Monthly Archives: November 2014

Surprisingly Welcoming Cities

Some cities are known for welcoming LGBT people—San Francisco, Portland, and New York City are all very open places to live.  Gay and lesbian real estate agents have no problems finding their clients great homes there.  But then there are some cities that aren’t so welcoming.  It can be difficult to even find a LGBT-friendly realtor in those areas!  Some cities, however, might surprise you.  People would expect them to not be the most gay-friendly places to live, but they actually are.

More and More Cities Across the US Are Opening Their Arms to the LGBT CommunityOne of these cities is Dallas, Texas.  Texas is the home of the Bush family and former Republican Governor Rick Perry, people who aren’t exactly supportive of gay rights.  However, Dallas is a pocket of liberalness in a very red state.  The city has some anti-discrimination laws on the books, plus a number of gay bars, clubs, and other businesses.  It’s also home to the Cathedral of Hope, the largest LGBT church in the world.  San Antonio and Houston are also fairly open-minded cities in the Lone Star State.

Louisville and Lexington, Kentucky, are also unexpectedly LGBT-friendly.  The gay community in these two cities is very public about who they are, and most people accept that.  They’re one of the most open cities in the South.  The Lexington Pride Festival is a major event, and June 29, 2013, was even proclaimed Pride Day by Mayor Jim Gray, the first openly gay man to be elected to the office.

Another Southern city on this list is Atlanta, Georgia.  The city has a long history with LGBT culture and is actually the third-largest gay population in the country with 12.8 percent of its residents identifying as LGBT.  The city has an amazing annual pride parade, plus a good number of LGBT business owners call Atlanta home.  The downtown area is gay-friendly, as are a number of nearby suburbs.

North Carolina has passed a number of discriminatory pieces of legislation recently, and there is a debate going on regarding constitutional amendments that would ban same-sex marriage forever.  Many gays and lesbians would do just about anything to avoid moving there, but if you have to, the western part of the state is much more welcoming.  Asheville, Boone, and other parts of the state around the mountains are both very beautiful and surprisingly liberal.  Asheville is especially diverse because it’s a very artistic area full of many different types of people.

Posted on November 26, 2014 in Uncategorized

New LGBT Senior Homes Open in Various U.S. Cities

During most people’s lives, they may rent several apartments or houses and eventually buy a home.  Some might even buy and sell several homes in their lifetimes with the help of a good realtor.  However, everyone eventually becomes too old to maintain a home, and some make the choice to move into an elderly community.  But for years, it was difficult for members of the LGBT community to find a welcoming senior citizen home.  Some would simply outright reject older gay or lesbian people who wanted to move into these homes.  Some would find they were ostracized by the other residents or had to hide their sexuality.

There is a Growing Need for LGBT Retirement Communities Across the USAccording to polls, services that assist the elderly, including housing services, are actually slower in accepting the LGBT community than others have been.  This means that while there are a number of gay and lesbian realtors out there ready to help people find homes, it’s harder for the elderly to find care centers.

Today, though, a new trend has appeared: LGBT-friendly elderly housing communities are popping up across the country.  Many of the people who have elected to move into these communities say they feel very welcomed and that the community feels like home.  They love being around others who have shared some of their experiences and understand how they feel.  They also say it’s nice to be able to be open about who they are and not fear alienating others because they let something slip about their orientation.

One of the biggest of these LGBT elderly communities is called Town Hall.  This community is located in Chicago and promotes itself as a LGBT-friendly housing development.  The people who created Town Hall also understand that the elderly are often on a very fixed income, and they offer the community’s one-bedroom apartments and studios for an affordable price.  When the community opened, they had 79 apartments for rent.  They received over 400 applicants.

The Town Hall isn’t the only elderly LGBT community to open.  Similar developments have popped up in Philadelphia and Minneapolis.  These two communities opened in late 2013, and like Town Hall, both had many more applicants than apartments.  Other communities are planned for Los Angeles and San Francisco.  All of these developments are aimed at LGBT people who are no longer able to live alone, but don’t have the money to afford the often-expensive assisted living communities.

Posted on November 21, 2014 in Uncategorized

The U.S. has Some of the Best LGBT Travel Destinations in the World

There are a lot of different LGBT-friendly cities around the world.  Amsterdam, Barcelona, London, and Paris all welcome gays and lesbians from around the world.  Then there are famous islands like Lesbos and Mykonos, two major LGBT vacation destinations.  But what about the U.S.?  While we may be slow in the gay rights area, there are several cities that have become major gay destinations.  Surprisingly, these aren’t always the cities in which the most gays or lesbians live in.  You won’t find Seattle on this list, for example, even though it has a huge percentage of LGBT households.

San Francisco

Traveling the World for the Top LGBT Destinations Has Never Been EasierThe tales of San Francisco have gone global, and it’s no wonder that many people want to visit the City by the Bay.  It’s famous Castro District may no longer be the biggest LGBT area in the U.S., but it’s still a major player.  There are many different gay bars, restaurants, clubs, and other businesses in the area, plus San Francisco’s pride festival is still a must-see.  San Francisco is home to a large number of gays and lesbians, of course, but many more visit every year.

New York

While San Francisco may have the reputation, it’s New York that has the LGBT history.  The famous Stonewall Riots took place here, making the city the birthplace of the gay rights movement in the U.S.  Chelsea, Greenwich Village, and other areas of the city are home to many LGBT people.  But gays and lesbians make up just a small number of travelers who come to the Big Apple every year—the city is one of the top travel destinations in the world for people of all orientations.

Los Angeles

The home of Hollywood is also a major LGBT tourist destination.  West Hollywood, in fact, is practically a gay city.  There are a lot of gay-friendly parts of LA, including a number of amazing beaches and other outdoor areas.  There are some pretty big LGBT events in the city, too, although it can be difficult to know where the hottest event, club, or restaurant is because they change so frequently.

Miami

Miami, Florida, is another awesome tourist destination for LGBT people from around the world.  The gorgeous beaches, the great weather, and the nightlife are all amazing draws.  During March, the city and the surrounding areas become full of college students, both straight and gay, on spring break.  This is definitely a party town, and while it’s not to everyone’s taste, those who love what Miami is all about are sure to enjoy themselves.

Posted on November 14, 2014 in Uncategorized

5 Ways for Same Sex Couples to Prepare to Own Their First Home

Many same sex couples make the mistake of not preparing before purchasing their first home. The result is unexpected delays and disappointments. Following are five ways for same sex couples to prepare to own their first home.

images1. Calculate the Cost of Owning a Home

The first step is to determine how much home you can afford. You can do this by applying for preapproval from a mortgage lender. Before applying, it would be wise to obtain a copy of your credit report from one of the major reporting agencies and checking to be sure that is no inaccurate information included. If there are inaccuracies, contact the reporting agency to have it corrected before applying for preapproval. Note that the major credit reporting agencies are required under the Federal Fair Credit Reporting Act to provide individuals a free copy of their report once per year.

2. Open a Savings Account

While you are searching for your home, it would be wise to save, or add to your savings, the money needed for your down payment and for necessities that you will need once you move in. Necessities may include a lawn mower, new furniture or other items that you would like to personalize the home. You will also want to save some funds to pay for emergency repairs that may occur once you move in. For example, the furnace may go out or your roof may start leaking. It is important to have the funds on hand for those types of repairs should they arise.

3. Organize Your Financial Information

Before applying for preapproval for a home mortgage, you should make sure that you have all of the documents at hand that may be needed. Generally, lenders require your previous year tax returns, statements from your savings and other accounts, and your latest pay stubs. Organize those documents and take them, and any other documents the lender you choose might require, with you when you go to apply.

4. Understand Mortgage Loans

There are a number of options available to low and moderate income buyers to obtain a mortgage, including conventional, Federal Housing Administration (FHA) and Veterans Administration (VA).

Conventional mortgages are those that are not guaranteed by a government agency. These types of loans generally require more money down and somewhat strict credit requirements.

FHA guarantees loans from qualified lenders resulting in more flexible lending practices and lower interest rates.

VA loans are guaranteed by the Veterans Administration and obtained through qualified lenders. These loans do not require a down payment, but do require a funding fee of approximately one to three percent of the loan amount. VA loans are available to service members and veterans, spouses and other eligible beneficiaries.

Note that the above is a sampling and are not the only mortgage options available.

5. Develop a Perfect Home List

Make a list of the type of home that you would like to purchase and what it should include. For example, would you prefer a ranch, Cape Cod or an old farmhouse? Would you prefer that it has a garage, a small lot or acreage or a specific type of location? Once you have made your list, you should prioritize it. List the things that you must have at the top of the list. It is unlikely that you will find a home that has everything on your list so you should be prepared to be flexible. If you find the perfect home but it does not have some aspect that you wish, perhaps it is something that you can add once you move in or you may determine that it is not that important considering the other benefits of the home.

Once you are prepared, it would be wise to seek the assistance of an LGBT real estate agent at GayRealEstate.com. He or she will have the expertise to guide you through the home buying process and answer any questions that you may have.

Posted on November 13, 2014 in Uncategorized

What Documents do Unmarried Same Sex Couples need when Purchasing a Home Together

Unmarried same sex couples who are considering purchasing a home together should take precautions to protect themselves and their investment before buying. There are a couple of options available that would be of benefit in avoiding future problems if the relationship does not work out or one of you dies.

Domestic Partnership Agreement

images (1)Domestic partnership agreements can provide emotional and financial security if you are unmarried, either because you live in a state that does not recognize same sex marriage or you simply prefer not to marry. A domestic partnership agreement is a document that outlines the legal and financial responsibilities of your relationship. It should contain information such as how you will own property and share bank accounts, income and assets. Some states afford couples in these types of legal relationships the same rights and responsibilities as married couples. Note that domestic partnership agreements are not recognized in all states.

If domestic partnership agreements are not available in your state, you can create a similar contract that will be legally binding under contract law in courts. The cohabitation agreement must be in writing and should outline the same information as a domestic partnership agreement. You should check with your local attorney for information on that process in your state.

Title Your New Home

The best way to avoid probate and your partner potentially losing your share of the home to your heirs, if he or she does not have a will, is to title the home as Joint Tenancy with Right of Survivorship. Make sure that the right of survivorship language is included so that it does not end up being owned as joint tenancy only to avoid complications. The different ways that you can title your home depend on the state where the property is located. You should check the laws in that state to ensure that you choose the best form of ownership available for your particular situation.

Create a Will  

If you or your partner dies and you do not have a will or have not made other legal protections, you could lose his portion of the home to his or her heirs at law. Generally, state intestate laws dictate that a spouse is first in line, children are second and parents third to inherit. Whoever inherits could force you to move and sell the home if you cannot afford to buy their portion of the home from them.

Buying Your New Home

If you are considering purchasing a home, your local LGBT real estate agent at GayRealEstate.com can assist you with the process and protect your interests. He or she will have contacts that are LGBT friendly and can assist you in choosing an appropriate attorney, if needed, to assist you with contracts and wills.

Posted on November 11, 2014 in Uncategorized

4 Reasons for Same Sex Partners to Own Their Own Home

Owning your own home allows you to experience the pride of home ownership. For many same sex couples, the security of owning their own home is an accomplishment that they look forward to once they have established a secure relationship. There are many benefits to owning a home compared to renting.

download1. Freedom

When you own your own home, you have the freedom to decorate and make landscape changes, make noise, have pets and allow anyone you would like for a long visit without getting anyone’s permission. Any improvements that you make to the home will increase its market value.

The exception to this benefit is when you purchase a home in an area that has a home owners association or other organization that makes rules to maintain the value of the homes in the area. Those organizations generally have rules in place related to the type of modifications you can make to the home, noise limits and other restrictions. Before purchasing a home governed by such an organization, you should review their rules to ensure that they do not infringe on anything that you want the freedom to do in or with your new home.

2. Tax Breaks

The United States tax code allows home owners to deduct some of the costs involved in purchasing your home on your first tax return after your purchase. The code also allows you to deduct the amount that you pay in mortgage interest and property taxes every year.

3. Stability

The stability of owning a home allows you to make lasting friends and participate in community activities. If you have children, owning a home allows continuity of their education by not being required to move to different schools when you change rental units.

Although many people stay in the same rental unit for many years, most people move every few years for reasons including increases in rent or incompatibility with neighbors or the landlord. If you choose a fixed rate home mortgage, the payment amount cannot be increased during the life of the contract. This option offers stability in knowing each month exactly how much your house payment will be each month.

4. Equity

Equity is the difference between the amount owed on your home and its fair market value. Making regular mortgage payments helps you build equity in the home, unlike rental payments that you never get back.

Owning a home can be compared to a savings account. When you sell the home, you will be paid the funds left after payment of prorated items such as property taxes, real estate agent fees and the balance of your mortgage. The money that you will receive is called capital gains. The federal government allows an exemption, as of 2014, of $250,000 for a single person and $500,000 for a married couple. If your capital gain falls below that amount, you will not be required to pay federal taxes on the money that you realize from the sale of your home. There are requirements that must be met in order qualify for the exclusion, including that you must have lived in the home for at least two years out of the previous five years.

If you are ready to purchase your own home, it would be in your best interest to hire an LGBT real estate agent at GayRealEstate.com to assist you with the process… it’s free. He or she will be up to date on the real estate laws that affect same sex couples and will protect your interests throughout the process.

Posted on November 10, 2014 in Uncategorized

Moving to Seattle

When people think of the gay capital of the U.S., most people think of San Francisco or New York City.  However, that’s changed—Among large cities, Seattle actually has the largest number of gay couple households.  According to the 2012 Census, 2.6 percent of all households in the city were made up of gay couples, while San Francisco boasts only 2.5 percent.  This is the first time since the Census started tracking same-sex households that San Francisco has not had the largest percentage.

Moving to Seattle Is a Great Idea for Anyone Looking for a Booming LGBT AtmosphereThis means if you’re thinking about moving to Seattle, you’ll be among many like-minded people.   In addition to its present-day large LGBT population, Seattle has a long history of being open to gays and lesbians.  The Double Header, a bar that opened in 1934, is one of the oldest gay bars still in operation today.  With several injunctions protecting gays and the foundation of a gay rights group in 1967 put Seattle on the map as a great place for LGBT people to live.

What this means is that the city is very open, and same-sex couples will find all neighborhoods welcoming.  However, if you’re looking for a great gay area, you can’t go wrong with Capitol Hill.  It’s often called the gay center of Seattle, and it features many different night clubs, bars, and other businesses.  It’s also home to Seattle’s LGBT resource center.

Capitol Hill sits on a steep hill in the eastern part of Seattle.  It’s known for its steep street grades, something the area has in common with San Francisco.  The neighborhood is home to Volunteer Park, the highest point in the neighborhood and a place where, historically, gays would meet.  Capitol Hill is also known for its music scene and its fringe theaters.

Several lawsuits were filed in Seattle and other parts of Washington over the years in an attempt to make same-sex legal, but it wasn’t until February 13, 2012, that the state passed legislation giving the right to marry to same-sex couples.  However, opponents forced the measure to a referendum, but the measure was approved, and same-sex marriages began on December 9, 2012.  The state also allows same-sex couples to adopt children jointly and to have second-parent adoptions.  Because same-sex marriage and domestic partnerships are both recognized by the state, couples can jointly own property as well.

If you’re thinking about moving to Seattle, now’s the time—the city is experiencing a boom in popularity, and there are many great homes in the area.  A gay or lesbian real estate agent can help you find the perfect home for your family.

Posted on November 8, 2014 in Uncategorized

LGBT Discrimination in Real Estate and What to do about it

The federal Fair Housing Act does not protect against sexual orientation and sexual identity discrimination, prospective home buyers may be treated differently by finance companies, real estate agents, insurance companies and others. Some states and local governments and agencies do have laws that protect against discrimination based on same sexual orientation and sexual identity.

CoupleThe four Fair Housing Centers in Michigan collaborated to conduct an investigation in 2007 to find out if same sex couples were discriminated against. They found that one in four same sex couples experienced discrimination at some point during the purchasing process. While Michigan does not have laws that prohibit such discrimination, other studies have shown that same sex couples are discriminated against even in areas that do have protections in place.

Home Buying Discrimination Examples

LGBT couples have been discriminated against during the bidding process and by inflated purchase prices. Others have been told that the home is no longer available, even though it was still listed for sale.

Real estate agents have steered same sex couples away from homes that heterosexual couples were encouraged to buy. Same sex couples were encouraged to buy only in known LGBT neighborhoods.

Same sex couples have been turned down by finance companies, even though they met the financial qualifications.

Insurance agencies have refused to put both partners’ names on homeowner’s insurance policies. Some insurance companies have refused to pay claims or have cancelled policies on the basis that the owners were unrelated, even though both names were on the policy.

What You Can Do

If you feel that you have been discriminated against, you should gather all of the documentation, including applications, letters and voice messages, related to the attempted transaction. You should then contact your local and state housing authority to file a complaint. There are generally limitations on the amount of time that you have to file a complaint, generally between six months and a year. If the home you would like to purchase is through the federal Housing and Urban Development, HUD, or Future Homes of America, FHA, you should contact HUD’s Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity.

The best way to protect against discrimination is to know your rights. You should take the time to find out the federal, state and your local housing laws and policies. Contact a local LGBT real estate attorney. He or she can advise you of the laws that affect you and can help you fight the discrimination or win your claim against an insurance company.

If you are planning to purchase a home, you should contact a reputable LGBT real estate agent at GayRealEstate.com. He or she will know the laws affecting the LGBT community and can protect your interests throughout the home buying process.

Posted on November 6, 2014 in Uncategorized