Discount Brokers: Should you list with one to sell your home?

As buyers hibernate for winter after a heated-up year for the real estate market, sellers search for ways to lower the prices of their homes. In an increasingly competitive environment, everyone wants discounts, and so-called “discount brokers” promise exactly that. But are they a viable alternative for you?

As the name implies, discount brokerage firms’ offer discounted prices, compared to their “conventional” competitors. Whereas all real estate brokers earn their fees through charging a commission, discount brokers will offer lower rates, in exchange for reduced services. But do the fees still represent a sufficient level of professional involvement? Each particular discount brokerage tries to set itself apart from the crowd by tailoring its services and fees in a unique way. The responsibility of the seller is to scrutinize the details of each listing contract and see what works best for them.

I had a seller once go so far as to obtain his real estate license to save money on his real estate commission… really? Can you imagine if you put that much effort into your own job? You’d probably get a raise equal to the commission savings – a raise that would last year after year! Don’t be so short sighted.

Here are a few features that discount brokers (who are also referred to by other names like “flat fee” brokers) often include in their repertoire of services. By understanding the features and what they entail, you should be able to sort out the whole concept and decide for yourself if a discount broker is appropriate to your circumstances.

1)   How much do they charge? Most will offer fees that are about 50% less than “conventional” listing agents, but you should still expect to pay a 2.5 to 3% buyer broker fee to any outside broker who brings a buyer to the table. Find out how that fee is calculated into your costs before you sign the listing agreement. Some brokers will charge a flat fee, instead of a percentage of the selling price. One broker we surveyed charges $1,800 (plus the 3% finder’s fee) regardless of how much the house sells for – be it $50,000 or $2.5 million.

2)   Marketing: Brokers will expose your home to potential buyers in a number of ways, primarily through a listing in the MLS database (a computerized listing service which is the main resource used by real estate professionals for buying and selling property), buying print-media advertisements, doing special promotions like Open Houses, and placing a “for sale” sign with their phone number on it in the yard.

If your broker doesn’t plan to list your home in the MLS and the multitude of viable and necessary avenues on-line, like Zillow.com, Redfin.com, etc. then you would be wise to look elsewhere, because you will lose almost all of the significant exposure to potential buyers by being excluded from one or all. On the other hand, if you are being added to the MLS, you should expect to pay as much as $500 and up for the service. When itemizing expenses paid to a listing agent, MLS inclusion is one of the more costly but worthwhile expenditures.

Print-media ads are sometimes effective, sometimes not. It depends on the particular market you are in, and the specific placement and distribution of the advertisement. Many sellers choose to handle this kind of exposure themselves, with some minimal guidance from their Realtor. And in some markets where print ads are less effective, sellers often decide to skip the expense altogether, and concentrate on other methods. The one things that is critical are professional photos! Over 70% all home searches begin on-line – make sure your photos shine!

Open Houses can be a good way to attract customers, and some discount brokers will agree to host them, but they may charge extra for that service. It is reasonable to pay anywhere from $150-$500 to have your Realtor do an Open House, and if you ask them to explain the expenses involved in the process, they should be happy to show you everything that such a promotion entails.

A sign in the yard with their phone number on it, instead of yours, means two things: First, the Realtor will get free advertising for his or her own business. Second, and most important to you, the random calls from “window-shoppers” as well as serious calls from qualified buyers and their agents will go to your Realtor. You won’t be interrupted during dinner or caught off guard without answers, and you won’t miss calls because you were away from your phone.

3)   Handling the showings, the contract negotiations, and the details of closing the sale:     

If you find a discount-fee broker who is willing to handle all the calls, book the appointments, conduct the tours of your property, negotiate the contract on your behalf, and take care of the numerous and often complicated details between the contract and the closing, you will have found a valuable broker and will likely get more than your money’s worth. Conversely, many brokers who offer discounts will not perform those various services, so in that case the maxim “you get what you pay for” holds especially true. For instance, you may save money on the commission but wind up doing all your own property showings, appointments, and price negotiations. This can cost you not only valuable time, but thousands in potential loss revenue.

Interview both kinds of brokers and then weigh the pros and cons for yourself and make an informed choice. To connect with a qualified traditional broker, visit the real estate professionals at www.GayRealEstate.com. They are committed to excellent service to our LGBTQ community.

Jeff Hammerberg is the Founding/CEO of GayRealEstate.com – serving our LGBTQ community for over 25 years!

Winter in Real Estate: Tips for those who feel the chill.

Seasoned (pun intended) real estate professionals understand that the winter months can be difficult to negotiate (no pun intended) for those in the business of buying, selling, and building homes. The weather in most of the USA is inhospitable, and can put many projects and plans on hold, until the springtime market kicks in and buyers again resume their house-hunting activities. But those who plan for the winter slowdown actually view the cyclical time-out as an opportunity, and sometimes even look forward to it after a hectic year.

Many of us take time out each April or May for a deep cleaning and reorganization of our living space. Similarly, the months of December, January, and February provide a scheduled chance to catch up on errands and strategies related to real estate – and to get a jump on the next year’s market – whether you are buying or selling.

Here are tips on how to make the most of a cooled-off real estate season:

For Sellers

If you are selling, take advantage of the wintertime – especially during the holidays and the post-holiday doldrums – to prepare your house for showcasing it to potential buyers.

  • Clean out the clutter and make your house look more spacious. By simply emptying closets and clearing out furniture – leaving only the minimal essentials to provide a sense of warmth and style – you can boost the perceived value of your property immensely.
  • Freshen up the interior. When it is freezing cold outside you can’t paint the exterior but you can stay indoors and put a new coat of paint on any rooms that need it. Fix the dripping faucets and squeaky doors; refinish the floors, and do other indoor home improvement projects. Most contractors have less business in the wintertime, so it is a good time to hire them. By the time spring rolls around, they won’t even be answering the phone because they will be “off the hook” busy with outdoor construction projects.
  • Get your paperwork in order. Make a file that includes your annual utility bill history, copies of warranties on appliances, and MLS data on your home. Put these things together in an attractive folder and your Realtor can share it with potential buyers. If you need a survey, get it done.
  • Take time to relax. Selling a home in a buyer’s market is sometimes a stressful experience. Instead of worrying that there are no “lookers” during winter, take time for yourself and catch up on reading, yoga classes, or spending time with friends and family. You’ll be rejuvenated and ready to hit the ground running when the ice thaws.

For Buyers

During the wintertime, most property languishes on the market and motivated sellers are more inclined to offer discounts. They are paying stiff heating bills, taxes, and maintenance fees, but may not have many offers for purchase. If you are seriously shopping for property, make offers in the winter and you may have a new home in time for spring planting of flower beds and window boxes.

  • If you have not done so, meet with lenders and get pre-qualified or pre-approved for a mortgage. When you approach sellers with financial backing in hand, they will be more inclined to accept your offers.
  • Get your finances in order. This is a good time to deal with any budgetary issues that are affecting your down payment. If you haven’t decided on what type of loan is best for you, winter is a great time to sit down and do the homework needed to make your important decisions.
  • Compare and contrast. Have your Realtor provide you with market data so that you can compare prices, options, and locations. You may want to build a new home, or perhaps rehab an existing one. Research helps make this kind of decision easier and wiser, so use the winter to examine your alternatives.
  • Shop ‘til you drop during the holidays, but not at the mall – get out and look at houses with your Realtor.

Interest rates remain super attractive. The best plan is to use the winter months to do whatever is necessary to tip the market in your own favor, by planning ahead. Then, no matter what 2020 presents, you’ll be in the best possible position to take advantage of it. To find a qualified real estate agent, visit www.GayRealEstate.com. The company offers a depth of experience in buying homes throughout the entire USA, and specializes in serving the GLBT community.

Are there LGBTQ Friendly Towns in Kansas?

Kansas isn’t known for being at the forefront of the battle for LGBTQ rights. Because of this, some people wonder if moving to the state is a good idea. If you reach out to a gay or lesbian real estate agent, though, you might be surprised at the number of places they will tell you are very welcoming and diverse. Kansas does have a lot to offer the LGBTQ community. If you’re uncertain where to make your new home, here are a few cities where you can start your search.

Kansas City

Are there LGBTQ Friendly Towns in KansasYou might start your search for a great LGBTQ community in Kansas City, the largest city in the state. It’s very diverse and welcoming. This large city has everything you’d expect from a major metro area, including a thriving downtown area, an arts district, and more. The city has been called one of the most underrated LGBTQ-friendly destinations in the U.S. In addition to a number of gay bars in the city, you’ll also find the LIKEME Lighthouse, a LGBTQ community center.

Topeka

The capital of the state, Topeka also features a few gay bars. In fact, these bars bring in people from all around the area. The Kansas Equality Wedding Expo was held here in 2015 and brought together many wedding vendors who support the LGBTQ community. Topeka Pride, held every year, is a week of fun events and activities.

Wichita

Wichita is another underrated city that is quite welcoming to LGBTQ individuals and families. The city is home to The Center, a LGBTQ community center and safe space for those in need. It’s found in the downtown district and is located next to Equality Kansas, a group that works for LGBTQ equality throughout the state. Wichita is a great city for those who want to live somewhere with many amenities and comforts yet still want to feel like they’re in a small community. Living in the suburbs gives you both.

Lawrence

The University of Kansas is located in Lawrence, making it something of a college town. This university is known for having the largest LGBTQ student population in the state, and that’s reflected in how welcoming the city is. The university has built a LGBTQ resource center that anyone in the community can make use of. Many of the local bars transform into gay bars on Wednesday, too.

Ready to move to Kansas? These are just a few of the welcoming places to live in the state.

The Gayest Cities in California

California is known as a haven for the LGBT community. A gay or lesbian real estate agent will tell you that people move from around the country to San Francisco, thinking it will solve all of their problems. But while San Francisco has a long history with the LGBT community, it’s also just one of the very open and supportive cities in the state. As it’s quite expensive, many people find themselves looking at other places in California. Here are some of the gayest cities in the state based on a number of factors, including the number of same-sex couples in the city and the number of city ordinances protecting LGBT people.

Palm Springs

The Gayest Cities in CaliforniaWhile it’s still fairly expensive, Palm Springs actually has more LGBT households per capita than any other city in California. More than eight percent of all households here are same-sex, so you know you’ll be able to find some LGBT friends pretty easily. This also means that the school system is very open to kids with same-sex families.

West Hollywood

While technically different from Hollywood, West Hollywood is still as open and welcoming as its more popular sister. It’s also much less expensive than Hollywood proper, though it is still a part of LA, so you can expect housing costs to be a bit higher than they’d be elsewhere. Still, with more than six percent of households made up of LGBT-identifying individuals, it may be worth the extra cost.

Cathedral City

You may not be familiar with Cathedral City. It’s not one of the most well-known cities in California, but it is home to many LGBT people. The city only has a little over 50,000 citizens, so it’s nice and small. It’s located in the Coachella Valley not too far from Palm Springs. Overall, things are cheaper in Cathedral City, so it’s a nice change of pace from the rest of the area. In addition to its lower cost of living, Cathedral City is known for its number of gorgeous parks.

Rio Dell

Another small city, Rio Dell has less than 4,000 people living in it. Out of these, around three percent of households are same-sex. Like Cathedral City, it’s more laid back, relaxed, and low-cost. This town is also in the Northeastern part of the state, so it’s perfect for those who don’t want to get caught up in the rush of LA or San Francisco.

These are just a few places where the LGBT community is very large and strong. Check them out if you’re planning a move to California.

The Best Places to Live in Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania is home to the City of Brotherly Love, Philadelphia. While most people understand that it’s a very welcoming city for LGBT individuals, it’s not the only place in the state where you’ll be welcomed with open arms. A gay or lesbian real estate agent in Pennsylvania can help you find a great home in a number of cities with growing LGBT communities. Here are a few of these cities.

Erie

The Best Places to Live in PennsylvaniaErie, Pennsylvania, is home to some great LGBT bars, restaurants, and other businesses. It has been ranked in the top ten LGBT cities in the country by the Advocate and as one of the top queer cities by Philly Magazine. The city is something of an oasis in a conservative part of the state. For transgender individuals, the fact that the city has passed a nondiscrimination ordinance that specifically protects these citizens is especially notable. Erie also has a newspaper aimed at the gay community.

Pittsburgh

Pittsburgh is quite a liberal city and is often included on lists of the most liberal places to live. You’ll be quite comfortable in Pittsburgh, especially if you live in areas such as Shadyside or East Liberty. You’ll find gay bars spread out across Pittsburgh, which is great if you love going out at night. If you don’t, there are a number of restaurants and stores that support the LGBT community.

Harrisburg

Harrisburg features a number of churches that are very welcoming to LGBT individuals, something you don’t find in every city. For those who are very active in their church life, that may be a major factor. The city also is known for its LGBT protections and businesses that cater to LGBT individuals and families.

King of Prussia

This city may not be as recognizable by name as the others on the list, but King of Prussia does have a claim to fame: it’s known for its shopping. The city has the largest shopping district in the country. The King of Prussia Mall attracts people from all around the area, but the city has more than that. It’s also a welcoming place for LGBT people. If you love to shop, you’ll love it here!

Lancaster

Finally, there’s Lancaster. Most people know Lancaster for its large Amish population. Many assume that because of this, it’s not exactly a gay-friendly city. However, that’s not true. Lancaster is actually more liberal than you might think. The city hosts the annual Lancaster Pride Festival, has a drag queen bingo night, and more.

Does South Carolina Have Any Welcoming LGBT Neighborhoods?

Some in the LGBT community may think twice before moving to South Carolina, but while it’s true the state does have a well-deserved reputation for being fairly conservative, it’s also true that there are places with thriving LGBT communities, too. There are actually some great cities that welcome LGBT families and individuals with open arms. If you’re headed to this state, here are some of the places you should consider making your home in.

Charleston

Does South Carolina Have Any Welcoming LGBT NeighborhoodsOne place to start your search for a great home is in Charleston. This city is home to some 130,000 people, and its LGBT community is fairly strong. The city has anti-discrimination laws that protect employment rights, plus the city’s crime rate is quite low. Charleston homes feature great historic architecture that any gay or lesbian real estate agent is sure to point out. Another bonus is the economy, which is going very strong thanks to the IT industry.

Rock Hill

Rock Hill is a suburb of Charlotte, and it offers everything you’d want from a small town. Since it’s only about 20 minutes from Charlotte, though, you have access to all the large city has to offer. Rock Hill is known for having a very large LGBT community—in fact, it’s one of the largest in the south. With many festivals, outdoor activities, and more, Rock Hill is a great option, especially for those seeking lower home prices than what Charlotte offers.

Spartanburg

For those who love the nightlife, Spartanburg has it all. Nightclubs, live music, theme parties, and everything else you might want. Spartanburg is also fairly small, with only about 37,000 people living there. It’s connected to Upstate Pride SC, though, so it has a great LGBT community. The historic district here has many different great homes ranging from small bungalows to large houses.

Anderson

Anderson, also called the Electric City, features one of the first hydroelectric plants to be built in the U.S. If that’s not enough to make you move there (and honestly, it probably isn’t!), the city is also known for its outstanding school system. LGBT parents may be especially interested in the many private school systems in Anderson. The city is also home to more than 20 international companies and several hundred manufacturers, so there are many jobs here.

These are just a few of the amazing cities in South Carolina. Don’t let the state’s reputation drive you away—there are some great places to live here.

The Most LGBT Friendly Cities in Nebraska

Nebraska may not necessarily be considered one of the most exciting states, but it does have its charms. The state sits on the Great Plains and is home to a number of different Native American tribes. Nebraska is split into two areas: The Great Plains and the Dissected Till Plains. The Great Plains area covers the western part of Nebraska and is home to many ranches and agricultural centers. The eastern part of the state is classified as the Dissected Till Plains and is categorized by its rolling hills. The larger cities in the state, including Lincoln and Omaha, are located here.

If you’re moving to Nebraska, where might you want your gay or lesbian real estate agent to take you? There are a number of different cities that are welcoming to LGBT individuals and families. According to a recent census, there are almost 130,000 LGBT families in the state. That puts Nebraska as the 36th gayest state. While it’s in the lower half, some might find it surprising that Nebraska is ranked so highly. A survey of these households has determined the most LGBT friendly cities in the state.

Omaha

The Most LGBT Friendly Cities in NebraskaThe largest city in Nebraska, Omaha sits on the Missouri River. It’s the center of the Omaha-Council Bluffs metro area that includes the nearby city of Council Bluffs, Iowa. The greater Omaha area is home to more than 1.3 million people. There are plenty of gorgeous homes that have a nice view of the Missouri River, but those are the more expensive properties. The suburbs have a number of much more affordable homes.

Lincoln

The capital city of the state, Lincoln is the second-largest city and the anchor of the Lincoln Metro Area. It’s home to the University of Nebraska, which attracts a good number of students to the area. Because of this, there is a good sized LGBT community centered around the university area. As far as homes go, the city is a mixture of new developments and older, historic homes. The downtown area is primarily older houses, while the eastern and southern parts of Lincoln are more modern.

Valentine

While it’s a fairly small town, Valentine holds the record for the highest percentage of LGBT households. There are less than 3,000 people living in the town, but more than one percent of its citizens identify as LGBT. If you want that small town atmosphere, this is where to go. Of course, you will have to make a dive to one of the larger nearby cities for some necessities, but for some, it’s worth it.

Where Should LGBT Families Live in Nevada?

Thinking about moving to Nevada? If you work with a gay or lesbian real estate agent, they can suggest many amazing neighborhoods in this state. Of course, some parts of Nevada are more welcoming than others. While you might expect cities like Las Vegas to be home to many LGBT people, you might be surprised at some of the other cities that are on this list.

Las Vegas

Where Should LGBT Families Live in NevadaOf course, Las Vegas does top the list of friendly homes for LGBT individuals and families. There are many gay and lesbian owned businesses in the city, and just about every place is welcoming to people from all walks of life. But more than just a place to gamble or get married, Las Vegas is a large city home to a diverse number of people. The famous Strip with its huge casinos is just one small part of a sprawling metropolis that includes much quieter areas where you can raise a family.

Enterprise

Enterprise may not be a city you’ve heard of, but if you’re looking to move to Nevada, it should be on your list. It’s a suburb of Paradise, so you’re near everything that larger metro area has to offer. Enterprise is a popular retirement destination for many, including members of the LGBT community. With houses that are quite affordable and neighborhoods that are quiet and safe, you might find your home here, even if you’re not of retirement age just yet.

Virginia City

Virginia City has a very fast-growing LGBT community. Like Enterprise, it’s a quiet little suburb of a larger area. In this case, that’s the Reno-Sparks metro, which offers a great number of shopping opportunities, nightlife, and restaurants.

Reno

If you’d rather live in the metro area itself, Reno is also quite welcoming. This gorgeous area is home to a very active LGBT community. It also has very affordable housing, and there are many great opportunities in Reno. There are a number of different gay bars in the city, plus Reno hosts a great pride festival every year that brings in visitors from all over the northern part of the state.

Stateline

Stateline gets its name from the fact that it sits very close to the line between Nevada and California. A small town, Stateline only has around a thousand residents. Don’t let that stop you from moving there, though. If you love nature, you’ll find the area around Stateline to be one of the most beautiful you’ve ever seen. With just an hour’s drive, you can be in Reno, so you can have everything a metro area offers but still live far enough away that you get that small town feel.

These are just a few of the great cities in Nevada that welcome the LGBT community with open arms. If you’re moving to the state, you can put them at the top of your list.

The Best LGBT Cities in Louisiana

Thinking of making the move to Louisiana? While the state may not always be known as the most LGBT-friendly, there are a number of cities in Louisiana that are perfect for gay and lesbian individuals and families. You can work with an LGBT real estate professional to find a home in any of these great cities.

New Orleans

The Best LGBT Cities in LouisianaThe most famous city in the state, New Orleans is home to Mardi Gras, the French Quarter, and a unique blend of cultures. It’s perhaps the best place in Louisiana for LGBT people. The city is incredibly welcoming, and many LGBT individuals find great homes in the French Quarter or in the area known as the Faubourg Marigny. There are a number of LGBT bars and clubs on Bourbon Street, which is great for those who love to go out. If you’d rather live somewhere a little quieter, the Marigny, Bywater, or the Garden District may be much better options.

No matter where you live, you’ll discover that the entire atmosphere of New Orleans is very unlike anything else in the South. Don’t judge NOLA by any other location – it’s a unique experience all its own.

Lafayette

Lafayette is a quiet city that is just now growing into a popular LGBT destination. The city’s first pride parade was held in 2013, although the city has had pride events for years. The city is home to a few gay bars and restaurants, plus the University of Louisiana Lafayette has a number of LGBT students. It even offers an LGBT studies minor for those interested in learning more about the traditions and culture of the gay and lesbian community.

Baton Rouge

The capital of the state, Baton Rouge has had its ups and downs thanks to conservative political leadership, but the city is once again a welcoming location for LGBT citizens. If you’re interested in moving here, you may want to look at Beauregard Town or Spanish Town, two neighborhoods that are home to many LGBT families. Baton Rouge’s annual ride parade is always a popular event, no matter who is in the governor’s mansion at the time.

Shreveport

If you’re looking to live in the northern part of the state, Shreveport may be your best destination. That’s because more of northern LA is fairly conservative. However, Shreveport has a number of protections related to both orientation and gender identity. There are also a number of different LGBT events in the city, including the North Louisiana Gay & Lesbian Film Festival.

When a Seller is NOT Discriminating against LGBT Buyers

Many people quote the Fair Housing Act when they believe they are being discriminated against by a landlord or seller. However, while this act does provide some protections to the LGBT community, those protections are not as widespread as the protection the act provides to those of differing race, color, national origin, sex, religion, disability, and familial status. However, the act does stop discrimination if it’s based on non-conformity. This means if the seller won’t accept your offer because they believe you’re acting in a way that doesn’t conform to how the seller thinks a person of your gender should act, it’s a violation. This may sound complicated, but it’s often fairly clear. Some cities and states have further protections, too.

However, it’s important that you understand when a seller is and is not engaging in LGBT discrimination. There are several legitimate reasons a seller may turn down your offer, and they may have absolutely nothing to do with your sexual orientation or the fact that you are in a same-sex relationship. If you attempt to sue a seller for breach of the Fair Housing Act and then learn that your offer was rejected for one of these reasons, you’re likely to lose the case and be out a good amount of money.

Your Offer Was Low

when-a-seller-is-not-discriminating-against-lgbt-buyersSellers are free to reject any offer that is under their asking price. Most do, or at the best they make a counteroffer. That’s because sellers often have specific financial needs such as paying off the mortgage on their current property and then making a down-payment on their new home. If they don’t make their asking price, they may have to pull funds from elsewhere.

You’re Not Pre-Approved

Being pre-approved means that a lender is prepared to offer you a mortgage loan. You will know how much money you will be approved for, and the seller can rest assured that the sale will go through. If, however, you do not have a pre-approval letter, the seller may have questions. The seller can reject an offer if they don’t feel like the sale will actually go through.

The Seller Has Decided Not to Sell

This is an actual legitimate reason to reject an offer. The seller can decide they no longer want to sell their house. Even if it has been on the market for months, the seller is still under no obligation to actually sell the house to any potential buyer. However, obviously the seller would need to take the house off the market. If not, you may be able to sue under the Fair Housing Act.

Again, there are many different nuances to the Act, and one small detail in your case may or may not mean you were discriminated against. Always seek professional legal assistance if you have felt like your rights have been infringed upon.