Monthly Archives: October 2014

Living in a Conservative City

If you’re a member of the LGBT community, you know what it’s like to live in an area where people are judged on their sexual orientation.  These conservative areas can range from simply unwelcoming to downright dangerous for gays and lesbians.  But sometimes you’re forced to live in an area you wouldn’t choose if it were up to you.  This can be because of work, financial situation, school, or other reason.  If you’re stuck in a conservative area, here are some things to keep in mind.

Living in a Conservative Part of the Country Should Not Deter Someone Looking for a LGBT CommunityYou’re not the only gay or lesbian person in the city.  Even the smaller areas often have a handful of LGBT people living in them.  You can find others online by searching gay support groups or social media sites like Living Social.  By meeting people who are in the same situation, you can fill what might otherwise be a very solitary life with some social activities.  You can also always look for friends who live in nearby areas.  Also, even if you’re surrounded by people who may not be the friendliest towards LGBT people, remember that there are many straight allies out there.

Many LGBT people are worried about either being flat out discriminated against or being subtly discriminated against.  In the first case, they may be denied for an apartment or other rental property.  Subtle discrimination includes things like a realtor “forgetting” to submit a bid to the seller or waiting until after another bid has been submitted.  To avoid this, look for a gay or lesbian realtor.  You may be surprised at how many of them there are, even in conservative locations.  They can help you find a home without fear of any discrimination.

As much as it may hurt, living in an area where hate crimes have been committed against LGBT people does require taking precautions.  You may not want to fly your rainbow flag outside your home, for example, or have a gay pride sticker on your car.  Some people may argue against this because it’s hiding who you are, but others would say it’s only smart to not make yourself a target, especially if hate crimes have occurred in the area.  The bottom line is that you have to do what you feel is right and safe for you.  Learn what you can about crimes in your area and then make the call.

Also learn about the laws in the state you’re in and the business you’re working for.  Remember that in some states, employers can fire someone simply because of their sexual orientation.  If you live in a conservative area, you may be working for a conservative employer.  Keep that in mind when sharing your personal life at work.

Posted on October 30, 2014 in Uncategorized

Consequences of Same Sex Marriage on Real Estate

As of October, 2014, it is legal for same sex couples to marry in 32 states. For those who can legally marry, the calculation of estate taxes when a spouse dies and the amount of capital gain taxes that are exempt from taxes when you sell a home may be affected. Following are some of the ways that marriage can affect you.

imagesTenancy in the Entirety

Tenancy in the entirety is a way of holding title to your home that is only available to married couples. In states that allow this designation, it means that each of you own 100 percent of the home and have equal right to access. The home cannot be sold or transferred to anyone else without both spouses agreement. When one spouse dies, the surviving spouse automatically becomes the sole owner. In that case, there is a federal unlimited deduction for marital couples, meaning that there will be no federal gift tax triggered by the transfer of ownership.

Capital Gains Taxes

If you own a home by tenancy in the entirety and you sell your home, you are entitled to an exclusion from capital gains, even if only one of your names is on the home. Capital gains is the difference between the money you have invested into the home and the amount that it is sold for. Some conditions apply, such as number of years you lived in the home.

It is important to note that, because of the Defense of Marriage Act, DOMA, 2013 ruling that overturned the section that required same sex spouses to be treated as unmarried for federal law purposes, the federal capital gains exemption applies to same sex married couples as well as heterosexual couples. It applies regardless of whether you live in a state that prohibits such marriages if you were married in a state that legally recognizes same sex marriages,

Real Estate Mortgage Deduction

Before DOMA, same sex married couples who jointly owned their home were required to file separate federal tax returns and either split the deduction between them or only one partner take the deduction. In addition, each partner had to qualify separately for the deduction. Since DOMA, same sex spouses can now file jointly for the larger deduction afforded to married couples.

Purchasing or Selling a Home

Since state laws vary and there are different qualifications that must be met under federal law, you should contact a local LGBT attorney regarding any questions that you may have.

If you are in the market to sell or purchase a home or purchase a new one, hiring an LGBT real estate agent at GayRealEstate.com would be in your best interests. He or she will be in a position to know the current laws affecting the LGBT community and can assist you throughout the process.

Posted on October 29, 2014 in Uncategorized

Gay Neighborhoods Begin to Fade with LGBT Acceptance

Several decades ago, gay neighborhoods, sometimes called gayborhoods or gay ghettos, were very popular.  Gay men and women flocked to them for the safety and camaraderie they offered.  While many of these neighborhoods started as dilapidated, run down areas, the LGBT community began to transform them, and today, some of these areas are among the most affluent in their respective cities.  Of course, this means property values have risen, and some gay neighborhoods are no longer really affordable by any except the upper class.

More Neighborhoods Are Becoming LGBT FriendlySo where do other LGBT people live?  Some might expect new gay neighborhoods to start forming, and that has occurred in some areas.  However, there are some cities that have a good sized LGBT population, but no real gay neighborhood.  That’s because as being LGBT has become more and more accepted, fewer and fewer feel like they have to live in these communities.  They feel safe living anywhere.  This is especially true in the past year, thanks to the federal courts upholding the rights of same-sex spouses.  With same-sex marriage legal in more than half of the states, it certainly feels to many like the fight is, if not over, at least on the downward slope.

While that’s not necessarily true, and being openly gay in some neighborhoods can be dangerous, the overall movement across the country is for gays and lesbians to live anywhere throughout a city.  Comparing information from the past ten years, a little over 8 percent of gay men have moved out of areas traditionally associated with the LGBT community.  More than 13 percent of lesbians have moved from these areas.  The gayborhoods, it seems, are definitely on the decline.  Some of this may have to do with the cost of living in these areas, but that’s not the only factor.

A number of LGBT people say they no longer feel the need to hide away in these gay communities.  They’re proud of who they are, and they don’t believe they need to live surrounded by other LGBT people to be safe or happy.  The gay districts are no longer as relevant as they once were, but while some see that as a good thing, some see it as a loss of culture.  A number of these areas were very important in the struggle for gay rights, and older LGBT people question what will happen to them as gay neighborhoods decline.

Posted on October 25, 2014 in Uncategorized

Home Buying Tips for Same Sex Couples

When same sex couples purchase a home, there are some legal protections that can be put into place to protect their children in the event one or both of them die. The protections that would be best for you will depend on your particular situation. Following are some of the options that are available, depending on the state that you live in.

Types of Ownership

When you purchase a home, you can choose how you want to take ownership. Following are some of the choices that are available.

imagesJoint tenancy with right of survivorship means that you will both own and use the home equally. When one of you dies, your partner will automatically own the home. This may be an option if you are both parenting the children and the surviving partner is a legal guardian and will continue to care for them after the death of the partner.

Tenancy in common allows each of you to will your share of the home to anyone you choose, including your children. In order to protect your children with this option, you can create a will making them the beneficiary upon your death.

Sole ownership where the home is owned by one of you rather than both is an option. The legal guardian of the children could purchase the home in his or her name and will the home to the children. The problem with this option is that the partner whose name is not on the home will not legally own any interest and will have no rights should you breakup or die unless you have created a will that includes them.

Wills

Creating a will allows you to distribute your assets to anyone that you choose. To protect your partner and your children, you can include them as the beneficiary of your home and any other assets that you choose.

If you die without a will, your estate will be distributed according to the laws in the state that you live in. Most states dictate that the estate is distributed between the spouse and the children, or to the children if there is no spouse. In the case of same sex couples who are not married or in a legal relationship, the home would be distributed to the children only if they are their natural children or are adopted. This means that if the children are the natural issue of one of the partners in a same sex relationship and the other partner dies, his estate would not go to the surviving partner or his or her children.

Estate Planning

Most people choose to create a will as well as selecting the home ownership option that works best with their particular situation. There are also other estate planning options available that can be used to protect both your partner and your children in the event of your death including revocable living trusts.

Real estate and estate planning laws vary by state. It would be wise to consult with a real estate attorney who is familiar with LGBT issues when considering the options available to you and your same sex partner.

If you are in the market to purchase a home, you should hire an LGBT real estate agent at GayRealEstate.com to assist you. He or she will help you find the right home and protect your interests throughout the home buying process.

Posted on October 22, 2014 in Uncategorized

Home Buying Tips for Same Sex Couples

When you find the perfect home that you and your partner would like to purchase, you will begin the process by making a purchase offer. The offer generally includes how much you are offering to pay for the home, contingencies to the purchase such as inspections or financing, and any conveyances you would like included such as furnishings or other assets. It may also include a good faith deposit, generally $500 or 5 percent of the home’s value, to show that you are serious about purchasing the home.

Sold-signBefore making your offer, there are some things that you should consider.

1. Find out why they are selling. If they are selling because they have to make a move for a job change or some other reason that makes them motivated to sell the home quickly they may be willing to negotiate on the asking price.

2. Do not make an offer that is a lot lower than the asking price if it is a fairly priced. This could insult the seller and make him or her unwilling to negotiate any further with you. If the home is fairly priced, you may consider offering a slightly lower amount if you are not buying in a fast paced market where you stand to lose out on the home altogether.

3. Do not show the seller that you are enthusiastic about buying the home. Doing so could    make the sellers think that you want it bad enough to pay a higher price than what you are offering. While this may open negotiations, the seller may be less inclined to lower the price or offer additional perks, such as paying closing costs or making a repair that you would like.

4. Be sure to include logical time frames for obtaining financing, inspections and other           contingencies that you can logically meet. For example, while you may believe that you can obtain financing within two weeks, there is no guarantee that it will happen. You may end up applying at a different mortgage company and miss the deadline. In that case, the agreement can be voided for noncompliance and the seller is free to sell the home to someone else.

The seller has the option of accepting your offer, making a counter offer with or without changes, or rejecting your offer altogether. Keep in mind that just because your offer may be the first, the highest or the best offer the seller has received, he or she has no obligation to accept it. In a few states, the seller is required to accept an offer or take it off the market if the offer is for full price with no contingencies. Generally, sellers have the authority to accept the offer that they prefer.

If the seller rejects your offer altogether, you have the option of submitting another offer. In that case, it would be wise to have your real estate agent, if you have one, find out why the offer was rejected in the first place. That knowledge will give you a base for making a better offer that may be accepted.

If the seller accepts your offer and all parties sign, a ‘meeting of the minds’ takes place and the contract becomes legally binding. This is why it is important to include any contingencies and conveyances that you would like included. Unless the seller is willing to negotiate and modify the purchase agreement, you will be legally liable to follow through on the purchase on the terms submitted in the offer.

If you are considering selling your home, you should consult with an LGBT real estate agent at GayRealEstate.com. He or she is in the best position to know and discuss the local market with you and guide you through the process of buying a home. In addition, an LGBT real estate agent has the knowledge to guide you through the process of making a purchase offer.

Why the Most Popular Gay Neighborhoods are No Longer Affordable

The Castro in San Francisco.  Boystown/Lakeview in Chicago.  Greenwich Village in New York City.  These neighborhoods have been known as “gay ghettos” for decades.  They were the original places where LGBT people could come together and live in an area without fearing for their property or their lives.  Today, many young gays and lesbians have heard of these neighborhoods as the original gay villages, and many want to visit or even move to these areas.  But those who start seeking real estate in one of these popular gay neighborhoods may be in for some sticker shock.

There Are Numerous LGBT Neighborhoods That Are Still AffordableIn many cities, these neighborhoods, which sprung up during the 60s and 70s, used to be fairly rough and run down.  Real estate was fairly cheap because the homes were in need of a little care.  The neighborhoods were often home to people who the rest of society considered dangerous or even criminal.  Seedy bars were about the only businesses in these areas.

The major reason that these neighborhoods are becoming so expensive is gentrification, the shift of businesses and residents who make more money and tend to invest more into their communities.  The more traditional and well-known LGBT neighborhoods started to attract the attention of wealthier people.  They started buying up properties in these areas and renovating them, slowly transforming what were some of the poorer parts of their respective cities into very nice neighborhoods.  LGBT entrepreneurs brought new businesses to the neighborhoods, and today, some of the most well-known areas like the Castro have become very wealthy communities that many middle class gays and lesbians simply can’t afford.

Unfortunately, this gentrification has caused some of the same issues that LGBT people originally moved into gay neighborhoods to escape.  Gays and lesbians were pushed out of some neighborhoods because of their sexuality.  This is what led to a number of gay neighborhoods being founded.  Today, the high cost of living in some of these areas is doing the same thing.  Those who aren’t affluent, white professionals are often unable to move into gay neighborhoods.  Rent and real estate prices have risen to the point that the lower class and lower middle class can’t afford to live in the neighborhoods.  Many who don’t meet a certain standard have also been pushed out of these areas.

Fortunately, while the big names like Castro and Boystown may not be affordable, there are many new gay and lesbian communities that have popped up around the world.  These newer areas often are much more affordable.

Posted on October 16, 2014 in Housing Markets, Relocation / Moving

The Best Places to Retire for LGBT People

Looking for a great place to retire?  There are a number of communities where LGBT people can spend their golden years among like-minded people.  Some of them are among the top retirement destinations in the country, too.  You might be surprised to learn that they’re not necessarily the places you’d expect, either.  Here are some of the most popular places for LGBT people to retire, based off of the numbers from the 2012 U.S. Census.

Consider These Places for Your RetirementLooking to retire to a huge city where you’ll never be more than a few minutes away from just about anything?  You might expect Florida, one of the most popular retirement states, to top the list, but Tampa actually ties for second place beside Phoenix, Arizona.  Instead, if you’re looking to retire to a city with more than 250,000 people, you’ll find the most gay and lesbian retirees move to Atlanta, Georgia.  Many chose these three cities because of the good cost of living and the decent retirement tax.  The convenience of being able to walk almost anywhere, plus the many different services available for senior citizens makes them ideal for older individuals.

Some people don’t want to live in huge cities, but they do want the convenience that comes with living in a rather large area.  If you want to live in a city with 100,000 people or more, you might want to retire to Fort Lauderdale.  While it may get fairly crowded and noisy around spring break, the city is fairly quiet the rest of the year.  If Fort Lauderdale isn’t to your liking, two other Florida cities made this list: St. Petersburg and Orlando.  Both have great cost of living benefits and amazing weather.  If Florida is a bit too tropical for you, Paradise and Enterprise, Nevada, are good options.  Located near Las Vegas, these two cities have a dry heat that you may be able to tolerate a lot better than the dampness of Florida.

But not everyone wants to live in a city.  How about a smaller urban area with fewer than 100,000 people?  Once again, Florida shines here.  Wilton Manors, known as one of the best places for the LGBT community, is at the top of this list.  Oakland Park and Miami Shores are also great places to retire to.  Then there’s Rehoboth Beach in Delaware for those who want to retire to the Northeast.  Avondale Estates in Georgia is another great retirement destination.

So where are you going to retire?  Even if it’s years away, you can always start dreaming about retirement!

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 , what size and what type 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 at 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.

How Does Fair Housing Laws Affect Same Sex Couples

The Federal Fair Housing Act, Title VIII of the Civil Rights Act of 1968, basically prohibits the refusal to negotiate, rent or sell housing, deny a dwelling, set different terms and conditions, or provide different housing services or facilities based on race, color, national origin, sex, familial status or handicap. The Act may exempt owner-occupied buildings with no more than four units, single-family housing sold or rented without a broker, and housing that limit occupancy to members only by organizations and private clubs. There are currently no legal protections for LGBT under the federal fair housing laws.

downloadFederal Agency Protections for Same Sex Couples

Many states, municipalities and some federal agencies have statutes or ordinances that protect LGBT against discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.  Sexual Orientation refers to an individual’s emotional or physical attraction to the same or opposite gender. Examples include straight, bisexual, gay and lesbian. Gender identity refers a person’s identification of themselves as man or woman regardless of the gender that they were born as or the sex listed on the birth certificate.

The Federal Housing and Urban Development, HUD, agency implemented a rule in 2012 designed to make its core programs available regardless of actual or perceived sexual orientation, gender identity or marital status.  The rule applies to owners and operators of HUD assisted housing or housing insured by HUD in HUDs rental assistance and home ownership programs.

What this means is that the owners of any housing that is HUD assisted or insured through the Federal Housing Administration, FHA, cannot discriminate against same sex couples in rental and housing programs. FHA was made a part of the HUD agency in 1965 and FHA is required to follow HUDs rules and policies.

HUD has jurisdiction over LGBT individual and family complaints. If you feel that you have been discriminated against, you should contact your local HUD office.

State and Municipality Protections for Same Sex Couples

The states of 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 to prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. New Hampshire, New York and Wisconsin prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation. Many municipalities in those states and in other states have enacted ordinances that prohibit discrimination laws based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

How Anti-Discrimination Laws and Ordinances Affect Same Sex Couples

The above outline of the anti-discrimination laws, ordinances and policies are designed to give you some insight into what protections may be available to you. As noted above, those protections vary by location and can be complex and hard to understand. If you would like more information, you should contact your local civil rights agency or an LGBT attorney.

If you are interested in purchasing a new home or seeking rental property, you should consider contacting a local LGBT real estate agent via GayRealEstate.com. He or she will be up to date on laws that may affect you and will have the knowledge and expertise to assist you in finding housing that is suitable for your needs.

Tips for Same Sex Couples Selling their Home

Selling your home can be complicated and stressful. Buyers are a lot more savvy today than they were in the past due to the wealth of information that is available on the Internet. Following are some tips for same sex couples selling their home.

RE101Learn Your Market

Real estate selling strategies are local and has its own customs. General rules for selling real estate will not work in every location. The best way to do this is to hire a real estate agent. See our article Top 10 Reasons to Hire a Gay Realtor for your Home Purchase. LGBT real estate agents know their local market and can offer advice on pricing, marketing and negotiation.

Open House

Holding an open house allows potential buyers an opportunity to explore your home and picture themselves living in it. In order to make a favorable impression, you should spruce up the outside of the home and the yard, and make sure the inside is clean and clutter free. The outside of the home is the first things that potential buyers see and is your first shot at making a favorable impression.

Find somewhere to go and let your real estate agent handle your open house. Buyers tend to feel uncomfortable while exploring a home with the sellers present. They also tend to give a realtor more honest feedback regarding their thoughts on the price and presentation of your home. That feedback can assist your realtor in ways to increase interest in the home. Another good reason to be absent during your open house is that both you and the buyers will form opinions about each other while you talking about the home that could interfere with a buyer making an offer or your acceptance of an offer that may otherwise be acceptable.

Offer and Acceptance

Real estate laws vary from state to state. Generally, there must be an offer and an acceptance of the offer as evidenced by the signatures of all parties involved. Making a written offer is not legally binding and the seller is free to make a counter offer or decline the offer. Once the seller accepts the offer and all parties sign the document, a ‘meeting of the minds’ takes place and the contract becomes legally binding.

Real estate contracts generally include the terms of the sale and the deadlines that must be met before the sale can be finalized. For example, a buyer has two weeks to secure financing, or the seller has one week to repair the furnace. If those deadlines are not met, the contract will be breached and can be declared invalid. Setting deadlines should be done realistically. One of your real estate agent’s responsibilities will be to assist you in setting those deadlines and monitor them to ensure that the contract does not go into default and result in the loss of the sale.

Real Estate Agent Consultation

If you are considering selling your home, you should consult with an LGBT real estate agent in your location ~ find one free at sites like www.GayRealEstate.com. He or she is in the best position to know and discuss the local market with you and guide you through the process of selling your home.

Posted on October 4, 2014 in Gay Real Estate News, Gay Realtor News, Home Sales, Selling