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

Winter in Real Estate: Tips for those who feel the chill.

Seasoned (pun intended) real estate professionals understand that the winter months can be difficult to negotiate (no pun intended) for those in the business of buying, selling, and building homes. The weather in most of the USA is inhospitable, and can put many projects and plans on hold, until the springtime market kicks in and buyers again resume their house-hunting activities. But those who plan for the winter slowdown actually view the cyclical time-out as an opportunity, and sometimes even look forward to it after a hectic year.

Many of us take time out each April or May for a deep cleaning and reorganization of our living space. Similarly, the months of December, January, and February provide a scheduled chance to catch up on errands and strategies related to real estate – and to get a jump on the next year’s market – whether you are buying or selling.

Here are tips on how to make the most of a cooled-off real estate season:

For Sellers

If you are selling, take advantage of the wintertime – especially during the holidays and the post-holiday doldrums – to prepare your house for showcasing it to potential buyers.

  • Clean out the clutter and make your house look more spacious. By simply emptying closets and clearing out furniture – leaving only the minimal essentials to provide a sense of warmth and style – you can boost the perceived value of your property immensely.
  • Freshen up the interior. When it is freezing cold outside you can’t paint the exterior but you can stay indoors and put a new coat of paint on any rooms that need it. Fix the dripping faucets and squeaky doors; refinish the floors, and do other indoor home improvement projects. Most contractors have less business in the wintertime, so it is a good time to hire them. By the time spring rolls around, they won’t even be answering the phone because they will be “off the hook” busy with outdoor construction projects.
  • Get your paperwork in order. Make a file that includes your annual utility bill history, copies of warranties on appliances, and MLS data on your home. Put these things together in an attractive folder and your Realtor can share it with potential buyers. If you need a survey, get it done.
  • Take time to relax. Selling a home in a buyer’s market is sometimes a stressful experience. Instead of worrying that there are no “lookers” during winter, take time for yourself and catch up on reading, yoga classes, or spending time with friends and family. You’ll be rejuvenated and ready to hit the ground running when the ice thaws.

For Buyers

During the wintertime, most property languishes on the market and motivated sellers are more inclined to offer discounts. They are paying stiff heating bills, taxes, and maintenance fees, but may not have many offers for purchase. If you are seriously shopping for property, make offers in the winter and you may have a new home in time for spring planting of flower beds and window boxes.

  • If you have not done so, meet with lenders and get pre-qualified or pre-approved for a mortgage. When you approach sellers with financial backing in hand, they will be more inclined to accept your offers.
  • Get your finances in order. This is a good time to deal with any budgetary issues that are affecting your down payment. If you haven’t decided on what type of loan is best for you, winter is a great time to sit down and do the homework needed to make your important decisions.
  • Compare and contrast. Have your Realtor provide you with market data so that you can compare prices, options, and locations. You may want to build a new home, or perhaps rehab an existing one. Research helps make this kind of decision easier and wiser, so use the winter to examine your alternatives.
  • Shop ‘til you drop during the holidays, but not at the mall – get out and look at houses with your Realtor.

Interest rates remain super attractive. The best plan is to use the winter months to do whatever is necessary to tip the market in your own favor, by planning ahead. Then, no matter what 2020 presents, you’ll be in the best possible position to take advantage of it. To find a qualified real estate agent, visit www.GayRealEstate.com. The company offers a depth of experience in buying homes throughout the entire USA, and specializes in serving the GLBT community.

The LGBTQ Community and Fear of Housing Discrimination

LGBTQ people face discrimination in a number of ways every day, including in the housing industry. Those who are looking to purchase a home may be very reluctant due to stories they’ve heard about real estate agents, sellers, and lenders discriminating again st them. Studies done by Freddie Mac show that almost half (46%) of the 85,000 LGBTQ renters they surveyed are concerned that they will be discriminated against in their hunt for a house. The same study showed that 13% of those who did buy a house feel like they faced discrimination in some form.

Fear as a Barrier to Homeownership

The LGBTQ Community and Fear of Housing DiscriminationThe impact of this fear of discrimination is easy to see. Nationwide, 65% of people own their own home. However, in the LGBTQ community, this rate is only 49%. The fear of being discriminated against, even in areas that are quite liberal, leads to LGBTQ individuals and couples to abandon their dreams of owning a home before they even start.

For some, the fear isn’t even about the home buying process. They aren’t afraid of being discriminated against by real estate experts, lenders, or even sellers. However, they are concerned about their neighbors. Some 40% were afraid of how their neighborhoods would treat them if they started a family. This is one reason why looking for homes in the gay district is helpful—in most cases, you don’t have to worry about your neighbors, at least as far as accepting your relationship or decision to start a family goes.

Do You Have Anything to Truly Worry About?

Yes, sadly, discrimination against the LGBTQ community still happens. While it’s not always obvious in the real estate industry, it is present. Fortunately, it’s not always prevalent, especially in certain areas of the country. Plus, if you choose to work with a gay or lesbian real estate agent, you can at least know you’re working with someone who will not discriminate against you. They will be able to help you through the process of buying a home while also alleviating any worry that you may have about your agent.

Should You Change Real Estate Agents?

Being a member of the LGBTQ community may make you hesitant about simply hiring any real estate agent. You want to make certain the person you’re working with is going to be able to help you find the home that fits all of your needs, while also respecting who you are. In some cases, you may find that the agent you’ve hired doesn’t seem to be on the right track. Should you look for someone new? Here are a few times when you certainly should change real estate agents.

You Feel Discriminated Against

Should You Change Real Estate AgentsAs a member of the LGBTQ community, you may have witnessed or even been the target of discrimination at some point in your life. You do not have to accept it or continue to subject yourself to any type of discrimination. If you believe your real estate agent has an issue with your orientation or gender, even if it seems more like a subconscious discrimination rather than intentional, it’s time to seek out someone else. You’ll find many gay or lesbian real estate agents across the country who will be happy to help you find a home.

They Don’t Understand Your Needs

If your agent isn’t a member of the LGBTQ community, they may not really understand your needs. They may assume that you’re looking for something in your home that fits the stereotypical image of a gay or lesbian couple. You may not be interested in this at all. These agents may not even think that you have any interest in having children or living in a particular school zone. If your agent doesn’t understand your needs because they can’t look past your orientation, don’t hesitate to find another agent.

You Make Them Uncomfortable

As surprising as it is in today’s day and age, it’s still possible to meet people who have never dealt with anyone in the LGBTQ community before. In cases like this, your agent may not be discriminating against you in any way, but they may be very uncertain in how to approach you. This nervousness may truly come from a place of ignorance—they simply don’t know how to act or are afraid of saying the wrong thing.

The best thing to do in such a situation is to actively bring it up. Talk to them about why they’re nervous. You may find that doing so actually gives you the chance to teach them about the LGBTQ community. You may make a new ally out of them. In other cases, though, they may admit that they simply don’t know if they’re the right agent for you. In that case, they may suggest you work with someone else before you bring it up.

No matter why you decide to change real estate agents, remember that it’s your right to. If you don’t believe your agent is able to help you find your next home, look for one who can, such as one of the amazing agents that are part of the GayRealEstate.com network.

U Street, a Home to the LGBTQ Community in DC

Situated in the Northwestern part of Washington, D.C. is an area known as the U Street Corridor. It’s sometimes referred to as Cardozo or as the Cardozo/Shaw district, too. This area is a residential and commercial neighborhood that is made up of nine blocks of U Street, starting at NW 9th and ending at NW 18th street. It’s bordered on the north by Florida Avenue NW and by S Street NW on the south. The area has gone through a number of major changes over the years, but today it’s considered an ethnically diverse neighborhood that’s home to a thriving LGBTQ community.

U Street’s Beginning

U Street, a Home to the LGBTQ Community in DCThe neighborhood was originally developed in the 1860s. Many of the homes were done in the Victorian style, and most are not considered historic. These row houses were built quickly to house a growing population after the U.S. Civil War. During that time, the government was growing fairly quickly, and many more people were needed in the D.C. area than ever before.

During the 1900s, the area became the center of Washington’s African American community. In fact, until Harlem overtook it in the 1920s, U Street was the largest such community in the country. Many businesses, theaters, churches, gyms, and other organizations thrived in the neighborhood. Up until the 1960s, U Street had the nickname of Black Broadway thanks to the large number of performances held here. Some of the most famous performers include Duke Ellington, Miles Davis, Billie Holiday, and Louis Armstrong.

The Decline and Restoration of the Neighborhood

Following Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr’s, assassination in 1968, the area began to decline. Riots broke out at U Street and 14th Street. The violence resulted in many businesses and residents moving out of the neighborhood, and by the mid-70s, drugs were a major issue on U Street.

When the Reeves Center was built in 1986, it began a domino effect that started revitalizing the district. New bus and metro stops were added, a number of grants from the Department of Housing and Urban Development came through, and other new construction brought people back to U Street. Redevelopment continued into the 2000s and early 2010s, gentrifying much of U Street.

Today, the diverse area is home to many LGBTQ individuals and families. Many businesses have returned, and the arts community is once against thriving here. For those who are looking for a home that welcomes everyone, U Street is a great opportunity. Housing costs have gone up due to the gentrification of the neighborhood, but a good gay or lesbian agent will help you find a home you love that’s within your budget.

The Gay Neighborhoods of New Orleans

Are you considering a move to New Orleans? This unique city offers a melting pot of various cultures, creating a place like no other. Whether you’re looking for a quiet place to raise a family or a great place to party and meet people, New Orleans has it. But does it have a gay neighborhood? It doesn’t just have one; it has three! If you’re looking for a gay community in New Orleans, here are three neighborhoods you may want to live in.

Faubourg Marigny

The Gay Neighborhoods of New OrleansIt might have a weird name, but the neighborhood of Faubourg Marigny is full of beautiful architecture. Founded in 1805, it’s one of the older parts of the city, and much of it is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It declined during the 1950s, but after Hurricane Betsy, the Faubourg Marigny began growing as a number of displaced Filipino Americans moved into the dilapidated area. By the mid-1980s, it was home to many music venues and arts festivals. This drew a number of LGBTQ individuals to Faubourg Marigny, turning it into a gayborhood.

The French Quarter

One of the most famous neighborhoods of New Orleans, the French Quarter is the city’s version of San Francisco’s Castro District. Unfortunately, also like the Castro, the cost of living in the French Quarter is significantly higher than in many other parts of New Orleans. However, the many historical sites and unique styles of the French Quarter are worth it, though you do have to accept the fact that many tourists visit the district year-round. This is one of the most diverse parts of New Orleans, and you’ll find that basically everyone who lives here has embraced that diversity.

Pigeon Town

Finally, there’s Pigeon Town. This neighborhood is much quieter than the French Quarter, but it’s no less historic. It’s also quite diverse, and many artists and musicians have made it their home. It’s not unheard of for people to gather in the street to party just because they want to, especially since the roads aren’t congested. Many people prefer to bike or use public transportation instead of driving. There are a number of public art projects that anyone can contribute to as well. Overall, it’s a great place for a family.

No matter where you’re looking to live in New Orleans, a gay or lesbian real estate agent can help you find the perfect home.

The Downsides of Gentrification on the Gay Neighborhood

When people think of gentrification, they often think of older, rundown neighborhoods being reinvigorated and restored. Gentrification can do a lot of good to a neighborhood. It brings new life back into sections of a city that once flourished but then were typically hit by hard times. These areas often become home to a large amount of crime while in disrepair, so gentrification helps eliminate this.

Run down neighborhoods also tend to become home to those that the more affluent residents find “undesirable.” For quite some time, this included the LGBTQ community. That’s why many gay ghettos started out as poor, deteriorating neighborhoods in need of some repairs. Today, partly in thanks to the LGBTQ residents of these areas, many gay neighborhoods have gone through gentrification and are now more affluent areas with low crime and gorgeous, restored homes. But there are some downsides to gentrification, unfortunately. You may want to learn about these downsides before working with a gay or lesbian real estate agent to move into a gayborhood.

Low-Income Residents Are Forced Out

The Downsides of Gentrification on the Gay NeighborhoodAs gentrification takes hold, housing prices typically rise. In many cases, this makes it all but impossible for low-income residents of the gayborhood to remain there. If they rent, the rent goes up. If they own, their property taxes increase as the neighborhood becomes more valuable. They may also find that the cost of basic necessities such as groceries increase as higher-end stores move into the area.

Racial Tensions Can Increase

Another side effect of gentrification is that it can lead to increasing racial tensions. This is generally from the people who move into the neighborhood rather than those who have been a part of it for years. These new residents are looking at the gayborhood as an affluent, upper-class area. As such, they may also come in with preconceived racial notions that lead to conflict with their neighbors.

Certain Professions or Identities Are Pushed Out

Because these gentrified areas were once run down, they became home to a number of people who simply didn’t feel welcome elsewhere. In the LGBTQ community, this may include those are part of a subgroup such as leather daddies or those who enjoy BDSM. As the neighborhood becomes a desirable place to live, clubs and other businesses that cater to these subcultures may become targeted by those who look down on these groups. People may feel as if their neighborhood is no longer their home because they’re being pushed out for having particular interests or for identifying one way or another.

Many people may find it odd that an LGBTQ neighborhood, even after being gentrified, would turn against others due to their race or their interests. However, it does happen. It may not occur in every gay village, fortunately, but gentrification does transform the neighborhood in a number of ways, not all of them positive.

The LGBTQ Neighborhoods of Atlanta

Are you thinking about moving to Atlanta or making a move from one part of the city to another? Georgia can be a great state to live in, and its capital is an amazing city. It actually has four recognized LGBTQ areas, too, so there’s a gay village for everyone! If you’re talking with a gay or lesbian real estate agent about finding a new home in Atlanta, here are the neighborhoods you might want to check out.

Ansley Park

The LGBTQ Neighborhoods of AtlantaAnsley Park is located east of the Midtown area. It was one of the first suburb areas designed for people who owned cars, so the roads here are actually more winding than the older parts of Atlanta, which are laid out on a grid system for streetcars. Many of the homes here were built in the 1930s and are listed as historic properties. This area is one of the more affluent parts of Atlanta, so home prices do tend to be higher.

East Atlanta Village

The East Atlanta Village gayborhood is known for its street art. You’ll find many artists and artistic people living here, and there are a number of popular festivals and other events held in the neighborhood. It’s a more laid-back LGBTQ district that is perfect for those who want a little peace and quiet.

Grant Park

Grant park is for those who love nature and the outdoors. This area has a huge number of recreational spaces, parks, and other undeveloped areas. The neighborhood, like Ansley Park, is made up of mostly historic homes, and they do tend to be a little more expensive than some newer builds.

Kirkwood

Kirkwood is also an historic neighborhood. It’s located on the east side of the city and is a streetcar suburb, so unlike Ansley Park, its streets are laid out in a grid pattern. The business part of Kirkwood has recently gone through a period of gentrification, catching it up to the more residential part of the neighborhood. Kirkwood is something of a small town in and of itself, and it has its own police and fire stations, library, and post office. You can do everything you need to do in the neighborhood without going into any other part of Atlanta, so it’s perfect for LGBTQ individuals or couples who want that small-town feel, but also want to have everything a large metro area has to offer right at their fingertips.