home

Without question, buying your first home is a momentous occasion. It’s a huge milestone in most people’s lives. It’s exciting. It’s wonderful. And if we’re being honest, it can also be a little intimidating. After all there’s a lot to learn.

By the time you’re considering buying a second home, chances are that you’re at a different place in your life. You probably feel more prepared, more knowledgeable, and less anxious – and understandably so. Certainly, when you buy your second home, you’ll have the benefit of knowing the basics about home buying because you’ve already been through it at least once. Despite this, however, buying a second home is also a momentous and significant decision, and there are some factors you’ll want to be aware of, and be sure to consider thoroughly. 

At GayRealEstate.com, out top gay realtors have worked with countless clients looking to purchase a second home for one reason or another, and we have been honored to have the opportunity to help connect those clients with agents who have helped them find the second home of their dreams. In the course of doing that, here are five pieces of advice we’ve come to learn about making this exciting purchase:

  • Think Through Your Long-Term Needs and Goals: Spend some time to carefully think through what type of second home might best fit your needs and your lifestyle.  Are you looking for a home that you can visit as a quick weekend getaway? If so, purchasing a home within a days drive of your current residence might be a smart move. Or perhaps instead, you may be considering purchasing your second home as a retirement spot. If this is the case, really think through what you’ll want and appreciate in a home and in a location as you grow older. Are you purchasing the home as in investment, and planning to rent it to others throughout most of the year? If so, investigate the popularity of the area, and any rental requirements that may apply. Thinking things through in this way rather than simply making a spontaneous decision will pay off significantly in the long run.
  • Thoroughly Consider Extra Expenses: A second home is more than just another mortgage payment, and it’s important to keep that in mind when you consider making a purchase of this nature. It also means a second set of utility bills, budgeting for any additional maintenance or home repairs that will be necessary, potential homeowners association costs if the neighborhood has an HOA, and potentially a second insurance policy for your second home, depending upon the rules set forth by your insurer. Generally, in fact, second homes tend to be more costly to insure, particularly if they are going to be vacant for any prolonged period of time, or if they are in popular vacation destination areas which can be sometimes more prone to things like floods, hurricanes, or high winds. As a result, it can be wise to truly think through and lay out a detailed budget, taking into account not only the mortgage, insurance costs, and taxes on your second home, but also any other contingent expenses that you anticipate might arise. Doing so allows to you to be more realistic about whether you can truly afford a second home, and if so, what you might want to spend on it.
  • Understand any Renting Rules: Renting out your second home can be an excellent way to supplement your monthly mortgage payment, but it is important to realize that renting does come with its fair share of responsibilities. It means either hiring a qualified and capable property manager who can oversee the day-to-day rental needs, or being able and willing to take care of these matters capably and promptly on your own.  There are also important things to realize about renting from a tax perspective as well. Generally, you don’t have to pay taxes on rental income if you rent out your home for fewer than fifteen days a year.  If you rent the home for more than fifteen days a year, you do have to report the income on your taxes, but you will also be able to deduct expenses for maintenance and cleaning up to a certain amount. It’s also important to find out whether any rental rules exist in the community where you’re considering purchasing your second home. Some require a minimum rental time, and others have certain bylaws and other requirements that may apply. Be sure to be informed about these requirements before you make your purchasing decision.
  • Take Taxes into Account: Depending upon where you purchase your second home, property taxes might add a significant amount to your housing expenses.  This is not to mention the fact that all vacation homes are either classified by the IRS as a personal residence, or as a rental property. If you rent the home out more than 14 days per year, then it is classified as a rental property, and you won’t be able to claim the mortgage interest tax deduction that you would be able to claim on a personal residence. It’s also important to remember that you can only deduct interest paid on mortgages of $750,000 or less in total, on all of your homes.
  • Hire a Local Real Estate Agent: The truth of the matter is that no one will know and understand the area in which you’re interested in purchasing your second home like a resident of that area will.  The value of having an agent who is familiar with and knowledgeable about the community in which you want to purchase your second home in cannot be overstated. Nothing you can read online or in a book will substitute for this personalized assistance with your search for the perfect home. At GayRealEstate.com, we have access to the nation’s top gay real estate agents – agents who work in communities across the country, and who would be an excellent resource for your second home search.

Purchasing a second home is an exciting occasion – one that signals a wonderful new chapter of your future in a new place that you love. If you make that decision fully informed and aware of all the important factors that you should consider, chances are good that you’ll have many happy years ahead to enjoy the home you ultimately decide upon, and all that it has to offer. At GayRealEstate.com, we would be honored to have the opportunity to help you with the search for the second home of your dreams. Connect with a top gay realtor at our website, no cost or obligation plus, free buyers representation.

How Much Does It Cost to Sell My Home?

Selling a home is a big decision, and it’s one to which most people give a great deal of thought. After all, for many of us, our home is one of our most valuable assets. We want to think carefully and thoroughly about all aspects of the sale – not only about our list price, or the anticipated time it might take to sell the home, but also about the costs that might be associated with selling.

At GayRealEstate.com, we understand the importance of providing accurate information to help both buyers and sellers as they attempt to navigate the home buying and selling process. Some costs you might anticipate when selling your home include:

  • Repair Fees: As you prepare to sell your home, you will likely take a close look at what wonderful, appealing, and unique features your home has – features that you will want to highlight to potential buyers. On the other side of the coin, you might note things about your home that could use some improvement, or upgrading. Making the effort to invest some time and a reasonable amount of money in making those upgrades and repairs will enhance your home’s appeal, and likely increase its value as well. In addition, if a potential buyer’s home inspector identifies problems with the home (a damaged roof, or a crack in the foundation, for example), you may be asked to fix those issues in order to move forward with the agreed upon sale. Obviously, depending on the upgrades and repairs you decide upon, costs will vary, but it is always important to keep these things in mind as you budget for selling your home.
  • Home Staging: Some sellers make the choice to stage their homes, in order to assist potential buyers in envisioning what the home might look like after they move in. This can be particularly helpful in vacant homes, as stagers can use furniture to help buyers envision the possibilities that various rooms in the home might offer. Staging may not be a particularly significant expense when compared with others, but it is still one that is worth considering.
  • Mortgage Payoff: For those who still have outstanding mortgages on their homes, the proceeds of the home sale will be used to pay off the remainder of the mortgage. If the payoff amount of the mortgage is less than what you actually owe, you will need to consider that as one of your selling costs as well.
  • Real Estate Commission Fee: Of course, when selling a home, the real estate commission is usually the biggest fee that a seller will pay.  How much that commission is will of course vary by agent and circumstance. As a general baseline however, the standard real estate commission is typically somewhere between 6 and 7% of the ultimate sale price. While that is a general number, in reality, real estate commissions are almost always negotiable. 

One circumstance in which this might be the case is if you use the agent that will be listing your home for sale, to repurchase your replacement property. When you repurchase a property, your agent will be paid a commission from the home seller of the home you are buying, therefore they likely can save you money on the sale of your home.

  • Closing Costs and Additional Fees: Typically, when a home is sold, closing costs are the responsibility of the buyer – although in some cases, particularly if it is a buyer’s market, you may be asked to pay the closing fees as part of the offer on your home. For this reason, it is wise to plan ahead for this potential cost, as well as other costs like property taxes, attorney fees, transfer taxes, title insurance, and other costs associated with the sale of a home about which a knowledgeable and experienced agent should be able to advise you.

If you are considering selling your home, rest assured that at GayRealEstate.com, we understand that it is a very significant and important decision, and it is not one that you make lightly. It’s one for which you need the assistance of a qualified and experienced real estate agent – one who understands and appreciates your goals with respect to the sale of your home, and will work diligently toward representing your best interests. At GayRealEsate.com, our mission and our passion is to match LGBTQ buyers and sellers with agents who know the communities well, are expert negotiators, will price your home correctly, and who also understand the unique desires and needs of our community. We would consider it a privilege to have the opportunity to help you find an agent to help you with the sale of one of your most precious and valuable assets.  Connect with an agent today on-line at www.GayRealEstate.com or call us Toll Free at 1-888-420-MOVE (6683)

The 1031 Exchange : What You Should Know

At GayRealEstate.com, we are dedicated to helping members of the LGBTQ community with all of their real estate needs. We realize that each of our clients is unique, and each client has his or own story, goals, and real estate dreams. Many of our clients have made the decision not only to purchase personal homes, but also to purchase rental and investment properties, and it has been our privilege to pair those clients with agents who know their communities well and who can help them find the perfect properties to suit those needs.

Depreciation Deduction and Recapture

Many who own real estate investment properties are aware that the tax code allows a depreciation deduction for each year you own a rental property – and certainly, a deduction is something that most of us are happy about.  In fact, for many real estate investors, depreciation deductions can result in significant tax savings each year when it is time to report rental income to the IRS.

What many people don’t realize, however, is that when you go to sell the rental property, you must pay what is called “depreciation recapture”. Imagine this – you’ve owned, maintained, and successfully rented an investment property for several years. Over the years that you’ve owned the property, you’ve taken a depreciation deduction each year as you’re entitled to do, even better, the property has increased in value. When you sell it, you expect to realize a significant profit. Unfortunately, however, after you do so, you receive a tax bill and you’re hit with the sudden realization that most (or even all) of the profit you’ve made is going to taxes.

Essentially, the concept of depreciation recapture means that you have to report the gain you realize when you sell your investment property as ordinary income for tax purposes. While the concept can be somewhat complicated, in essence, it means that you all of the deductions you’ve taken over the years will be considered as taxable capital gains income when you sell. Depending on the number of years for which you’ve taken deductions, this can amount to a significant amount of taxable income.

The 1031 Exchange Option

If you’ve ever owned an investment property, you may be familiar with what’s known as a 1031 Exchange – and if you aren’t, it’s important information to learn. Also known as a tax-deferred exchange, a 1031 exchange often provides significant tax advantages to commercial and investment property owners.

This provision of the tax code allows real estate investors to sell a property, and then reinvest the profits from that property into another, replacement property in order to defer a potentially significant tax payment on the sale. There are a number of rules and details that will apply to utilizing the 1031 option, but it is one worth considering, particularly if you are planning on purchasing another investment rental property.

Call GayRealEstate.com Today

If you own a rental investment property and you are considering the possibility of using the 1031 Exchange option, it is always a wise choice to consult with your financial advisor, if you have one, and your real estate agent as well. If you need help finding a real estate agent who will work well with you and who understands the unique needs of LGBTQ real estate investors, we would be glad to help pair you with the perfect person.  Call us soon 1-888-420-MOVE (6683).

Combining Households? Here’s What You Need to Know.

Perhaps you’ve discovered this article because you find yourself in a relationship that makes you very, very happy – happy to the point that you’re considering moving in with the man or woman of your dreams. If so, congratulations! Love is wonderful, and there’s truly nothing in the world quite like it.

Maybe you’re young, and unencumbered, and falling in love for the first time. On the other side of the coin, perhaps you’re 30, 40, or 50.  Perhaps each of you already have homes full of furniture, full-time jobs with retirement accounts, pets, and well-established daily routines. If all of this sounds familiar to you, you may be asking yourself – how do we go about combining our lives, and everything they entail? That question is certainly a reasonable one, and at GayRealEstate.com, it’s one that we’ve heard often.

While love is certainly wonderful, the truth is that like anything in life, it’s not without its own particular kinds of stress. Despite how much you may love someone and want to be with them, there are still plenty of logistical matters to think through. This can be true if you live in the same city, and it is certainly true if you’re in a long-distance relationship that will require one or the other of you to relocate across the country.

The good news, however, is that no matter how far apart you may live, or how complicated your life may be, it doesn’t mean this transition can’t ultimately become the start of a wonderful new chapter in your life. When you think it through carefully, and take the necessary steps to combine your households after thoroughly planning ahead, it can be a very positive and life-changing experience for both of you.

What sorts of things should you consider, as you think about combining households? At GayRealEstate.com, we have been fortunate enough to help many couples, just like you, transition from two households to one.  Here are a few helpful tips that we’ve learned along the way:

  • Living Arrangements: Perhaps first and foremost when merging your households and your lives is deciding which house you will actually live in. If both of you own a home, your first step should be to discuss which of the two homes is the more ideal spot for you to reside as a couple. For some, this may be dependent upon a job – perhaps one partner is able to work from home, while the other has to be on-location for his or her job. In other cases, it might be dependent upon family circumstances – does one partner have young children who are happy in school and used to a daily routine? In other cases, perhaps it’s more about location – where do you, as a couple see yourselves living? Where, ideally, would you like to be? You may also take a look at the markets in your different communities – is one market better for selling right now than another? All of these factors are important, and can be helpful to consider as you decide whether to sell or rent out one or both of your homes, or buy a new one entirely.
  • Envision Your Space: It’s likely that if each of you have lived on your own for some time, you’ve likely accumulated a good deal of furniture and other household belongings. As you prepare to combine your households, it only makes sense for each of you to consider paring down some of your own belongings so that together, you can combine the things that you truly love into one happy home. For example, when you’re living together, chances are that you won’t need two toasters, two coffee makers, or two master bedroom sets. Think carefully about which items have personal meaning and value and keep those, but be willing to discard or donate some of the rest. Work together to make the space you share peaceful, happy, and personal to you both.
  • Planning for Pets: Do you, or your partner have a pet (or several pets) that you love? If so, you may be worried that your pet might not like your partner’s pet – that they might literally fight like cats and dogs. While this is an understandable concern, the good news is that gradually, most pets do adjust. It is best to be patient, to not try to force the pets to spend too much time in close quarters at first, and to reward them for instances where you do see them behaving well and getting along together. Eventually, your pets will likely adjust, and you can all have a happy home together.
  • Thinking Through Your Financial Future: As you initially begin testing the waters of living together and all that it entails, it is generally wise to keep the majority of your finances, retirement accounts, and investments separate. As your relationship deepens, or if and after you marry, you can decide how much you want to comingle your finances.  For some couples, particularly those who come together after both are financially established, some make the choice to keep the finances they accumulated prior to moving in together in separate accounts, but to combine their incomes to contribute toward their home and lifestyle moving forward. In truth, each couple, and each set of circumstances is different, and an arrangement that might be perfect for one couple may not work out well for another. Often, as you try to determine what is best for you as a couple, it may be wise to meet with a financial advisor who help you understand your options and decide on what’s best.

If you, or the special person you love find yourself considering selling an existing home and relocating, at GayRealEstate.com, we’re here to help. If you’re both considering selling and buying a new home together, we’re here to help with that too. With our helpful free relocation kit, free seller’s market analysis and buyer’s representation, and access to a network of talented and experienced gay, lesbian, and gay-friendly real estate agents across the country, we’re here to make your buying, selling, and relocating experience the best it can be. Wherever you ultimately decide to begin this chapter, we can point you toward an agent who will be able to help. Congratulations on the love you’ve found, and the life you’re working to build together. We would be honored to help. Call us today 1-888-420-MOVE (6683).

It’s true, the Gayborhood is changing.

Prices and rents are rising as many longtime residents of neighborhoods like The Castro in San Francisco, The Village in New York, and Boystown in Chicago are aging up, moving out and taking their businesses with them. Time-tested old gayborhood haunts can still be found in each and are fun for a weekend but, for most homeowners, they are hardly sustainable places to live.

The disappearance and gentrification of the gayborhood does not mean that you cannot find your own LGBTQ community to call your new home, it only means that you may need to look outside the places most people initially think of.

LGBTQ people have always existed and lived in places all over the globe. You only need to look at Queering the Map for a heartwarming archive of LGBTQ experiences worldwide.

The oldest gayborhoods in the United States were formed as safe havens from the homophobia, misogyny, and racism, of straight culture in the surrounding cities. In fact, the Greenwhich Village Society for Historical Preservation writes that what eventually became part of New York’s Gay Village between Spring St. and West 3rd was, in the 19th century referred to as “Little Africa,” and was populated around the farmland of “partially-freed slaves.” Throughout the 20th century the area was also populated by transgender sex-workers and then later by many others from New Work’s disaffected queer community.

Marginalized and underpaid, the neighborhoods they created tended to be low-income and offered places where diverse people and communities could gather with moderate safety. In the last few decades, astronomical price increases in many of the gayborhoods and increased acceptance of LGBTQ people has meant that some were forced out, and some left with a fat wallet able to move to new builds and new places.

Access to technology has likewise mitigated the necessity for self-contained neighborhoods. Thanks to apps like Facebook, Grindr and Tinder almost any place can host an impromptu gaythering which means there is more flexibility in where to live than ever before.

Still many LGBTQ people choose to search out housing with their intersecting communities. Gayborhoods continue to form in new places all across the United States: east-coast, west-coast, and no-coast.

Many lesbians opt for more rural places. The outskirts of Iowa City, for example, a liberal bubble and home to the University of Iowa, has a thriving lesbian community. In places like this Heather Dockray, writes “Lesbians may feel more accepted in rural areas, where female masculinity isn’t as tightly policed as male femininity; lesbians have less capital than gay men (women, including queer women, continue to make less than men) and therefore may not be able to afford urban neighborhoods; lesbians are statistically more likely to have children (and therefore different housing requirements).”

The Marmalade in Salt Lake City, Utah is now the site of affordable living and a sizable amount LGBTQ owned and operated businesses and clubs. It is located just blocks away from the state Capitol building and offers easy access to the best of the city and to scenic rolling foothills beyond.

In Chicago, Andersonville and the neighboring Edgewater, on the north-side just off the coast of Lake Michigan, have become alternatives to the rapidly developing Boystown. Andersonville, an originally Swedish enclave, maintains that culture with a wide variety of bakeries and restaurants, the Swedish American Museum, and is home to the relocated Women and Children First feminist bookstore. Edgewater has become a popular location for the city’s lesbian women.

Bywater, New Orleans, is also a neighborhood with a vibrant history rooted in the struggles and successes of people of color. Located in the city’s 9th Ward, Bywater is a quieter and more affordable alternative to the French Quarter, but still allows access to colorful artwork, mosaics, music and, of course, bottomless mimosas.

What can you do to find the gayborhood of your dreams?

First, determine what it is you are looking for. Do you want to be in a place with a queer history you can see, where plagues adorn the buildings and benches? Are you looking for affordability without compromising commonality with your neighbors? Are you looking for nightlife? Would you like to be somewhere urban or rural?

Seek out the local LGBTQ community in many cities. There is no better way to get your bearings in a new place than by finding your local center. Even if you do not end up moving into the block adjacent, the people you will meet there can introduce you to new resources, assistance, and events. Everybody wants neighbors they like and the community center may be the best place to find your new neighbors.

Finally, connect with an LGBTQ Realtor at www.GayRealEstate.com – Start a conversation with agents that have been serving our community for over 25 years! Nobody is more familiar with the culture and affordability of queer neighborhoods than queer people. The most important rule to finding yourself a new gayborhood to call your own, is to learn about the individual history of the space and your neighbors.

Palm Springs: The Largest LGBTQ Community in the Country

Laidback and resort casual, Palm Springs is the American epicenter of the LGBTQ community. Boasting over 325 days of sunshine and a 50% gay population, residents here feel truly at home. From charming village shops to unique artsy stores, wrapped up in old-Hollywood glamour, this desert town is far from sleepy.

Hollywood’s Waiting Room for Heaven

That’s the city’s nickname due to the large population of celebrities that live in Palm Springs. Located within Coachella Valley (yes that famous festival) the city is 107 miles east of L.A. Native Americans settled the area for thousands of years and many streets in the Palm Springs have Native American names.

The municipality became a booming resort in the 1900s when tourists arrived to treat health conditions with dry heat. Today, it is a sprawling desert empire where everyone and their mother are LGBTQ-friendly.

Quick Palm Spring Stats

  • Palm Springs has the highest per capita gay population in the country.
  • The city covers approximately 94 square miles.
  • There are more than 50,000 pools in the city.
  • Palm Springs is home to more than 100 golf courses.
  • Palm Springs has one of the greatest mineral water aquifers in the world.

Here are some more fun facts about Palm Springs.

The LGBTQ Palm Springs Community

 LGBT Community Center of the Desert

The cornerstone of the LGBTQ community in Coachella Valley, affectionately called “The Center,” they see more than 65,000 guests every year. Classes include everything from painting to yoga and AA.

Desert Business Association

The gay Chamber of Commerce, the Desert Business Association is a network of gay and gay-friendly businesses that offer a variety of resources to the community.

A Laidback and Arid Climate

Palm Springs has a dry, desert climate. The winter months prove the most comfortable. Summer can get quite hot with an average July temperature of 108 degrees. So, it’s best to have your air conditioning ready to go before moving in.

Key LGBTQ Events in the City

Palm Springs International Film Festival – January

This is a popular film event held every January that features hordes of A-list celebrities

The White Party – April 

This has widely been considered the largest gay dance festival in the country. Over the years, the event has evolved to become a social and cultural phenomenon. It is attended by over 30,000 people every year.

The Dinah – April

Named after the great Dinah Shore, Dinah Shore Weekend is the biggest girl party for the LGBTQ community this side of the Mississippi! The Dinah has been doing it for over 30 years now.

Gay Pride Week – November

Gay Pride is a sanctioned Palm Springs event that happens every year and can’t be missed. It starts off with a parade, followed by food, fun, dancing, and live entertainment. The party doesn’t stop when everyone heads over to the many bars on Arena’s Street. The festival is free and held in downtown.

The Best Palm Springs Neighborhoods

Palm Springs is half gay, so virtually anywhere you move you’ll feel comfortable. Two zip codes are both 30-times higher than the national average for LGBTQ residency. These are:

92264

This neighborhood has a diverse economy with lots of recreation. The cost of living is 23% higher than the national average but the median commute is only 18 minutes. In this community, there are 12.4% LGBTQ couples per household. Homes range from 1-4 bedrooms with beautiful landscaping and Spanish flair.

The median sales price for 92264 is $337,500.

In this area, homes are selling for about $258 per square foot and the neighborhood typically has hundreds of homes for sale. Home appreciation in the last few years has been 2%.

92262

This is a bustling residential area with many hotels, spas, and cafes right around the corner. This zip code is closer to North Palm Springs and in the same vicinity as the airport. There are 11.3% LGBTQ couples per household with 1-4 bedroom homes.

The median sales price for 92262 is $433,000.

Homes are selling for about $281 per square foot and there are currently over 350 homes for sale in the area.

A City Known for Art

Palm Springs Village Fest

Every Thursday night, Palm Canyon Drive is closed off to traffic and becomes a lively street fair. Local vendors, artists, craftsmen, and residents all share in the free entertainment. The fest is held down the entire length of Palm Canyon Drive from one end to the other and is a great place to people watch.

Parks and Recreation

Joshua Tree National Park

Everyone has heard of this park, and it’s a favorite spot for hiking and off-roading. There are plants and rock formations that are entirely unique to this one spot on the earth. The region is named for the twisted and brittle Joshua Trees that pop up everywhere and it’s a great place to spend an afternoon.

Palm Springs Aerial Tramway

The Palm Springs Aerial Tramway is known for the incredible views of the desert. Ascending to 5,783 feet (1,790 meters), the tram carries you to a peak in the San Jacinto Mountains. From Ponderosa trees to mountain spires and unspoiled wilderness, the ride ends at Mountain Station where you’ll be there just in time for a cocktail.

Never Ending Nightlife

Oscar’s Cabaret

A fun evening of drag emceed by beloved James “Gypsy” Haake, meet your favorite stars like Dolly Parton and Reba McEntire. You can choose a three-course meal and watch the world-record-holding oldest female impersonator.

Toucan’s Tiki Lounge and Cabaret

Established over two decades ago, this is a fun and fruity spot that’s dedicated to everything tropical. It has the city’s longest-running drag show, with drink specials and a comedy cabaret.

Palm Springs is perhaps one of the most LGBTQ-friendly cities you will find. With a long-running history of acceptance (the first all gay city council), it continues to flourish as the community grows steadily each year.

Connect with a Palm Springs Gay Realtor for a no obligation conversation today! 

Move Myself or Hire a Mover?

When it comes to the question of hiring movers or doing it yourself, the answer is largely dependent on time, money, muscle and distance. Clearly, moving across town isn’t the same as moving across the country. A long distance move will require extensive forethought and planning. Likewise, a move within Los Angeles, Chicago or New York City could quickly devolve into a nightmare if you try to do it yourself—crowded streets and cramped staircases make for a lot of beat-up knees and potentially broken backs.

Which do you have more to spend – time or money?

Unless you are moving out of an eight bedroom Tudor, a handful of friends, a lot of boxes, tape and hard work is all that is required to move anyone out. If you are taking this approach, presumably you are renting a truck. You should consult with your rental truck service about the capacity and limitations of different truck sizes. Many well established rental truck companies have online tools that will calculate truck size based on the dimensions of your home—square footage or how many beds and baths.

You should budget for fuel. This is especially true if you are making a long distance move, as gas is expensive. Organizations like the American Automotive Association (AAA) have helpful online fuel-cost calculators that you can program with different distances.

Once you have drawn up a do-it-yourself moving budget that includes rental cost, gas and other miscellaneous fees that you may incur (friends need to eat – and drink), you should call the top 3 moving companies on Yelp.com for a quote. If money is the determining factor, then inquiring will give you your answer.

Money isn’t an issue – my time is more important

Your best bet to guarantee the best experience with a moving company is to hire an outfit with high customer reviews. And take the time to get copies of the movers insurance and guarantees, etc. This is important in big cities where there are major moving days like October 1st, movers have been known to overbook and back out at the last minute!

A good moving company will move with the speed and agility of a small army. If you can get a decent quote – or you are so lucky as to find a moving company that is cheaper than the cost associated with a DYI move – jump on it! Moving can be extremely stressful, and a moving company is a great way to get your things organized and out in a timely fashion.

It should be noted that movers often work for tips as well as a salary. You should calculate a fairly sizable tip, 15-20%, on top of your moving quote.

Deciding whether to hire a moving company or do it yourself is determined by your individual needs. If time is a total issue – say you are a starting a new job in a new city -you don’t want to overburden yourself. At the same time, money and necessity may dictate that you do it yourself.

If you’re moving with pets request a free copy of our eBook “Moving with Pets – Easing the Transition” with a request to manager@gayrealestate.com.

Professional Real Estate Agents at www.GayRealEstate.com in the city you are moving to or from are always a great source for mover referrals ~ they and their clients deal with movers on a weekly basis, don’t be afraid to ask your agent for a referral to a mover, home inspector, mortgage professional and the like.

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 Zillow.com, Redfin.com, 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 www.GayRealEstate.com. They are committed to excellent service to our LGBTQ community.

Jeff Hammerberg is the Founding/CEO of GayRealEstate.com – 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 GayRealEstate.com 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 | www.GayRealEstate.com

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 GayRealEstate.com, 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.

GayRealEstate.com connects buyers and sellers with trustworthy gay, lesbian and gay-friendly real estate agents to remove potential discrimination from all real estate transactions. The GayRealEstate.com 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 GayRealEstate.com for decades. With more than 25 years of experience, GayRealEstate.com focuses on establishing reliable real estate connections with professionals who understand the unique needs and desires of the LGBTQ community.

For more information, visit: www.gayrealestate.com