Monthly Archives: February 2015

Being LGBT in Nevada

Nevada is known for being the home of Las Vegas, where money is easy come, easy go, and it’s possible to get married by Elvis.  That’s why it’s somewhat surprising that the state didn’t allow same-sex marriages until 2014.  However, domestic partnerships have been legal since 2009.  While not truly equal, this was just one of the reasons gay and lesbian real estate agents suggested Nevada as a home for their LGBT clients looking to move.

There Are A Lot of Freedoms that Come With Being LGBT in NevadaLas Vegas is probably going to be too much for some people.  The city is always busy, and while they say New York is the city that never sleeps, Vegas certainly doesn’t seem to ever quiet down.  This is especially true if you’re near the strip.  Fortunately, there are a number of other cities that aren’t as crazy.  Henderson, Reno, Sparks, and Carson City are all good options.

Las Vegas is a very gay-friendly city, just as one would expect it to be.  LGBT people live throughout Vegas, but there are some neighborhoods that have become gay ghettos.  Spring Valley, Stallion Mountain, East Vegas, and McNeil Manor are all extremely welcoming neighborhoods that are home to a large number of LGBT people.  These are safe areas that are off the strip, so you won’t have to worry about the lights, noise, and crowds of tourists all the time.  Despite how it appears, there are many parts of Las Vegas that are actually fairly quiet and low key.

Henderson is another LGBT-friendly city.  The Green Valley Ranch area is noted for being very popular thanks to its great view of the city and the many good schools in the area.  The neighborhood also has its own casino which doesn’t get as much of the tourist crowd as Las Vegas gets, so it’s like having all the perks of Vegas without the crazy amount of people.

Gay rights in Nevada have come a long way.  In 2011, three bills were signed into law that prohibit discrimination based on gender identity/expression and sexual orientation in employment, public accommodation, and housing.  Hate crime statutes were amended in 2001 to include sexual orientation and, in 2013, to include gender identity and expression.

There are many reasons to move to Nevada.  Those looking to start a business will find that the state has far fewer regulations, plus they don’t have as many taxes as other states do.  There’s also no personal income tax, plus sales tax and the like are very low.  So LGBT people looking for a new home should consider Nevada—it has many advantages.

What Types of Insurance May Be Required When My Same Sex Partner and I Purchase a Home?

When same sex partners, or any other couple, purchase a home, there are certain types of insurances that are important to purchase to protect you. If you obtain a mortgage to finance your home, the lender generally requires title and mortgage insurance. Below are types of insurance that may be required. Note that laws in different states vary regarding the types of insurance that is required.

imagesTitle Insurance

A title is your deed of ownership of the home. Title insurance provides coverage to protect the lender, and the borrower in some states, from problems that may not have been found prior to the sale of the property that could affect ownership. They first create an abstract of the property by examining public property records to ensure that the seller has a valid title that can be transferred to a buyer. The abstracts will describe any potential problems with the title such as unpaid property taxes, liens against the property due to unpaid debts and unfiled deeds.

If any problems arise after ownership is transferred to the buyer during the life of the loan that the title company did not uncover when creating its abstract, the insurance would pay for the defense for any damages that resulted from the lawsuit. For example, the owner died and his children inherited due through state intestacy laws because the owner did not have a will. At some later date, a child from a previous marriage sues because he was not part of the inheritance and claiming that he should have received a portion of the home.

Owners Title Insurance

If title insurance only protects the lender, you may be required to purchase a separate homeowners title policy that will protect you and your partner. This type of insurance protects you and your partner against title defects that could result in the need for legal counsel and protects the equity in your home. For example, although the lender is covered by the title insurance, if you end up losing your home due to a defect, you will be unable to recover any of the equity that you have in your home. Equity is the difference between the market value and the amount that is owed on any loans against the property.

Mortgage Insurance

Generally, if you make less than a 20 percent down payment, the lender will require that you purchase mortgage insurance. This type of insurance will cover any losses by the lender that may result if you fail to pay your mortgage. The premium is generally included in your monthly mortgage payment and will be discontinued when you have paid enough to equal 20 percent of the loan.

Homeowners Insurance

Most mortgage companies require that you maintain a homeowners policy that will cover the cost of replacing the home or a minimum of the amount of the mortgage. If you do not maintain the insurance, the mortgage company can obtain the insurance for you and include it in your monthly mortgage payment. The cost in those instances is generally much higher than you were paying and only covers the structure of the building.

Your homeowners’ policy should cover the structure, your contents in the home, and injuries to others or their personal property while at your home. There is additional coverage that can be purchased including other structures, such as garages and barns, and loss caused by natural disasters or events such as flooding and earthquakes. Those types of coverage are generally not included in a standard homeowner’s policy and must be requested. Standard coverage may, depending on the state that you reside in, cover wind and hail damage.

The above is a general outline of required insurance coverage’s when you purchase a home. Your real estate agent can give you more details related to the necessary insurance coverage in your state and can refer you to an LGBT friendly insurance agent. If you plan to purchase a home, a search on GayRealEstate.com can help ensure that you find an agent that you can trust and are comfortable working with. For more information on hiring a real estate agent, see our articles Top 10 Reasons to Hire a Gay Realtor for your Home Purchase and Top 6 Questions Every Gay Home Buyer Should Ask Their Realtor.

Posted on February 19, 2015 in Buying a Home, Home Insurance

Being LGBT in Vermont

Vermont is one of the smallest states in the country, and it’s also one of the least populous.  That means that even though it’s small in area, people aren’t packed on top of each other.  Real estate, especially real estate located in the suburbs or out away from major cities, often comes with a nice bit of land attached to it.  But due to its proximity to New York, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire, trips to large cities take very little time.  It’s even possible to make a quick visit to Quebec since the state shares a border with Canada.

It's Easy to Fit Into the LGBT Population in VermontIf you’re an LGBT person or family and are considering Vermont as a place to move to, any gay or lesbian realtor will tell you that the state is very advanced on its stances.  In fact, Vermont was the first state to institute civil unions, doing so as far back as July of 2000.  Same-sex partner benefits were offered even before then—the state began offering benefits in 1994.  Both single-parent and same-sex couple adoption has been permitted since as far back as 1993, when the state’s Supreme Court voted that the female partner of a woman with two biological children could adopt them as their second parent.

Vermont is also known for being the first state in the United States to make same-sex marriage legal via legislation, not because of a court decision.  In July of 2007, a commission was created to look at family recognition, and as a part of their duties, they created a list detailing how marriage and civil union differed.  From this report, the State Senate later passed a bill approving same-sex marriage in 2009.  The legislation passed the house as well, although Governor Jim Douglas vetoed it.  That veto was overridden on April 7, 2009.  In September of that year, same-sex marriage licenses were issued, making Vermont the fifth state in the country to offer legal same-sex marriages.  Up to that point, the other states that allowed same-sex marriage (Iowa, Connecticut, and Massachusetts) only did so because of a court order, not because of legislation.

There are many amazing cities in Vermont.  The state capital, Montpelier, is actually one of the smaller cities.  Burlington, Rutland, South Burlington, Essex, and Hartford are just a few of the more populous areas.  Almost every city in Vermont is open and welcoming.  In 2011, a survey of Vermont voters showed that 79 percent of them believed that same-sex couples deserved some type of legal recognition, with more than half supporting marriage.

My Partner and I Are Having Problems With Noisy Neighbors, How Should We Handle the Problem?

If you are having problems with noisy neighbors, there are steps that you can take to resolve the issue. Many times, the neighbors do not know that they are causing a disturbance and the first of the steps outlined below may resolve the issue.

download (2)Document the Disturbance

When your neighbors make too much noise, you should document the times and dates that it occurs. You should also keep a list all efforts that you make to resolve the problem, including keeping a copy of the letter or other documents, if any, that you send to them.

Communicate With Your Neighbors

The first step that you should take is to talk with your neighbor and let them know about that it is a problem. You should show them respect rather than anger. If that does not work or, due to their attitude, you cannot talk to them, send them a letter. You should enclose a copy of your local noise ordinance if there is one or, if you live in a planned community, a copy of your Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions. In the letter, outline the days and times that the noise has disturbed you and ask that they keep the noise down. Let them know that while you would prefer not to, you will notify the authorities if the disturbance continues. Hopefully, this step will resolve the issue to your satisfaction. If it does not and you live in a planned community, send a copy of your letter to the Home Owners Association, HOA. The HOA should then step in to resolve the issue.

Call the Police

If talking to your neighbors does not resolve the issue, you can call the police and report the problem. You should contact them while the noise is occurring so that they can hear it for themselves. Be sure to document the date and time that you notified the police, their response to the situation, and a copy of the police report.

File a Lawsuit

If the above steps do not resolve the problem, you may want to consider filing a nuisance lawsuit in civil court. Generally, if the noise interferes with your right to “quiet enjoyment” of your home, you can file a suit in small claims court. When you file the lawsuit, in addition to requesting that the court order them to stop the noise, you may include damages, meaning a monetary amount, that will adequately compensate you for the disturbance you suffered. You will need to check with the small claims court or an attorney in your state to determine the monetary amounts that can be awarded in that particular court. Generally, there is a minimum and a maximum amount that can be requested.

You do not generally need, and in some states cannot have, an attorney to represent you in small claims court. In order to succeed in your lawsuit, you must show that there is excessive noise that disturbs you, that the person you are suing is creating or responsible for that noise, that your right to “quiet enjoyment” has been breached, and that you have asked the person to stop. The documentation that you have maintained during the course of attempting to resolve the problem should be submitted to the court along with your petition. You may also use testimony from you and any witnesses that you have, recordings, and your police report.

Note that this information does not constitute legal advice. If you believe that you need to file a lawsuit, you may want to consider consulting an attorney before doing so.

If you are considering purchasing a home, you should hire a reputable LGBT real estate agent who can assist you through every aspect of finding and purchasing your new property. He or she can also give you guidance on how to avoid purchasing a home next to neighbors who are disruptive. To locate a professional agent in your area, conduct a search at GayRealEstate.com.

Posted on February 16, 2015 in Gay Real Estate News, Home Ownership

My Partner and I Are Making an Offer On a Home, What Does All That Lingo Mean?

When purchasing a home, you will hear many different terms. When you make an offer, you will do so on what is usually a standard form that is called a purchase offer agreement. That is the document that outlines factors including the price you are willing to pay and any contingencies that you would like met. This document will not become a legal contract until you, your partner and the sellers sign it. Following are some other definitions for lingo you may encounter when preparing your offer.

download (1)Appraisal: The determination of what a home’s value is based on its condition, prices of similar homes in the neighborhood, and other factors that are assessed by a qualified professional appraiser.

Closing: This is a meeting of the parties involved to finalize the sale of the real estate. At the closing, the buyer will sign mortgage documents and pay the closing costs involved in the transaction. Note that in some states, a closing is not considered complete until the deed is recorded at the local county registry of deeds office.

Contingency: A condition that is outlined in the purchase contract and that must be met prior to closing on the home. For example, appraisals, inspections and certain repairs that must be made.

Earnest, or Good Faith, Money: The deposit that you make when you submit an offer on a home. The amount varies, but $500 or 5 percent of the value of the property is generally considered acceptable. This deposit is intended to show the sellers that you are serious about purchasing the property.

Fee Simple: Represents that you will own the property and that you may do whatever you like with it.

Mortgage: A debt that you will incur to the lender who provides funds for the purchase of the home. You will be required to give the lender a lien against the property until the funds, plus interest, are repaid.

Real Estate: Includes land and improvements, such as the home and outbuildings, that are permanently attached to it.

Realtor: A broker or associate that is a member of a local real estate board.

Title: The deed that shows legal ownership of a piece of real estate.

Title Insurance Policy: This type of policy ensures that there are no liens or other problems with the property in question.

Another term that you may see is Time is of the Essence. This means that the contract contains deadlines that must be met and that failure to meet those deadlines within the time set out will result in a breach of the contract.

If you are considering making an offer on a home, you should hire an LGBT real estate agent to assist you. He or she can explain any terms that you do not understand and help you throughout the purchase process. In addition, he or she will understand your needs and protect your interests. The best way to find a professional real estate agent who is reputable is to conduct a search on GayRealEstate.com.

Is Massachusetts Still a Top LGBT Place to Live?

In 2004, Massachusetts made headlines and LGBT history by becoming the first state to issue a marriage license to a same-sex couple.  This action came after the November 2003 case of Goodridge v. Department of Public Health.  The state’s Supreme Court made the decision that same-sex couples had every right to legally marry, and the result sent shockwaves through the country.  It was also the first battle in the fight for marriage, a fight that has seen more and more states follow in Massachusetts’s footsteps.

Massachusetts Has Been a Leader in LGBT Rights for Many Years

But while it was the first to offer marriage, is Massachusetts really a great place for LGBT people to live?  What would a gay or lesbian realtor have to say about the state?  Most would absolutely say that moving to Massachusetts would be a great move for those who love the beautiful Northeastern climate and could find employment in the state.

Even though Massachusetts has seemed to fade into the background during the struggle for marriage equality, that doesn’t mean that strides weren’t still being made.  While other states were debating the question and leaving LGBT residents uncertain as to their future, Massachusetts because a haven of sorts for those who did want to marry right away.  In 2008, the state repealed the law that banned non-resident couples from marrying in Massachusetts if that marriage would be invalid in the couple’s home state.  This led to a tidal wave of non-residents making the trip to the state to get married.

In 2012, the state supreme court ruled that civil unions were equivalent to a marriage.  While not exactly groundbreaking, this did ensure that those in civil unions were treated the same as those who had officially gotten married.

Those in the real estate business know that Massachusetts banned discrimination based on sexual orientation in housing and in a number of other areas, including employment and union practices, back in 1989.  In 2011, an executive order banned discrimination of transgender employees from all state offices and all contractors hired by those offices.  In November of 2011, legislation banning discrimination on the basis of gender identity and gender expression in the areas of employment, housing, union practices, and in extending credit.

In 1990, Massachusetts removed all regulations preventing same-sex couples from adopting children, and since 1993, second-parent adoptions have been legal.  The state has also had hate crime laws on the books since 1996.

As you can see, Massachusetts really has no need to make headlines regarding LGBT rights because it has quietly (or not so quietly) been a leader in the area for years.

What Are the Drawbacks to Purchasing a Vacation Home With My Same Sex Partner?

Purchasing a vacation home can be exciting when you consider that you will have a place to go anytime that you choose to do so, but along with the advantages, there can be disadvantages. Following are some drawbacks to purchasing a vacation home with your same sex partner.

imagesMortgage

Unless you have the money to purchase a vacation home outright, you will have to pay a mortgage. Generally, the required down payment and mortgage interest rate will be higher on a vacation home than it is on your primary home. In addition, your homeowner’s insurance will likely be higher because of the risk involved in the home sitting vacant and, depending on where the home is located, in natural disasters.

Most people look for vacation homes in popular areas where they like to visit such as the mountains, the beach, or near golf courses. Because those places are popular, the cost of purchasing a vacation home may be much higher than you have anticipated and your mortgage payment may end up being more than the home that you live in.

Renting the Home to Others

Many vacation homeowners prefer to rent the home out for periods varying from a few days to weeks in order to recoup some of their expenses and to avoid leaving the home sitting vacant for extended periods of time. If you rent your vacation home to others, the Internal Revenue Service, requires that you pay taxes on that income. If you used the home for personal purposes, but not as a home, you must report your rental income as well as the expenses on your tax return. You will be required to divide the expenses you incurred into rental use and personal use. The personal use expenses are not deductible in your rental expenses. If you rented the home less than 15 days out of the year, you are not required to report the rental income or the rental expenses. Your mortgage, interest and property taxes should be reported as you normally would on your income taxes.

Maintenance

Your vacation home, just like your primary home, will require maintenance. Many people choose to leave the home vacant when they are not visiting so that it is always available for their own use. If you live more than two hours away from the home, the chances of you being able to visit the home very often to check on it and take care of any maintenance that is needed are slim. If you cannot afford to hire a caretaker, you can expect part or all of your vacation time to be spent on home maintenance.

How Much Can You Afford

Before you look for a vacation home, you should decide how much you can afford to pay, and the amount that each of you will contribute to the mortgage, taxes, insurance and upkeep on the home. Even if you intend to rent your vacation home to others during the times that you are not using it, you should not count any rental income in your calculations. It would be best to ensure that you can afford both your primary home and the vacation home from your own incomes.

If you are ready to look for the vacation home of your dreams, contact a professional LGBT real estate agent. He or she will help you through the entire process of locating and purchasing your home. You can locate the best LGBT agents located in the area you are considering making a purchase by conducting a search on GayRealEstate.com. There is no fee or obligation. For more information on hiring a real estate agent, see our article Top 10 Reasons to Hire a Gay Realtor for Your Home Purchase.

Posted on February 8, 2015 in Vacation Home

What Should My Partner and I Consider Including in a Purchase Offer

Purchase offers are generally completed using a standardized purchase agreement form that sets out the details of your offer. That document is not legally binding on either you or the seller of the property until it has been signed by both parties the buyers and sellers. When completing a purchase agreement form, you should consider the following issues.

CoupleContingencies

Some of the contingencies that you may want to consider include:

1.   Will you need to sell your current home, if you have one, before completing the purchase of the new home?

2. Do you need to secure the financing before you purchase?

3. Do you want the purchase to be contingent on inspections? For example, depending on whether the house does not pass the general home inspection.

What is Included?

For example, the home and land, of course, but what about furnishings. Do you want the appliances or any of the furniture, window coverings, lawn mower, or other personal property to be included in the purchase. All of those items should be listed in the purchase offer to avoid misunderstandings.

Who Pays for What?

You should include what costs that you would prefer the seller pay and what costs you will pay in the agreement. For example, title or title insurance, surveys that may be required by your lender or as a result of boundary line disputes, home and special inspections such as environmental or pests that may be required by the municipality or the state, repairs in the event problems are found through the inspections, loan closing costs, and who will pay the real estate agent commission. Your real estate agent will make you aware of any other costs that should be addressed in the purchase offer.

Information you Should Obtain

You should find out whether there are any restrictions on what the property can be used for, and whether there are any boundary line or other disputes. Depending on the state that the property is located in, the seller may be required to complete a disclosure form that lets you know if there are any defects or legal problems with the property that you should be aware of. For example, foundation problems, roof leaks, structural damage and whether any remodeling or major structural work was completed according to municipal code standards. The federal government requires sellers disclose whether there is lead based paint in the home if it was built prior to 1978.

Because a purchase offer becomes a legally binding contract once all parties have signed, it is important that you include your preferences before submitting it to the seller. Once you have submitted the offer, the seller has the option of accepting it as is, making a counter offer, or rejecting the offer altogether. If it is accepted, you can then move forward with the requirements noted in the contract, such as obtaining financing and having any inspections completed. If any of the contingencies fail that were noted in the offer, you have the option of going forward with the purchase of the home or voiding the contract.

Before making an offer on a home, it would be in your best interest to hire a professional LGBT real estate agent. He or she will know what should be included in the purchase offer and will be in a position to give you and your partner advice. You can find an agent by conducting a search in your location at GayRealEstate.com. It is important that you find a reputable agent that you are comfortable working with. Those listed on GayRealEstate.com are professionals in good standing in their areas of expertise.

Posted on February 2, 2015 in Buying a Home, Home Buyers, Home Buying

The Top Gay and Lesbian-Friendly Universities in the U.S.

Some people move to a new city for work.  Others do so to be closer to their family.  But some people contact a gay or lesbian realtor because they want to move to further their education.  There are many great universities in the country, but some of them are more welcoming towards LGBT students and educators than others.  Here are a few of the universities that are more accepting and diverse as ranked by the Princeton Review for 2014-2015.

The Number of LGBT Friendly Universities is On the RiseThe top honor was given to Stanford University.  This California university is one of the most prestigious in the world, and it’s very difficult to get accepted due to the large number of applicants and high standards.  It’s no surprise to see Stanford at the top of the list.  The university has actively sought out minority students, including LGBT students, since the 1960s.  There’s even an unofficial LGBT co-op house for residents.

Taking second place is Oberlin College.  Oberlin isn’t as famous.  In fact, unless you’re considering a move to Ohio, you might not have even heard of the city of Oberlin.  What makes this private liberal arts college rank so highly?  Like Stanford, Oberlin has strived for a diverse student body for years.  It was one of the first colleges to admit women students on a regular basis, for example, and the administration supports a number of LGBT student groups.

Emerson College is third on the list.  Located in Boston, Emerson’s focus is on arts and communication.  In addition to welcoming LGBT students, the college was also one of the first to extend benefits to domestic partners, doing so in the mid-90s.

Following Emerson is another Massachusetts college, Smith College.  This private liberal arts institution was once an exclusively women’s school, but it has since become co-ed.  Smith’s more liberal stance on its student body would come as a surprise to the three LGBT professors who, in 1960, were fired from the university for being gay.  The administrator later admitted this was wrong and created a lecture series to discuss civil liberties and freedom of expression.

Rounding out the top five is Warren Wilson College.  This is another surprising choice because it’s located in North Carolina, a state not known for its early or vocal acceptance of the LGBT community.  However, Warren Wilson is in Asheville, which is one of the more diverse and welcoming cities in the state.  Warren Wilson has an active LGBT student group and a diverse student population.

Posted on February 2, 2015 in Gay and Lesbian, Real Estate, Rental