Monthly Archives: September 2014

LGBT Community Integrating Into the Suburbs

In our previous articles, we noted that LGBT individuals and couples had spread throughout cities including Minneapolis, Chicago and Phoenix rather than staying in designated LGBT neighborhoods. Since those articles were published, Amin Ghaziani released a book “There Goes the Gayborhood” that includes his research into LGBT demographics. Ghaziani is a respected sociologist at the University of British Columbia.

downloadGhaziani found that, like all neighborhoods, gayborhoods change. LGBT households are moving out and straight’s are moving in. He noted that “…LGBT people, in greater numbers than ever before, are living their lives outside the boundaries of just one neighborhood in the city.” Ghaziani found that same sex households were found in 93 percent of all of the counties in the United States. One of the main reasons, according to Ghaziani, is that “…many LGBT people feel culturally similar to their straight neighbors” and straight people are more tolerant than in the past. He notes that “[t]he rapid rate at which sexual minorities are blending into American society represents the most impressive civil rights triumph of our generation.”

Activists and LGBT organizations can be credited with the integration of the LGBT community into straight communities and vice versa. Because of their influence, Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act was ruled unconstitutional in United States v. Windsor, opening the door for the federal government to recognize same sex marriages and allow those couples to receive the same federal benefits as opposite sex married couples.

Currently 19 states recognize same sex marriages: California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, new Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington and the District of Columbia. Court cases are pending in a number of other states seeking to legalize same sex marriages. As same sex marriage laws are enacted and lawsuits are fought in courtrooms, the American public has been made more aware of LGBT issues and have become much more tolerant. They are seeing those in the LGBT communities as real people, not just a label for people that do not fit into their straight lifestyle.

Gayrealestate.com feels that the bottom line is that LGBT people want the same benefits in a community as their straight neighbors: safety, good schools for their children and friendly neighbors. Acceptance of the LGBT community has taken major strides in recent years and promises to continue to do so in the future.

Finding Affordable LGBT Neighborhoods

While many LGBT people want to live in the perfect community, many of these gay-friendly neighborhoods have become very expensive.  While it may be stereotypical, there is some truth to the fact that LGBT homeowners tend to keep their houses in great condition, and that does cause property values to rise.  However, there are some affordable areas that are perfect for same-sex couples.  You just might want to hurry—they’re sure to increase in value in a few years.

Finding the Perfect LGBT NeighborhoodSome of these areas are very close to the more well-known “gay ghettos.”  In San Francisco, for example, everyone knows that the gay district is centered around Castro Street.  But homes in the Castro are very expensive—more than $650 a square foot!  But if you move less than ten miles south, you’ll enter Brisbane.  This neighborhood is also very LGBT-friendly, but homes here cost around $300 a square foot.  It’s still expensive, but it’s half of what the Castro is.

Another great alternative to the Castro is the Redwood Heights neighborhood in Oakland.  While it does require driving or riding the BART to get into San Francisco proper, homes are priced at just a little over $200 a square foot.

The New York neighborhood of Chelsea is a mecca for gay men, but it’s very, very expensive.  Even a small two-bedroom apartment can be priced at over $1 million dollars.  Most people simply can’t afford that.  But hop over the border to New Jersey and real estate prices drop dramatically.  A home in Jersey City, which is only a quick train ride from Chelsea, is priced at almost a third of what homes in that more expensive neighborhood go for.

Another LGBT hot spot is Park Slope, a neighborhood in Brooklyn.  While it doesn’t cost as much as Chelsea, it’s still more than $650 a square foot.  However, move a little north of Manhattan and you’ll find Nyak, an area located near the Hudson River.  This nice little neighborhood is home to a number of LGBT couples, and it’s less than $300 a square foot for real estate.

West Hollywood in Los Angeles is very popular among gay men, but it’s upwards of $500 a square foot to buy a home there.  Fortunately, over in Long Beach you’ll find some homes priced at less than half that.  Look for the Signal Hill neighborhood.  Another nice affordable alternative to West Hollywood is Eastside, which is also a part of Long Beach.

Posted on September 27, 2014 in Uncategorized

LGBT Housing Discrimination

LGBT housing discrimination can and does happen across the United States and includes actions such as denial of rental or lease applications, denial of home financing and eviction. There are no protections for LGBT under the federal fair housing laws. Some federal agencies and states have enacted laws that prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, and some municipalities within states that have no such laws have enacted ordinances that provide some legal protections.

imagesFederal Department of Housing and Urban Development, HUD

In 2012, HUD implemented a rule that made it HUD policy to ensure that its core programs were available to individuals and families that were eligible regardless of actual or perceived sexual orientation, gender identity or marital status. The rule was implemented following evidence HUD received that LGBT individuals and families were being excluded from housing in the private sector.

HUD’s antidiscrimination rule requires owners and operators of HUD assisted housing or housing insured by HUD to make housing available regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity of an applicant or an occupant, whether a renter or owner. The rule institutes the policy in relation to HUDs rental assistance and homeownership programs, which include the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) mortgage insurance programs, community development programs, and public and assisted housing programs.

If you feel that you have been discriminated against by a member of the HUD or FHA program, you should contact your local HUD office. That office has jurisdiction over LGBT individual and family complaints and will either conduct their own investigation, jointly investigate or refer the matter to state, district or local governments that have other legal protections in place.

States with Fair Housing LGBT Protections

According to the Human Rights Campaign, as of May 2014,  California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington and the District of Columbia have enacted fair housing laws that include prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Note that Maryland’s antidiscrimination law will go into effect on October 1, 2014. The states of New Hampshire, New York and Wisconsin prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation.

Municipalities with Fair Housing LGBT Protections

Some of the cities that have enacted their own antidiscrimination ordinances based on sexual orientation and gender identify include Atlanta, Chicago, Detroit, Miami, New York, Pittsburgh, St. Louis, and Seattle. There are many more municipalities through the United States that have also enacted ordinances prohibiting discrimination against LGBT.

What You Can Do

Unfortunately, until the federal government revises its fair housing laws to include protections for LGBT, there is not much you can do unless you live in a location that does have laws or ordinances or you are looking for or living in homes or apartments insured by HUD.

You should be aware that discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity may fall under another type of discrimination that is covered under the federal fair housing laws. For example, a prospective tenant is transgender and the property management company refuses to rent to him. This could constitute illegal discrimination under the fair housing act because of sex.

If you feel that you have been discriminated against, you should contact a local LGBT attorney. He or she will be up to date on the discrimination laws in your area and can advise you of the options available to you.

LGBT individuals and families who are interested in purchasing a new home or seeking rental property should contact a local LGBT real estate agent at www.GayRealEstate.com. For more information, please read our article titled Top 10 Reasons to Hire a Gay Realtor for your Home Purchase.

Posted on September 25, 2014 in Buying a Home, Gay Real Estate News, Gay Realtor News, Housing

My Partner and I are Getting Married, How Will That Affect The Home That We Own Together

When you purchased your home together, you took ownership as joint tenancy, joint tenancy with right of survivorship or tenancy in common. Once you are married, your home will continue to be titled in the way that you originally took ownership. The question might be whether you need to change the way that you hold title.

imagesTenancy in the Entirety

Once you are married, providing you live in a state that recognizes same sex marriages and allows this type of ownership, you will have the right to own property by tenancy in the entirety. Not all states recognize this type of ownership and not all states that do recognize it will allow you to transfer the home that you already owned into a tenancy in the entirety.

Tenancy in the entirety ownership is based on the common law concept that a married couple is one legal entity. The benefits of this form of ownership include that it grants the right of survivorship to the surviving spouse. When one spouse dies, the other spouse automatically owns the home. It also offers protection against creditors in most states where it is recognized. For example, generally, if only one spouse has a judgment against him or her, the creditor cannot place a lien against the home. An exception in some states occurs when the judgment is against both spouses.

One spouse cannot sell or encumber or bequeath any part of the home without the other spouse’s agreement and signature. Once any legal document is signed by both spouses that affects ownership of the home, the tenancy in the entirety will be dissolved.

Joint Tenancy

Joint tenancy, or joint tenancy with right of survivorship in states that require that language, automatically gives ownership of the home to your surviving spouse or partner when one of you dies. This type of ownership will override any attempt to change or bequeath your interest in the home to any other party. As with tenancy in the entirety, both of you have an undivided equal ownership in the home and cannot refinance or sell your interest without the spouse or partner’s approval and signature.

The important difference between joint tenancy with right of survivorship and tenancy in the entirety is that the home is not protected from judgments by creditors. Regardless of the partner or spouse who has received a judgment against him or her, a lien can be placed against the home.

Tenancy in Common

If you own your home by tenancy in common, you both own equal or unequal shares of the home, depending on how you listed it on the title. You both have the right to sell or bequeath by will your percentage in the home to a third party. If one of you dies intestate, without a will, the deceased spouse’s percentage will be distributed according to the intestate laws of the state that you live in. Once you are married, it may make sense for you to choose another option for holding ownership of your home in order to protect your spouse from losing the home in the event of your death.

Contact an Expert

The laws concerning property ownership vary by state and can be confusing. Once you are married, you may want to consult a gay realtor at GayRealEstate.com that can advise of home ownership options in your state.

If you intend to sell your home or purchase a different home once you are married, an LGBT real estate agent can assist you in locating the perfect home. He or she will also protect your interests and explain your options throughout the process.

Posted on September 24, 2014 in Gay Marriage, Gay Real Estate News, Home Ownership, Homeowners

What Goes into a Domestic Partnership Agreement?

When a LGBT couple purchases a home in a state in which they cannot be legally married (or their marriage is not recognized) or get a civil union, they may want to create what’s called a Domestic Partnership Agreement.  This agreement may outline several things, but it’s very important for those couples who purchase a home but cannot claim joint ownership.  A Domestic Partnership Agreement is vital if couples split up because it can provide protection for both and clearly outlines how property, including real estate, is to be divided up.

Domestic PartnershipsWhen a LGBT couple decides to split up and isn’t legally married or in a civil union, there’s no objective third-party to help divide property.  If the split is mutual and amicable, the two can usually come to an agreement and decide if they want to sell the home or if one person wants to buy the other out.  This doesn’t always have to be in the form of cash, either.  For example, one person could keep the home while signing over the couple’s joint vehicle to the other person.

However, there’s more to it than just deciding who gets the home.  It’s also wise to set a timetable for any buy outs.  Does it need to happen right away?  If not, how long does one partner have to buy the other out?  And what happens if the house can’t, for whatever reason, be sold.  If there’s still a mortgage to pay, the couple will have to determine how that mortgage is to be paid.  Will both contribute so it doesn’t affect their credit, or will the person staying in the house assume the full mortgage?  All of this can be outlined in a Domestic Partnership Agreement.

A breakup that is less than friendly is already going to be emotional and difficult.  Adding in the extra stress of working out who gets to keep the house, especially if the two of you have lived in it for years, is only going to make the situation worse.  That’s why many gay and lesbian relators recommend LGBT couples create a Domestic Partner Agreement.  While no one wants to think about breaking up, it’s a smart idea to address the situation while you’re both level-headed and able to discuss the topic openly.  If you want until you’re angry and ready to walk away from the relationship, the discussion will be nowhere near as pleasant.

Posted on September 20, 2014 in Gay and Lesbian, Gay Marriage, Homeowners

5 Tips for Same Sex Couples and Home Owners Associations (HOA’s)

Home Owners Associations (HOA), is an organization of property owners in a subdivision, development or condominium complex that administers the rules and covenants of that neighborhood or community. Covenants are legal, contractual agreements that are said to run with the land, meaning that the covenant cannot be separated from the land and is transferred with it when the property is sold. They are used to enforce certain standards of the community to keep property values from falling and can prohibit a number of things, including the color you can paint the home, fences, landscaping and building materials.

imagesRules are made and enforced by the HOAs in relation to property owner conduct, common areas such as pools and other amenities and even how many pets you can have.

Following are 5 tips for same sex couples and Home Owners Associations.

1. Before purchasing a home governed by an HOA, ask to see the rules and regulations or Codes, Covenants and Restrictions, CCRs. Review those documents carefully to make sure that you are comfortable living by those rules. For example, if you have four pets but the rules only allow you to have two, are you willing to find other homes for two of your pets?

2. Ask to see the HOAs financial statements. They are generally not obligated by law to show them to you if you are not a homeowner. Many HOAs are nonprofits and, as such, you may find their statements from the Secretary of State or other government office, depending on the state that you live in, that maintains corporate nonprofit licenses and financial statements.

3. Read the board of directors meeting minutes to find out if any special assessments are coming up. Special assessments are funds that are needed by the HOA for unexpected expenses or extraordinary repairs. They get those funds by charging each homeowner with a portion of the cost. That assessment is in addition to your normal HOA dues. You may also find out about any bylaw or other changes in how the community will operate that may have a direct effect on you.

4. Talk to your potential neighbors. This is an excellent way to find out how the HOA is doing financially and whether the homeowners are happy with the current board of directors. In addition, you will get a feel for the type of people living in the neighborhood and may even make new friends. This is especially important for same sex couples so that they can avoid the frustration of not being welcomed into the community.

5. Find out if the home you are considering purchasing is in violation of HOA rules. If it is, you will be required to correct the problem to avoid being fined by the HOA. The rules of all HOA organizations allow fines, liens and other consequences for noncompliance with its rules. Note that some states have laws dictate how HOAs can operate along with the notice requirements for violations of the HOAs rules. You should check your state’s HOA laws so that you are aware of what an HOA can legally get away with.

Living in a community that is governed by an HOA can be great for maintaining your property values and having someone else take care of the community amenities. Problems arise when the HOA does not do a good job or overly restricts what you can do on your own property. The above 5 tips for same sex couples and home owners associations can help you avoid bad HOAs that can end up costing you a lot of money and stress. An experienced local LGBT real estate agent from GayRealEstate.com will also know the ins and outs involved in purchasing a home in an HOA community and can guide you through the process while looking out for your best interests.

Gay Real Estate and the 15 Year Mortgage

Although 30-year fixed rate mortgages were the standard choice in the past, today lenders offer loans of varying lengths. Fixed rate mortgages are home loans where the interest rate remains the same throughout the life of the loan. Following are some advantages and disadvantages related to gay real estate and the 15 year fixed rate mortgage.

Benefits

images1. You will save money by paying less interest over the life of the loan. For example, a $100,000 loan at 8 percent interest for 30 years with a monthly payment of $734 adds up to $264,240, while a 15 year loan on those same terms results in a monthly payment of $956 and adds up to $172,080. The 15 year loan results in a savings of $92,160.

2. You may save money in interest. Many lenders charge lower interest rates on a 15 year loan than for longer term loans. For example, on the 30 year loan referenced above.

3. Your equity in the home builds up much faster than with a longer term loan. Equity is the difference between your home’s value and the amount that is owed on the mortgage. For example, if your home is valued at $150,000 and you owe $100,000 on your mortgage, your equity is $50,000.

4. You will own your home free and clear in a much shorter time. This may be very beneficial if you plan to retire in 15 or 20 years and do not want to worry about making a mortgage payment.

Disadvantages

1. Your monthly payment will be higher than for a longer term loan.

2. Since the amount of interest you pay over the life of a 15 year loan will more than likely be less than it would be for a longer term loan, you will have less of a mortgage interest tax deduction every year.

3. The higher monthly payments could be a disadvantage if one of you suffers a loss of income or unexpected expenses.

There are other aspects to obtaining mortgage loans that could save you money including mortgage discount points. These points can be purchased and paid for at closing. In return, you will pay a lower interest rate on your mortgage. The amount varies depending on the lender.

If you are considering a 15 year mortgage, you should consult with your lender to find out your options. The Federal government and each state have enacted laws that apply to mortgage loans. It would be wise to consult with a local LGBT friendly realtor or attorney to review your mortgage loan agreement before signing on the dotted line. Any of the gay realtors at GayRealEstate.com can assist you in referring you to lenders who are gay/gay friendly, and may give you the best options. We hope that this article has helped you understand a little about the 15 year mortgage.

Home Buying and the Big Gay Merge (moving in together)

Buying a home and moving in together is an exciting time in your life. The process of home buying and moving in together can be stressful and can cause tension in your relationship. The following tips on home buying and the big gay merge can help you reach your goal while enjoying yourself along the way.

Couple1. Work out your finances. Have a discussion about your income, debts and credit history. A review of your finances can help you decide how much you can afford to pay for a home.

2. Work out a budget that includes your anticipated mortgage payment, taxes, insurance, utilities and other household expenses. You should then decide how much each of you will contribute to the household each month. You should also decide how much each of you will contribute each month to a slush fund to be used for emergencies.

3. Set up joint checking and savings accounts. The checking account should be funded with each of your agreed upon contributions each month and used for paying household expenses. Your slush fund contributions should be deposited into the savings  account and used for emergency household repairs and for saving to meet your future goals. Note that you can have the account set up as “and” if you want both of you to sign the checks, or “or” if you want either one of you to be able to sign the checks or withdraw funds. For example, John Doe and Jim Doe, or John Doe or Jim Doe.

4. Put it all in writing. During this exciting time, you may not feel that you need to put anything in writing because you are confident in your relationship. The reason that you need to do that is to make you both feel more comfortable with your decisions. It’s mainly for dispute resolution. It will not be legally binding unless, according to law, unless there is an offer from one party to provide money, goods or perform a service and an acceptance where the second party is agreeing to provide money, goods or perform services in return. For example, one party offers money in return for a service, such as remodeling your home. Your agreement will eliminate any arguments over who was supposed to do what.

Draft a domestic partnership agreement that includes each partner’s responsibilities and what will happen to the house and joint property if your relationship does not work out. You can add to the agreement as additional issues and decisions are made.

5. Hire a real estate agent to help you with finding and purchasing your new home. An agent who specializes in working with LGBT couples will have a better idea of what your needs are and will make you feel more comfortable being yourself. In addition, hiring an LGBT agent that you trust can help relieve much of the stress involved in purchasing a new home together. He will discuss the steps involved and assist you throughout the entire process. For more information, see our article Top 10 Reasons to Hire a Gay Realtor for your Home Purchase.

The steps listed above are designed to help you get started with your goal of home buying and the big gay merge. An experienced local LGBT gay real estate agent can discuss all aspects of purchasing your new home with you.

LGBT Homeowners and Taxes

It might seem odd to be thinking about taxes in the fall, but for LGBT people who are considering buying a home, it’s important to understand how taxes affect you before April 15.  Fortunately, things have become more simplified since August of 2013 when the IRS ruled that all legally married same-sex couples would be put on equal footing with opposite-sex couples when it comes to federal taxes.  This ruling held for all married same-sex couples even if they currently lived in states that banned gay marriage.  However, because they’ve never filed joint taxes before, many same-sex couples don’t know exactly what this means for them.

Federal Tax Returns

Tax Benefits for LGBT CouplesLGBT couples can now file either a joint return or file as married filing separately.  This gives them access to a number of different tax benefits.  They can also now claim children as dependents, together on a joint return, and they may be eligible for certain child tax credits.  Another option is for one of the spouses to file as the head of household, which will most likely result in paying fewer taxes.  It may even be possible for both to file as married filing separately and, if the family has more than one child, each spouse claims at least one child as a dependent.  Both then may be eligible for head of household status.  Your LGBT real estate agent may be able to help you in this area or may know of a tax professional who can assist you.

State Tax Returns

In states that recognize marriages or have put domestic partnerships or civil unions on the same level as marriages, couples can file state taxes jointly.  Again, a tax professional can help you navigate through this unknown legal arena if you’re not familiar with how joint tax returns work.

If you live in a state where marriage is not recognized, you’ll have to file as married on your federal taxes and single on your state taxes.  There’s no other option at this time.

The Tax Benefits of Marriage

Couples who are legally married are exempt from many different federal taxes on the transfer of real estate between the couple, both while they’re living and after one of the spouses has died.  A person can give as much as $5 million in gifts to another without paying taxes on it.  There are some gifts that are exempt from this, though.  If a same-sex couple is recognized as being married, one spouse can inherit a large amount of property without paying taxes on it.  If they are not recognized as being married, though, one spouse may have to pay a large amount of taxes upon inheriting the property.

Dealing with Estate Planning

One of the most difficult aspects of anyone’s life, no matter what orientation they identify as, is handling estate planning.  The idea of dealing with your partner’s death is not a pleasant thought, and because of that, a number of couples put off preparing their wills or even discussing estate planning at all.  That can lead to a number of problems when one spouse dies, especially for LGBT couples in a state that does not recognize same-sex marriage or any type of domestic partner benefits.

Estate PlanningThose who are not able to own a property jointly will need to make certain they have a will states that the partner will take full ownership of that property after their death.  If they do not, the property will go into probate, which means the state will take ownership until the legal heir is determined.  If you’re not married and your spouse isn’t legally recognized as your partner, he or she will most likely not be deemed the legal heir and the property will pass to a family member.  In some cases, this means the surviving spouse may suddenly be homeless and without any of the property (everything, not simply real estate, but vehicles, furniture, pets, and anything else that was jointly purchased) the two accumulated throughout their lives together.

Of course, one way to help ensure the surviving partner is recognized as at least a partial owner of real estate is to put both names on the title.  However, this can cause some other issues if you’re not recognized as a legally married couple.  If the property isn’t held jointly, the family of the deceased spouse may end up owning half of the real estate.  One spouse may also have to file a gift tax return.  This is one area where you will want to be certain to talk to a real estate agent and lawyer who understand how the law applies to LGBT property owners in your area.  Remember, once a name is placed on a property deed, it cannot be removed without that person’s consent or a court order.

One thing that LGBT partners can do is create a domestic partnership agreement.  This document, which can be filed by any two people in a committed relationship regardless of gender, can be used to prove a financial relationship between two people.  It outlines both partner’s responsibilities and can be used to outline how your property and other assets are divided upon death or separation.

Posted on September 4, 2014 in Gay and Lesbian, Home Insurance