Monthly Archives: July 2014

Tips on Setting Your Asking Price

The Perfect Selling PriceOne of the most important aspects of preparing to sell your home is setting your asking price.  If you set it too high, you’ll immediately lose potential buyers.  Set it too low and you may end up losing money.  So how do you arrive at that magic number that’s not too high but not too low?  You’ll definitely want to consult your realtor and keep these tips in mind.

Find out what your home is worth.  This can be done a few different ways.  In most areas, you can look up the market value of your home on your county commissioner’s website.  This isn’t the exact value of your home, but it gives you a decent ballpark figure to start with.  You will also need to have an appraisal done.  This will be a better figure for you to use, but again, it may not be where you want to start your asking price.  Remember, of course, that the buyer will also have an appraisal done, so if you set your price too high, they will know.

Take a look at what homes in your area are selling for.  If you see houses of a similar size and style in the same area going for more than their market value, it may be a good sign that potential buyers are looking to grab anything in your neighborhood.

Remember that markets fluctuate quickly.  Just because five homes in your area have sold in the past month doesn’t necessarily mean yours will sell quickly.  However, it is a good sign, and your realtor will be able to help you decide if that trend is over or if your area is still popular.

Factor in your own needs when deciding on an asking price.  Can you let the property sit on the market for six months?  For some people, paying the mortgage on their new property and their old property just isn’t feasible.  For others, it may be an option.  If you are moving out of state and want to completely close this chapter of your life, you may want to sell quickly.  This will put you in a weaker position when it comes to negotiations, so you may want to set your asking price a little lower in hopes of finding a potential buyer quickly.

Finally, remember that your sale price may not be what you’re actually getting.  If you’re paying for closing, you have to deduct that.  You also have to take out any money you have to spend on fixing things on the buyer’s list, such as putting on a new roof or repainting the house.

Posted on July 31, 2014 in Home Listings, Home Sales, Home Values, Selling

Gay Real Estate’s Top 10 Tips for Merging LGBT Finances When Buying a Home

Buying a home with your partner is an exciting event. Before combining finances and purchasing your home together, there are some things that you should talk about and consider. Following are the top 10 tips for merging LGBT finances when buying a home.

images1. Have a discussion about your income, debts, spending habits and your credit history.  This conversation will let you both know where you both stand financially and help you decide how much home you can afford.

2. Create a budget that includes the anticipated mortgage payment, utilities, taxes and other related household expenses. This will show you the approximate minimum amount that must be contributed to the household each month.

3. Set up a joint checking account. The account should be used for paying your down payment on the new home and for bills related to living expenses. For example, mortgage, utility and home maintenance payments and household expenses.

4. Set up a joint savings account that can be used for emergency home repairs and for reaching your future goals. For example, maybe you both dream of taking a vacation to Australia, or your objective is to invest in a vacation home. A savings account will help you reach those goals.

5. Decide how much each of you will contribute to the bank accounts each month. Some couples may contribute 50 percent each while others contribute based on their income. For example, if one partner makes more money than the other, the contribution may be 60 percent for one partner and 40 percent for the other.

6. Draft a will naming your partner as the beneficiary of your interest in your new home. You may also consider making him a beneficiary on your retirement and investment accounts and your insurance policies. This may be important in helping your partner afford to keep the home if you die.

7. Consider drafting a durable power of attorney for financial decisions. That document will allow your partner to make financial decisions on your behalf if you become incapacitated due to accident or illness.

8. Obtain a joint credit card for purchasing home furnishings and other items that will be joint property. Decide if all purchases or just purchases over a certain amount must be discussed beforehand. The bill should be paid from the joint checking account. Be sure to adjust your monthly contributions to your joint checking account to cover the credit card payments.

9. Keep separate checking accounts to pay for existing expenses, including car payments and student loans. This will allow each partner to pay their own debts off and maintain some control over their finances.

10. Put it all in writing. Draft a domestic partnership agreement that outlines each partner’s responsibilities in the relationship and what will happen to the home and other assets if the relationship is dissolved.

It is essential that you are both honest about your financial situation before merging your LGBT finances when buying a home. If, for example, you have a judgment against you, that creditor could place a lien against your new home. Lack of honesty could end up destroying your relationship with each other.

Top 5 Home Mortgage Considerations, with or without Your LGBT Partner.

There are advantages and disadvantages to financing a mortgage with your partner. Careful consideration should be given to issues that could affect you before making a final decision.

imagesTop 5 Reasons to Put Mortgage in Both Names

1. If you both have good credit, obtaining a mortgage in both of your names may help you obtain a low interest rate.

2. Using both of your incomes to obtain a mortgage may increase your chances of getting approved for a higher priced home than you could afford alone.

3. When you mortgage a home together, both names will automatically be recorded on the deed to the real estate. This means that both of you will equally own the home.

4. If one of you dies and legal steps have been taken, such as taking the deed as joint tenancy with right of survivorship, the surviving partner will become the sole owner of the property.

5. If the relationship does not last, both partners will still be liable for the mortgage payment until the house is refinanced, paid off or sold.

Top 5 Reasons Not to Put Mortgage in Both Names

1. Both of your credit scores will be used by the lender when you apply for a mortgage together. If your partner has bad credit due to late payments, defaults on loans or other serious credit problems, you could be denied a loan or offered a loan at a higher interest rate because of the perceived risk of default.

2. It will force you to buy only what you can afford. If your relationship falls apart within six months, you should be in a position to afford the mortgage payments and maintain the home.

3. Unless you take measures to protect your interest in the home, you will have no legal interest in the home should you split up or your partner die.

4. If your partner cannot pay his portion of the mortgage, it could cause you to get behind in payments and result in negative reports on your credit report and foreclosure.

5. Your partner has no income or less income than you. This fact will automatically put you on unequal footing when it comes to paying the mortgage, property taxes and other expenses involved in home ownership. More couples split up over money issues than for any other reason.

There are other advantages and disadvantages when you finance a mortgage using both partners income and credit scores. It would be wise to consult with an LGBT friendly real estate agent at GayRealEstate.com, or LGBT friendly attorney in your state if you have additional questions.

Beyond Curb Appeal

If you’re working with a real estate agent to sell your home, he or she has probably mentioned how you have to have great curb appeal.  This means when potential buyers pull up to your home, they have to be wowed by their first look.  But that first look only goes so far.  Great curb appeal won’t guarantee you a sale if the inside of your home doesn’t have just as much of a wow factor.

Lose the Clutter

Decluttering Your HomeOne of the biggest issues sellers who are still living in the home is clutter.  It’s hard to live your normal life while trying to keep your home in pristine condition to show it off to potential buyers.  The difficulty is that potential buyers need to be able to see themselves in the home.  They need to be able to walk into a house and imagine their sofa in the living room, their bed in the bedroom, and their dishes in the kitchen cabinets.  That’s difficult when all they see is your stuff everywhere, especially if you’ve left out a lot of your trinkets or have a lot of clutter lying around.

Don’t be Unconsciously Offensive

People’s turn-offs can be very odd.  A potential buyer may see something that gives away your political leanings or your feelings on a polarizing subject.  Even if they love the house, this could be enough to push them away, even if they don’t consciously realize it.  For that reason, you want to make your home as neutral as possible.  This isn’t always easy, of course.  You can’t control what people dislike, and you can’t remove everything.  Do your best, however, to remove obvious things someone might find issue with.

Think About Renting a Storage Space

If you have a lot of clutter and can’t show off your home effectively, it may be time to rent a storage space for use between now and when you move into your new home.  Even though it’s another expense, it does two things for you.  First, it helps de-clutter your home, making it appeal to more potential buyers, which in turn helps sell it more quickly.  Second, it means you’ve already packed up a lot of your knick-knacks and other things you don’t use on a daily basis, so you’re ahead on the moving front!

Donate or Have a Garage Sale

Of course, you’re going to find things that you don’t need or don’t want to move.  Here’s another chance to get ahead of the game by donating these items or having a garage sale to get rid of them.

Posted on July 24, 2014 in Home Sales, Selling

Legalities of Gay Marriage and Buying Your First Home Together

The legalities of gay marriage and buying your first home together vary depending on factors including the state that you live in. If you are married and live in a state that recognizes same sex marriages, the procedure for buying a home is the same as it is for heterosexual married couples. Those that do not live in a state that recognizes their marriage will be forced to purchase their home as individuals rather than as a married unit.

imagesOnce you have found a home you would like to purchase and have worked out the details, you will need to complete a legally binding purchase agreement. That document includes the price and the terms of sale that are being agreed upon, specific property information including any known defects, contingencies and the names of all parties involved including buyers, sellers and agents. Contingencies are conditions that must be met before closing and can include a home inspection, financing and other specific actions by either the buyer or the seller.

The seller is legally required to disclose any defects in the home. Defects may include termite damage or plumbing, heating and air conditioning and electrical problems. Although not legally required, it is best to have a home inspection completed before you purchase the home. It is not unusual for sellers to overlook or have no knowledge about a defect of the home that an inspection will uncover. Licensed inspectors are trained to find and disclose current and potential future problems.

As part of the buying process, you will need to purchase title insurance. The title insurance company will conduct a title search on the property to make sure that there are no liens or easement issues against the property that have not been disclosed.

Once those procedures are complete, if you have not already done so, you will need to find a mortgage lender. The mortgage company that you choose will check both of your credit scores and will count both of your incomes in making a decision. It would be best to shop around to find the best terms available based on your personal and financial goals.

According to the Human Rights Campaign, there are no federal laws that prohibit discrimination against same sex spouses, but some states do have expanded laws in place. Knowing the laws in the state where you live will help you avoid discrimination based on your sexual orientation. If you live in a state that recognizes same sex marriages, mortgage lenders should recognize your marriage and, if you qualify, allow you to obtain a loan as a married couple rather than as separate borrowers on the same loan. The lender should also give you comparable interest rates to other couples with similar credit scores and income qualifications.

The legalities of gay marriage and buying your first home together are complex and can be confusing. Hiring a local LGBT friendly real estate professional at GayRealEstate.com will help take the stress out of buying your new home. They have the knowledge and expertise to help you make informed decisions that are in your best interest, negotiate on your behalf and ensure that no legal documentation is overlooked throughout the process.

Top 10 Reasons to Hire a Gay Realtor for your Home Purchase

Purchasing a home is a huge investment of your time and money. It makes sense that you would want a professional who understands your needs to assist you in the process. Below are the top 10 reasons to hire a gay realtor for your home purchase.

Gay Realtors1. You can be yourself so that you can develop a trusting relationship with your realtor. He will listen to and understand your needs. If you do not trust your realtor and do not believe he or she is working on your behalf, the process can be stressful and you could be taken advantage of.

2. Your gay realtor will assist you through the process of finding and purchasing your new home. He will keep track of all the paperwork and ensure that deadlines are met including during negotiations on pricing, inspections, etc. up to closing.

3. Laws in each state continue to change often and can have a huge affect on your rights in relation to real estate issues. Your gay realtor will be on top of housing laws and guidelines that affect the way that gay couples can purchase a home.

4. He will protect your rights during the buying process so that you can avoid the typical pitfalls that can delay or end the transaction. For example, deadlines, title issues, insurance and promised repairs.

5.  Your gay realtor will have the inside track on homes that may be perfect for you but have not yet been listed on the market. This can give you an advantage by being first in line to bid on the home.

6. Your gay realtor will let you know if a home is over or under priced and will assist you in making a reasonable offer. He will also submit the offer and negotiate with the seller on your behalf.

7. As a part of the gay community, your gay realtor will be able to tell you about the area including gay friendly businesses, local organizations, safe parks and nightclubs.

8. Your gay realtor can introduce you to members of the local LGBT community that may give you additional insight on the neighborhood and surrounding area that you are interested in.

9. Your gay realtor will know the best lenders that will work fairly with you and your particular situation.

10. Your gay realtor will be a great resource after you close on your home.

Before you hire a gay realtor for your home purchase, contact a couple from GayRealEstate.com and chat with them both to ensure you’ll get along with he/her and that you are comfortable relying on his/her advice. If you are not comfortable, you should continue your search until you find someone you trust. Building a relationship with your realtor will help take the stress out of purchasing a home and make the adventure enjoyable.

Top 6 Renting Tips for LGBT Couples

When relationships get serious, couples generally want to live together. Many couples choose to rent a home together as they begin their life together. Following are the top six renting tips for LGBT couples.

Image 1. Know your rights before renting. In many states, it is not illegal for landlords to refuse to rent to unmarried couples or because of religious beliefs. You should find out if your state has laws that prohibit discrimination based on marital status, sexual orientation or sexual identity. This will help you avoid losing an apartment or home that you think is perfect for the two of you.

2. Enter into a legally binding cohabitation agreement with your partner. The agreement should include who will pay the rent and the security deposit or how much each will pay, how bills will be split and what happens if you decide to dissolve your relationship. This will help avoid major disputes in the future.

3. Make a list of all of the assets that you each bring with you including bedroom sets, televisions and other items of value. Although this may not seem important, after a few years of calling everything “ours”, there could be a dispute over who owns what if your relationship dissolves. When new items are purchased for your home, the partner who bought the item should write his name on the receipt and file it away so that there is no future dispute over who purchased the asset.

4. Lease the rental property in both of your names. If your name is not on the lease, you will have no right to stay if your partner asks you to leave. Even if he or she has to go through legal channels, as the tenant on the lease, your partner will have a legal right to evict you.

5. Financial experts including Citigroup Inc. generally advise that couples keep their finances separate until they are sure the relationship will last. You may want to continue to keep your individual checking accounts and pay your credit cards, car payments and other debts individually. While keeping your normal finances separate, you should consider opening a joint checking account. Each of you could then put your share of the rent and household expenses into the account to be paid out each month as appropriate.

Moving in together is a big step in a relationship. Making use of the some or all of the above top 6 renting tips for LGBT couples will help avoid minor and major disputes during the course of your relationship.

Posted on July 18, 2014 in Gay Real Estate News

Can You Afford to Buy Now?

The idea of buying a home is certainly appealing.  Many buyers feel like they’re simply throwing away their rent every month—they’re not putting it towards anything.  Plus there are many limitations imposed upon renters by their landlords.  Renters may not be able to have certain pets or change up the property as they’d like.  But even though buying may look like a great option, before you jump in, you need to take a good, hard look at your finances to make sure you can afford to buy now.  If you don’t, you may spend a lot of time and money only to find out that you just can’t make the mortgage payments you’d need to in order to afford a home.

Buying Your Family a HomeBefore you start thinking about buying a home, it’s important to remember that there’s more to it than just paying your monthly mortgage.  You also have to pay homeowner’s insurance and property taxes, plus you may have to take on an additional utility or two—in some cases, things like the water and garbage bill is included in your rent, but that won’t be the case once you own your own home.  You also won’t have the landlord to handle all of the problems, so be ready to shell out money for anything that breaks.  You may also have to invest in a number of appliances upfront, including a refrigerator, a washer/dryer, and a lawn mower.

Before you jump in and start looking at homes, take a look at the different mortgage types available and see what you can qualify for.  What are the current interest rates?  Do you qualify for special first-time homebuyer discounts or loans?

Then look at your finances.  Factoring in any increase in utilities plus estimating insurance and property taxes, what can you realistically afford to pay every month?  How much can you get together for a down payment?  What about closing costs?  Sometimes you can stipulate that the buyer pays for all or some of the closing costs, but that’s not always a guarantee.  Remember, your down payment could be as much as 20 percent of the property value.

Once you’ve done the numbers and determined that you can buy, it’s time to check your credit.  Pull your credit report and look over it for anything that might negatively affect your chances of getting a loan.  Make sure to deal with any errors on the report and get them wiped off before you go to a lender to get pre-approved for a mortgage.  After you’ve evaluated your credit and your finances, if things still look good, it’s time to go look at houses!

Posted on July 16, 2014 in Buying a Home, Home Buyers, Home Buying

Gay Homebuyer? 5 Questions to Ask the Neighbors Before Buying a Home

Buying your dream home is a major step in life that you will presumable be living in for a long time. When you find the perfect home for you, it would be wise to take a walk around the neighborhood and talk to some of the neighbors. Failing to do this is one of the most common mistakes that buyers make. Neighbors can give you a lot of information about the house and about the neighborhood. Following are 5 questions to ask the neighbors before buying home.

Gay Home Buyer Questions1. Ask what they know about the history of the house. The neighbors may know things that the sellers forgot to mention. For example, the yard may flood every spring and the basement may leak. Those that live close by and are friendly with the seller may also offer additional details about the seller’s and why they are selling the home that could put you in a better bargaining position.

2. Ask if they like living in the neighborhood and how long they have lived there. People that really like where they live tend to stay. If most of the neighbors have not lived there very long, it may be a red flag that something is making the neighborhood undesirable. Generally, asking those questions will get your potential new neighbor talking about the good and the bad of living in the area and give you an idea of whether it is a place where you would like to live.

3. Ask about neighborhood activities. Do the neighbors have a good relationship with each other? Do they have neighborhood cookouts during the summer or have a favorite park that everyone gathers in for fun and exercise?  Discovering this information will give you a feel for the dynamics of the neighborhood and whether it is something you can tolerate.

4. Ask about crime in the area. Neighbors can tell you whether it is safe to walk the street at night, whether there have been burglaries and other crime related activity in the neighborhood.

5. If you have children, ask about the schools in the district. Parents who have children that go to the schools are in the best position to tell you about the quality of education that will be provided. You may also want to ask whether there are local babysitters available, summer camps and school clubs nearby. These questions will help you determine whether the neighborhood is child friendly and whether the area is a good place to raise children.

Talking to your potential new neighbors should be one of the things that you do before you make a final decision on purchasing a new home. Living in your dream home could turn into a nightmare if your new neighborhood is intolerable to you.

Posted on July 15, 2014 in Buying a Home, Gay Real Estate News, Home Buying

Top 3 Ways for Same Sex Couples to finance a Home Purchase

There are several ways that same sex couples can finance a home purchase including traditional mortgage lenders and possible other options. Following are the top 3 ways for same sex couples to finance a home.

images1. The U.S. Finance and Administration, FHA, is a division of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, HUD. Because discrimination based on marital status is prohibited, it makes no difference if you are married or not when applying for a loan. Federal law also prohibits FHA from considering sexual orientation or gender identity of loan applicants.

FHA insures loans so that qualified lenders can offer you easy qualifying and low closing costs on your new home. FHA requires a down payment of 3.5 percent of the purchase price, well below the percentage that must be paid with most traditional mortgages.

FHA does not actually make loans; it is an insurance fund that guarantees loans so lenders can offer good terms to home buyers. Since each FHA approved lender sets its own interest rates and costs, it would be wise to check with several lenders to find the best rates possible.

For more information on FHA loans, you should contact your gay realtor for a referral to a gay friendly FHA qualifying lender.

2. The Veteran’s Administration, VA, offers guaranteed loans to veterans. The VA does not make loans. Like the FHA, the VA insures loans made by approved lenders. If you or your partner is a veteran, you could qualify for a lower interest rate loan.

Unmarried same sex partners may apply for a joint loan, but the VA will only guarantee approximately 40 percent of the total loan if only one of you is a veteran. If you are married, it is likely that you will quality for a VA loan unless you live in a state that does not recognize same sex marriages. The Veteran’s Administration is evaluating those applications on a case-by-case basis.

Generally, obtaining a VA loan allows lenders to mortgage your new home with no down payment and negotiable interest rates. Closing costs are comparable or lower than traditional mortgages and you may be able to finance VA’s funding fee in the mortgage.

For more information on VA loans, you should contact your gay realtor for a referral to a VA qualifying lender.

3. Seller financing is available on some homes. When a seller finances the home, there is no need to apply for a mortgage from a traditional or other type lender. You will sign a promissory note and make your payments, including interest, directly to the seller. If you live in a state, such as California, that has enacted anti-discrimination laws because of sexual orientation or sexual identity, the seller would be forced to sell to you if you meet his qualifications including down payment and credit worthiness.

The benefits of seller financing include no lender origination or other fees and there is no need to worry about strict mortgage lender requirements. Since the terms are negotiated between you and the seller, you may end up with a lower down payment and interest rate than you would with a traditional mortgage.

If you are interested in purchasing a seller financed home, you should check the laws in your state to ensure that you cannot be discriminated against.

In addition to the above, many states offer mortgage assistance programs. For example, MaineHousing’s First Home Program offers low fixed rate mortgages. You should check with your state government to find out what options are available in your area.

A great way to get started is to contact a top gay realtor at GayRealEstate.com. The Nation’s Oldest and Largest Gay Realtor Directory. No Cost or Obligation to find the Perfect Agent.