Prejudice or Harassment Against LGBT During the Real Estate Process

Unfortunately, there are real estate agents, lenders and others involved in the process of purchasing a home that may discriminate against you because you are gay or lesbian. Some examples include agents charging you a higher commission, or refusing to allow you to make an offer on a particular home that you are interested in, possibly steering you away from certain neighborhoods, and/or inflating the asking prices of homes. Mortgage lenders may discriminate by refusing to give you a loan, or charging higher interest rates than it would heterosexual people with comparable credit ratings.

LGBT DiscriminationHousing laws have been enacted in some states, counties and cities that prohibit discrimination due to sexual orientation or identity in most aspects of buying a home. To determine whether your state has enacted anti-discrimination laws to protect LGBT, you should contact your local human rights enforcement agency. If your state has enacted laws against LGBT discrimination, the human rights agency can inform you of the procedure to file a complaint against the person or agency that you feel has discriminated against you.

In those states that have no LGBT protections, filing a claim against a person or entity that you feel has discriminated against you may be difficult. It is possible that your claim could fall under another aspect of the federal and/or state discrimination laws. For example, your claim could be filed under the Federal Fair Housing Act, or the state Real Estate Commission, if you were discriminated against due to other reasons including race, color, national origin, sex, familial status or disability.

The federal government does not have laws that prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation or identity. The only federal protection was issued by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, HUD, in 2012 when they enacted a rule that dictated that owners and lenders of HUD-assisted housing are prohibited from discriminating based on sexual orientation or sexual identity.

If you feel that you have been discriminated against by a HUD-assisted owner or lender, you can contact HUD’s Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity for help at (800) 669-9777 or file a complaint online from HUD’s website. HUD also recommends that you contact your local HUD office for assistance.

An excellent way to help protect yourself against discrimination is to hire a local LGBT real estate agent from www.GayRealEstate.com. He/She knows the market and the lenders and other parties involved in real estate transactions and will represent you, and work to ensure that you are not discriminated against during the process of finding and buying your new home.

Gay Real Estate Agents – Top 5 Mistakes First-Time Home Buyers Make

Though the real estate industry is changing every day, mistakes made by first time homebuyers seem not to change that much according to a survey of our gay real estate agents.

Top 5 Mistakes First-Time Home Buyers MakeThe mistakes range from mismanaging their financial picture, to finding the perfect home before being qualified, to choosing the wrong lender. Below are the top five mistakes first time buyers make:

1. Wrong moves in terms of credit management: This is confusing for many and it can be tricky especially in preparation to buy a home. Don’t open new credit accounts, or run out a buy a new car before closing! Your debt ratios are looked at very closely, and will be verified again prior to closing.

2. Trying to pre-approve oneself: Pre-qualification is an important factor when finding the perfect home to buy, don’t try to pre-qualify yourself the very first thing you should always do is to meet with a reputable lender (preferably one that is recommended by your realtor).

3. Choosing a loan officer by lowest rate: Teaser rates are a fact of life, and you can’t believe everything you read. Not all lenders are equal; ensure you work with one that is qualified, since they are responsible for your joy or headaches in the future.

4. Choosing your realtor from an open house: Yes, most realtors at open houses will treat you and or, you and your partner very nice after all, they may possibly earn a multi-thousand dollar paycheck from you (and then give a portion of it to an organization fighting against everything we’re fighting for). Choose a competent, professional, full-time gay, lesbian or gay friendly realtor from sites like GayRealEstate.com, and ensure your best interests, and your financial spending is supporting our community.

5. Waiting for the perfect property: As you wait for the perfect property, in many parts of the country prices are raising at 10% per year, this means your purchasing power is dropping at almost 1% per month! Make a list of desires and must haves, and be flexible in your search for the perfect home. Secure your investment and make it your own a another move will most like be in your future.

Author and Gay Real Estate Agent Jeff Hammerberg is the Founding CEO of GayRealEstate.com. Free Instant Access to the Nation’s Top Gay, Lesbian and Gay Friendly Realtors Coast to Coast. FREE Buyers Representation ~ Free Relocation Kit to any City, USA ~ Free Sellers Market Analysis for home sellers.

What Your Don’t Know About Buying a Home Could Cost You

With the housing recovery now well underway  housing starts are up; builder confidence is at a 7-year high; there are fewer foreclosures; and home prices continue to rise  you may be inspired to get off the fence and buy that dream home. But are you really prepared? Here are a few things you may not know  and what you don’t know could potentially cost you.

Credit score

See, hear, speak no evilWhen was the last time you checked your credit score? Any idea how good or bad it is? Are there any errors on your report that need to be fixed? Long before you begin to house hunt, you need to know where you stand. The higher your score, the better your interest rate. Get a copy of your report ”for free” at www.annualcreditreport.com.

Mortgages

An astounding one-third of home buyers surveyed by Zillow are ill-prepared to get a mortgage. Among the findings: 34 percent of first-time home buyers are not aware that it is possible to get a home loan with a down payment of less than 5 percent; 26 percent of home buyers incorrectly believe that they are obligated to close their loan with the lender that pre-approved them; and 24 percent incorrectly believe that the best interest rates and fees can always be found through the bank where they currently do business. You have to shop around! Get multiple quotes, understand rates and fees, and read lender reviews online.

Competition

With the number of homes for sale at historically low levels, all-cash buyers ”typically investors eager to renovate and resell or rent out homes” are jumping into this rapidly rising market. And they’re swooping up homes like there’s no tomorrow!  Don’t underestimate this deep-pocketed competition, but don’t take unnecessary risks (such as waiving inspection contingencies, for example), either, simply for the sake of getting your piece of the American Dream. You may be inviting trouble, and that trouble could be costly.

Price

Yes, you guessed it. Because there’s not much to look at these days (just a few months supply in some markets!), and you’re up against stiff competition, you could easily end up paying more than you bargained for. Don’t bust your budget! Your monthly mortgage payment should be 25 percent or less of your monthly take-home pay. Run the numbers using Zillow’s mortgage calculators.

Author Vera Gibbons is a financial journalist based in New York City ~ Connect with her at http://veragibbons.com/.

What is the cost to be represented by a buyers broker?

The decision to retain the services of a Buyer’s Broker when purchasing a home, is one you won’t regret.

Of course, there is a cost; Buyer Brokers make a living through representing their clients. The good news is that there is often no additional cost to you, the home buyer, if the search for a new home culminates in a purchase. For all of their time, energy, and incredible guidance they provide, Buyers Brokers fees are usually a percentage of the commission paid by the Seller to the listing Realtor at closing, so it ends up costing you nothing for full legal representation. In most instances, a Buyer’s Broker will ask you to sign an agreement stipulating payment to him or her for services rendered and/or expenses incurred in the search for a home, with or without a sale.

Given the value of their services, this is reasonable = Time is money.

Although there are many benefits to entering into a relationship with a Buyer’s Broker to represent you in one of life’s most important purchases, among the most valuable is the time you will save by letting a professional do your leg work. Advise your Buyers Broker of the “primary” and “secondary” features you want in a home, your desires in terms of location, and be sure s/he is aware of your price range. Armed with this information, your Buyers Broker can make inroads with the realtors listing those homes which are possibilities ….and tote you around to view those properties! This is a huge boon to busy buyers who are dealing with the responsibilities of their jobs, families, and those little surprises life hands us.

In addition to acting as your eyes, ears, and legs during the home search process, the Buyer Broker extends invaluable professional guidance to you on home buying. Examples include advice on avoiding common pitfalls of a home purchase, as well as information on all aspects of obtaining financing for your home and how that will play out (from mortgage application to closing). Your Buyer Broker will make sure all the “T’s” are crossed and the “I’s” are dotted in the home-purchase process and act as your advocate during the offer, the home inspection, and all other phases of the purchase. Representation by a knowledgeable Buyers Broker in a home purchase can replace the stress involved in a “do-it-yourself home search” with confidence and peace of mind.

Perhaps the question on the “cost of having a Realtor represent your best interests as a Buyer’s Broker” should be, rather, on the worth of a Buyer’s Broker acting as your advocate. The myriad merits of the services provided by this professional who marshals your interests, legally in all areas of your home purchase can be an invaluable asset in the transaction.

Acting as your scout, as your mediator between you and the listing Realtor or seller in what could be stressful negotiations, and as a proponent through the closing phase, the Buyers Broker is a home buyer’s friend, indeed.

Author Jeff Hammerberg is the Founding CEO of www.GayRealEstate.com offering Free Instant Access to Gay, Lesbian and Gay Friendly Realtors Coast to Coast.

Tips for First Time Buyers: Choosing A Realtor Before Finding a Home

Purchasing a first home is a wise financial investment and can provide priceless personal and emotional rewards as well. Home ownership offers an unprecedented sense of security, accomplishment, success, and perhaps most importantly, personal freedom.

But before you begin to look at homes, it is a good idea to first shop around for a real estate professional who is compatible with your needs and understands your buying goals. Most novice buyers do it the other way around: they see a house they like, call the phone number on the yard sign, and immediately enter into a professional relationship entrusting the most important financial decision of a lifetime to any agent who happens to pick up the phone.

But nearly every first-time buyer admits to understanding little or nothing about the real estate business as they enter the real estate arena. As newcomers, they are suddenly confronted with complicated choices that carry powerful legal and financial consequences. They often encounter sellers who have the upper hand thanks to prior experience in the real estate market. And the potential for “silent homophobia” in the real estate industry can present an invisible obstacle for GLBT buyers, and is a legitimate and potentially frustrating concern. On top of all that, add the prospect of moving to a new location and the fact that in all real estate transactions “time is of the essence”, and you have a guaranteed recipe for overwhelming stress. And we all know that we make our worst decisions when we’re too stressed.

The careful selection of an agent who understands your needs and represents them in a professional manner can provide a reassuring level of comfort and confidence, as they work to create smooth sailing and fair dealings throughout the entire home-buying process.

Unfortunately, most first-time buyers skip this preliminary step, even though choosing a real estate professional is not at all difficult. Even if you know nothing about how the real estate game is played, you will be able to locate, interview, and select an agent who is a good match for you. The hours you invest in this quest for a professional will save you time, trouble, and money in the long run, and will actually speed up the overall home-buying process.

Here are some tips to help you make an informed choice:

1)      Determine the legal roles and responsibilities of brokers in your particular area. 

Depending upon where you live, the real estate laws will dictate the responsibilities and roles of real estate agents and brokers. Some states allow real estate professionals to serve clients in a dual capacity, and these “dual agents” will represent both the buyer and the seller at the same time, during the same transaction. They negotiate and mediate on behalf of both parties. In other jurisdictions, agents represent either buyers or sellers, but not both. Check with the local Realtor’s Association to find out what rules apply in your area, before you begin interviewing brokers.

2)      Use a specialist.

If you are relocating through your employer, you may want to work with a broker who specializes in relocation work, because they will have the experience required to help you locate the right property, at the right price, within your window of opportunity and according to the parameters outlined by your company’s relocation program. Similarly, if you are looking for rural property or farmland, there are brokers who specialize in that area of the market, as opposed to others who are expert at finding you a city dwelling close to the nightlife. And if it is investment property you want, you may decide to choose an investment property specialist. Once you have found someone who specializes in the kind of property you’re looking for, you can narrow down your search by selecting a broker within that niche of the industry.

3)      Check their credentials, and also see if you feel comfortable working with them.

As with any professional you hire, you will want to look for experience, a proven track record, a stellar reputation for customer satisfaction, and the ability to communicate with you and answer all of your questions in a way that inspires your confidence and trust.

Once you have a qualified and trustworthy real estate professional on your team to help you find a house, negotiate on your behalf, and inform and guide you each step of the way, you can relax and enjoy the adventure of shopping for your new home.

Author: Jeff Hammerberg is the Founding CEO of www.GayRealEstate.com ~ Instant Free Access to the Nation’s Top Gay, Lesbian and Gay Friendly Realtors.

Putting Value into Perspective to Negotiate with Confidence

How much wiggle room you give yourself when bidding or asking (relative to the listed price of property) in a competitive real estate market can make or break a transaction. Too much and you might lose the deal. Too little, and you could “leave money on the table”.

To avoid morning-after regrets, plan your math in advance. After you have subtracted the emotional components from the equation you will have a better chance of putting a fair deal together. And during what might normally be a stressful process – the period of negotiation before reaching a final agreement – you can remain comfortable and calm, knowing that although the market forces are at play, you aren’t at risk of getting unfairly played.

In any market, what a buyer is willing to pay and what a seller will accept determines actual value. No matter which side of the transaction you are on, reaching the “sweet spot” of market equilibrium will involve the same dynamics, based upon the fundamental economic physics of supply and demand.

But before you enter the marketplace – to either list your property for sale or go house hunting – first determine what the market is doing, through a comparative analysis of recent sales. The more recent the data, the better. Information has a shortened shelf life during changing real estate climates. To avoid stale figures, try to get your hands on the most current numbers possible. The easiest way to locate fresh data is to ask a Realtor to provide it. Any Realtor can download and print the latest sales figures from the Multiple Listing Service with a few clicks of a computer mouse, and this is a professional favor you should expect to be offered free of charge. Most Realtors will be happy to also help you interpret the data, in order to compare the asking or “list” prices to the actual prices at closing.

The differential will show you the “spread”, which is normally going to be within a range of about 2-5 percent. For example, if a house was listed for $300,000 and sold for $290,000, the spread was $10,000, or a little more than 3 percent. A 5 percent spread on the same transaction would be reflected in a closing price of about $285,000.

Average out the spreads for half a dozen houses similar to yours, and use that percentage amount to decide how to proceed. Armed with information, you now know what to expect in terms of the space – or disagreement – between buyers and sellers when the tug-of-war over price begins. For instance, if the average difference between listing price and sold price is 6 percent, and you want to put your house on the market, you will do well to list it within 6-8 percent of the price you expect it to bring. Priced too high the house will languish on the market, because the gap between what you’re asking and what the typical buyer will pay is too great. Priced too low you might get a faster sale by giving your property away at a bargain basement price.

If you’re bidding on a house to purchase, the same concept applies. Offer a price within that same average range and you will have a better chance of getting your price. Of course if you don’t want to take a chance on losing the deal, offer full price. But in a market defined by declining prices, sellers are usually willing to entertain offers of less money.

This formula is especially useful in situations where your competitors have not done their arithmetic, and are asking too much or offering too little. Since you know the math, you’ll likely come out ahead. For example, if the market dictates a spread of 3 percent and you put your house on the market for 3 or 4 percent above what you’re willing to take for it, your house may sell faster than your neighbor’s who listed at 10 percent above their desired price. They accidentally priced themselves out of the market.

Be sure to work any unusual circumstances into your calculations. For instance, if there are needed repairs not already discounted from the price, or if you need to relocate quickly to land that high-paying job, then you should adjust your expectations and pricing accordingly.

Ultimately, buying or selling property should be a satisfying and comfortable experience. Knowing what to expect from the current economic environment can help you succeed in reaching your goals efficiently, in a practical and methodic way.

If a reasonable offer isn’t enough to clinch a deal, then you may be better off looking elsewhere for your buyer or seller, because you deserve a fair trade. But if you don’t know what constitutes a reasonable price to begin with, you will be confused and vulnerable. Do your homework ahead of time. Then enter the marketplace with informed confidence and enjoy real estate success.