Monthly Archives: July 2015

How the EEOC’s Decision Affects LGBT People

While it wasn’t shouted from the rooftops like the Supreme Court’s decision on marriage was, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s (EEOC) decision on discrimination based on sexual orientation is certainly historic and very important.  In a 3-2 vote, the five people on the commission stated that discrimination in the workplace based on sexual orientation is illegal.  In fact, it has been for years!

A Surprising Decision

There Are Now Extra Safeguards In Place for Employed Members of the LGBT CommunityThe fact that the vote was three to two shows that there was much debate over this decision.  However, the end result is that federal employers may not discriminate against any LGBT person when it comes to hiring and firing them.  They are protected by the Civil Rights Act of 1964, specifically Title VII.  According to the EEOC, the part of Title VII that states that employers may not discriminate on the basis of sex actually includes sexual orientation.  An earlier decision held that Title VII already protected trans employees, but this is the first time orientation had been protected.

The thinking goes like this: when an employer discriminates against a gay or lesbian person, that employer is stating that they do not approve of that employee’s orientation.  This translates into a disapproval of the employee’s romantic attraction towards the same gender.  That can be seen as discriminating against the employee based on the fact that he or she does not fit traditional gender roles.  The discrimination, then, is based mostly on the person’s sex.  A gay or lesbian employee is not following his or her assigned gender role as determined by what the employer thinks is correct for their sex.

This is also protected by a ruling from the Supreme Court that dates back to 1989.  In Price Waterhouse v. Hopkins, the court decided that discrimination based on irrational sex stereotyping was illegal under Title VII.  The EEOC simply took this a step further and declared discrimination against LGBT employees to be irrational.

What this Means

This decision only affects federal employees so far, but the EEOC does work to resolve discrimination claims between private employers and employees, so it may have an impact there. This is yet another major step forward in LGBT rights, although there is still much work to be done.  The EEOC’s decision doesn’t affect housing, for example.  Gay and lesbian tenants can still be kicked out of their homes, and people can still refuse to sell to them for no other reason than their orientation.  While gay and lesbian realtors work to quietly combat this discrimination, it’s still very real.

Posted on July 24, 2015 in Buying a Home, Gay and Lesbian

Get the Most House for your Money in these 4 Markets

Buying your first home is a large undertaking that taxes you physically, emotionally, and (most of all) financially. It can be scary at first, but you can leave the experience with a fabulous piece of property that’s easily able to be resold if you choose. All you need is to conduct your research properly; pick the right location; and have a good realtor on your side.

Money is the biggest hurdle for many first time home buyers. Luckily, we’ve compiled a list of five great places in the U.S. that are affordable for first-time homeowners. We have also taken employment rates into account so you can hit the ground running.

There Are Some Cities That Are Just Better When It Comes to Buying Your First HomeKansas City, MO

Kansas City, Missouri is an urban sprawl with a variety of entertainment and cultures. It also has an extremely diverse economy which makes finding employment a snap. The unemployment rate is 5.3%, which is about average today.

The best part is that the average listing price on Zillow is just barely above $101,000. This means that the monthly payment on the average Kansas City house with a 30-year mortgage would be under $500!

Minneapolis, MN

Minneapolis has a highly educated work force that’s filled with people in their late twenties and early thirties. Combine this with the bustling downtown area and you have a great spot for a young bachelor or bachelorette who’s looking to strike out on their own.

The median home value in Minneapolis is just about $200,000 on Zillow. This isn’t prohibitively expensive, but it’s not cheap either. However, with its 3.4% unemployment rate, high gay population, and gorgeous neighborhoods, you may be willing to overlook it.

Omaha, Nebraska

Omaha, Nebraska is probably the best place to raise children on this list. It has a sizeable population of roughly 434,000. The state of Nebraska has an unemployment rate well below 3% which is absolutely amazing. The median housing on Zillow is cheap, coming in at $137,000. There’s also a big arts scene here as well.

Des Moines, Iowa

It doesn’t get much better than Des Moines when it comes to value. The average home price on Zillow in Des Moines is $110,000. If you break that down into mortgage payments, that’s under $550 monthly on a 30-year mortgage with average interest. With pricing so flexible, you could up your monthly payments and pay off your home in a fraction of the time!

The median pricing according to the census is only $118,200 which isn’t much higher than Zillow is reporting. The unemployment rate in Des Moines is only 3.2% as of this May and it has a decent population of about 207,000. There’s plenty to do, though not as much as some of the other cities listed here.

Is An Open House Really Worth It?

Common knowledge would tell you that an open house is the best way to drum up excitement for your newly listed FSBO home. After all, it’s so easy to do; all you need is a fruit platter, a sign, and a few hours of spare time. However, open houses aren’t quite as effective as you’d think.

Open Houses are Inconvenient and Unpredictable

Having an Open House Can Be Difficult Unless You Are Doing So With a RealtorFirst, the aforementioned “few hours of spare time” is easier said than done for most people. If you’re always hectically busy with your family, especially if you are preparing to move, then you might not be able to put the time in without taking away from some other important aspect of your life.

In addition to the time factor, the turnout can be unpredictable. You could put aside three hours of time and only get 2 or 3 visitors. The opposite could also happen; you allot one hour to your open house and the turnout is so large that you have to extend the time to two or three times as long.

Most Visitors Aren’t Real Buyers

For convenience sake, let’s say that your open house get swarmed with prospective buyers. You’re ecstatic because surely a few of these people are going to end up trying to buy your home from you, right?

Well, not exactly. The vast majority of your “buyers” are actually people who are just looking to pass some time. Some of them will be nosy neighbors, some of them will be homeowners who just want decorating tips, and some of them will be local real-estate agents who are trying to pick you up as one of their clients.

Some Buyers May Not Get the Attention They Need

In the event that there are some real buyers mixed in with the others, you have to wonder how much attention they’ll actually be getting. As a homeowner, you are only able to have an in-depth conversation with a few people at a time. You’re relying on the real buyers to be assertive in order to get the information they need to garner interest in your home.

The good news is that open houses do have some notable benefits as well.

You Get Valuable Information

If there’s something wrong with your home, the visitors will tell you. This can give you valuable information on the things that you should fix and the things that you can afford to overlook. Don’t be afraid to ask for feedback when the open house is over.

Doesn’t Cost Much More Than Time

Hosting an open house can be an annoying time investment; however, if you have an open or flexible schedule, it’s a cheap way to get the word out that you are selling your home. All you really need to host an open house is a few snacks and some flyers.

May Spark Surprise Interest

The biggest benefit of an open house is that it can spark interest in people that would have never have given your house a second thought before coming inside. Even if you have an impressive array of gorgeous pictures on realty sites like Zillow, it can’t compete with the opportunity to see the home up close.

Overall, open houses can be beneficial when used properly. However, they shouldn’t necessarily be your go-to method of exposure and they definitely aren’t necessary for you to sell your house quickly.

Posted on July 10, 2015 in Home Sales, Selling

Now that Gay Marriage is Legal, What Does it Mean for the Mortgage Market?

On June 26, 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court handed down its ruling on the case of Obergefell v. Hodges.  This ruling gave gays and lesbians the right to marry in all states and struck down all current gay marriage bans.  While we may not realize exactly how this ruling affected the country for a few years, experts are already anticipating changes in a number of industries.  Those in the real estate industry have a few predictions for how same-sex marriage will affect the mortgage market.

CoupleMore Same-Sex Couples will be House Hunting

Gay and lesbian real estate agents have been helping LGBT couples find and purchase their dream homes for years.  Now that same-sex marriage is legal, many expect the number of gay and lesbian couples searching for a home to increase.  Newlyweds may want to jettison everything from their single lives, including their individual homes, now that they can legally create a life together.  This means that more houses are going to sell, and the number of mortgages is going to increase.

More Couples May Qualify for Mortgages

Some experts are going back and forth on this, but overall, most agree that married same-sex couples are likely to have a better chance at qualifying for a mortgage, which means lenders will be making more mortgages.  This is because when married couples apply for a mortgage, they’re considered as one unit.  The low income or bad credit of one can be counterbalanced by the higher income or better credit of the other.  When two people apply for a mortgage jointly as individuals, this isn’t always the case.  Of course, bad credit can still hurt a married couple, but it’s not necessarily going to deny them the mortgage.

More Refinancing

The mortgage market can also expect to see a surge in refinancing soon.  There are a couple of reasons that many predict this will happen.  First, now that they’re married, many couples will want to jointly own their property and share the responsibility.  This means putting both spouses on the mortgage, and that requires refinancing.  Second, as mentioned above, as a married couple, they may have a chance of getting better mortgage terms than they would have or did have when applying jointly as individuals.  Savvy newlyweds may be able to take advantage of lower interest rates and other savings by refinancing their home.  What better way to start their married life together than by lowering their house payment?

4 Best Vacation Home States

The most important thing to think about when buying a vacation home is the location. This crucial detail can influence how much you’ll use the home, the cost of upkeep, and the ability to resell the home in the future.

If You Plan on Buying a Vacation Home, You May Want to Consider One of These Four StatesInstead of guessing and second guessing at what states are the best for vacation homes, let us give you some ideas! Below is a list of the five best vacation states taking things like weather, local economy, and resell ability into account.

#4 Hawaii

Love the beach? Then Hawaii is about as good as you can get. The entire state is made up of endless alabaster beaches and deep forest with colorful wildlife.

“So why is it only #4?” you might be asking.

Well, vacationing in Hawaii is a huge commitment and might be completely impossible for some people. In addition, transporting a vehicle is expensive and rust from the ocean requires you to do quite a bit of upkeep. These problems along with its out of the way location make it a little less attractive for some, yet still a popular vacation spot.

#3 Nevada

Las Vegas alone is enough to put Nevada on the list of best vacation home destinations. If you move here you’ll never be without something to do if you enjoy a fast paced lifestyle. However, Nevada only makes #3 because of one critical flaw.

If you enjoy beaches or snow, you won’t like Las Vegas as it does not have either. In addition, if you do not particularly enjoy the entertainment that Vegas has to offer, then there may be better places.

#2 Arizona

Even though it’s not near the waterfront, Arizona still manages to have a smorgasbord of activities for retirees. There’s rock climbing, desert tours, hot-air ballooning, and plenty of golf. The best part of Arizona however is the home prices. Some homes that would easily be worth $300,000 or more in another state are priced at $170,000 or lower in popular places like Phoenix. That’s a total steal!

#1 Florida

Florida has it all. The beaches, theme parks, city life, countryside, months of endless sun and dozens of viable vacation towns make Florida the most attractive vacation home spot in the country. Combine that with the fact that the homes in this state average out to a fairly modest $170,000 and you have yourself a recipe for success!

Posted on July 2, 2015 in Buying a Home, Vacation Home

How Legal Gay Marriage Will Effect Getting VA Loans

When the Supreme Court handed down their landmark decision on June 26, 2015, that reversed the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals’ decision in Obergefell v. Hodges and effectively made same-sex marriage legal in all states, it affected more than just LGBT couples. It also affected the mortgage market in a number of ways.

images (1)The first is that now same-sex couples can legally marry in any state, and those marriages are recognized throughout the U.S. This means that they now have all of the same rights as opposite-sex couples, including the right to hold property together. It’s now much easier for same-sex couples to apply for mortgages and get financing because lenders have always favored married couples over two single people applying for a mortgage jointly. Many experts expect to see more LGBT couples make the move from renters to homeowners in the very near future. Those who did purchase a home as two single individuals and are now married may also look to refinance their mortgages.

Couples who are married also have a tendency to feel more secure and stable. The results from a number of surveys show that single people, even those in a long-term relationship, feel like purchasing a home is something that’s done only after marriage. The fact that more same-sex couples can now legally married is expected to result in a number of new homeowners.

Another advantage that comes with the Supreme Court decision is the fact that same-sex married couples will be able to make use of the mortgage program offered by the Department of Veterans Affairs. Prior to this, the VA only provided benefits to same-sex couples who lived in states where those marriages were legal. Now veterans across the country will be able to add their spouses to their mortgages no matter what state they live in.

There will also no longer be any question about inheritance or title issues. Prior to this decision, the many different laws across the country regarding same-sex couples and their right to marry created a patchwork of different rules and regulations regarding property ownership and inheritance. Those issues are now gone, and same-sex couples can be treated exactly the same as opposite-sex couples. Spouses no longer have to create extra paperwork or go out of their way to make certain the title to their property is worded in such a way that there can be no challenge to who inherits the property if one of them dies.