The Colorado Civil Union Act, C.R.S. 14-15-101, became effective on May 1, 2013 making it the only remaining state that allows civil unions. Other states that previously recognized those partnerships have adopted same sex marriage laws and converted civil unions, with the exception of Vermont, into marriages as a matter of law. Vermont enacted its same sex marriage law in 2009. All civil unions entered into before that date are still recognized as civil unions.
Note that New Hampshire enacted its same sex marriage law on January 1, 2010. All legal civil unions contracted in another state or jurisdiction have been recognized as marriages in New Hampshire since that date. N.H. Rev. Stat. Ann. Section 457:45.
According to law, same sex couples entering into a civil union obtain the same benefits, protections and responsibilities that are afforded opposite sex married couples. Rights related to real estate include the following:
1. The right to buy, own and sell real estate as a single entity.
2. The right to survivorship of the real estate and property. When one partner dies, the surviving partner will inherit according to the state laws of intestate success if there is no will or other estate planning in place at the time of death.
3. Homestead rights of a spouse. Homestead exemptions protect an amount of equity in the home from creditors and allow the property to be transferred directly to the surviving spouse upon the other’s death. That amount is set by state law. In Colorado, the amount is $60,000 of the home’s equity, or $90,000 if the surviving partner is disabled or 60 years of age or older. In Vermont, the amount is $125,000.
Colorado does not allow partners in a civil union to file joint taxes. Each must file individually and only one of them can take any deductions related to the real estate that they own together. Vermont allows partners in the civil union to file jointly for state tax purposes. Since federal law only recognizes marriages, couples in civil unions cannot file joint federal returns.
If you are in a civil union and are considering purchasing a home together, it would be wise to consult with an LGBT real estate agent at GayRealEstate.com or attorney. Those professionals have the knowledge to advise you on any laws that can affect your purchase.
Once you have decided to sell your home, there are steps that need to be taken to get it on the market. The following will give you an idea of what is involved with gay divorce and selling the home.
You should get the house ready to show by making any necessary repairs, painting and generally making the home look nice and uncluttered both inside and out. This will help you get the best possible price for it when it sells. To avoid future conflict, it would be wise to prepare an agreement with each other that covers how the costs associated with selling the home will be paid and how the proceeds will be split once the home is sold.
You have the option of selling the home yourself, but hiring a real estate agent will save you a lot of stress. Selling your own home involves many steps including setting an appropriate selling price, preparing advertising materials, listing the home in various newspapers and other advertising venues, showing the home and holding open houses, learning which forms and documents that must be used according to your state’s laws, and finding out whether a lawyer must handle the closing. Laws related to real estate and gay marriage varies in each state and do affect the result of selling your home. Taking on the task of selling real estate yourself can quickly become almost a full-time job.
If you have decided to hire a real estate agent, you should contact a local gay / gay friendly agent that is familiar with LGBT issues. This will help avoid the possibility that you may be discriminated against and could help you avoid losing money on the sale. Gay / LGBT friendly agents keep up with the ever-changing same sex marriage laws that affect real estate and the sale of your home. The agent will help you arrive at a realistic listing price, list the home in the MLS, Multiple Listing Service, and may even have a potential buyer on his or her list that are looking for a home just like yours. Your agent will also handle showing your home to potential buyers and will arrange the closing. He or she will assist you and answer your questions throughout the entire process.
Once the home sells, you must pay the mortgage, any second mortgages and the agent’s fees from the proceeds. The funds that are left after expenses may then be divided between you as agreed.
Gay divorce and selling the home is a stressful undertaking. Hiring an gay / gay friendly real estate agent can help take much of that stress away ~ choose your perfect agent in a free on-line database at www.GayRealestate.com.
If you are shopping around for a home and then applying for a home loan it means that you are putting “the cart before the horse.” Knowing the amount of the mortgage you prequalify for before you shop around for home spares you the heartbreak of choosing a property and then being told by a lender that you cannot afford it. Having this information in-hand also impresses everyone involved in the real-estate transaction and may give you an edge in the bidding process.
Your first step to finding a loan is to visit the bank that offers you the lowest interest rate, but you also need to make sure that there are no “catches” to the offer. Sometimes banks advertise lower interest rates as a way of luring you into doing business with them but there can be factors involved that can elevate the cost of your mortgage. For instance, there may be a minimum down payment required on the loan before you qualify for the lower interest rate. You will also definitely be required to have a high credit rating before you will be considered for any mortgages with lower interest rates.
There can also be other hidden costs when applying for a prequalified mortgage that only really become evident once you have successfully acquired the home and it is time to sign an agreement. These hidden costs can include the closing costs, application fees and origination fees.
Before you talk to a lender it is a good idea to acquire a mortgage payment worksheet or use an online mortgage rate calculator to determine what the ballpark figure is that you can spend on a mortgage.
There is also next to no point in visiting a lender to acquired mortgage prequalification unless your debts are paid off or at the very least being paid absolutely on time; you have several active forms of credit in use including major credit cards from a prime company such as Visa, MasterCard or American Express; and ideally an already established credit line or proof that you have paid off a credit line on time and in full in the past.
Finally, if you are planning to apply for a mortgage prequalification do not buy a car, appliances or any other type of large item on credit at the same time as this can cause the lending institution to lower the amount it is willing to lend you. It is also not a good idea to try and change jobs and buy a home at the same time, as most banks will not prequalify you for a mortgage unless you have been employed at least two years
Prequalification for a mortgage is, in a way, all about timing so make sure that you have all of the paperwork that is required in place. It is also a good idea to make sure that you have copies of everything that relates to your financial standing in place and ready to present to the lender in a meeting.
If you plan to allocate some of your investment dollars to real estate, you’ll find several options in the marketplace. Each type of investment has its own benefits and risks, and you should fully educate yourself on those before you write the check. Below are details on a few of the more common real estate investment types.
Individual direct ownership
This category of real estate ownership covers buying properties on your own (maybe with a spouse) and handling everything related to operation ”such as maintenance, leasing and management of the property” yourself or hiring a property manager to do the job.
Benefits: You would make all decisions, earn all profits (if any) and directly control the asset.
Risks: You could face the possibility of bad tenants and other management hassles, making a poor financial choice, losing money on the sale of the property and assuming full liability past insurance coverage.
Partnerships with close or well-known associates
You could also partner with a friend, a small group of like-minded investors or family members. Hopefully you know your co-investors well and their financial position, motivation, work ethic and desire to share in the management of the property. Two big suggestions here: Have a written agreement between the parties, and one party should be responsible for management of the property (or managing a property manager) and be paid for handling the management. This eliminates disputes over who handles the problem if a major issue arises during a holiday or the Super Bowl.
Benefits:You would share decision making and profits, and all partners directly control the asset. Having partners can be a plus as long as all partners are on the same page.
Risks: You might choose partners who don’t have the financial wherewithal needed to handle major issue, or partners whose strategies for renting, managing and/or improving the property are not aligned. Plus all the risks in the individual direct ownership category above.
General or limited partnerships
These investments ”including tenant-in-common investments and private real estate investment trusts (REITs)” are pitched in newspapers, at real estate clubs, by some financial institutions and by investment groups. In these investments you are totally trusting someone else, the ‘sponsor’ to handle a huge portion of your net wealth. The biggest issue with these is that most investors don’t do even the most basic due diligence on the investment sponsor, and even if they want to it’s hard to do. Few investors, for example, review a sponsor’s credit report, detailed investing history and tax returns on past deals. Nor do most investors contact banks, check criminal or civil litigation histories or consult lawyers and others the sponsor has dealt with in past real estate deals.
Benefits: You could get a fair return on investment for the risk. You wouldn’t deal with management hassles, and the sponsor probably has more investment experience than you do.
Risks: You would have no control and potentially could face dealing with unscrupulous sponsors, personal guarantees and liability, low investment returns and loss of your investment.
Publicly traded real estate investment trusts
These are really investments in a big company that is involved in the business of buying and generally owning property. A REIT buyer is investing in the ability of management to make good decisions on the shareholders behalf. There are many well-known publicly traded REITs with long-term operating histories and audited financial statements. So you’d want to look at a particular company’s results and dividends before making a decision on whether that company is a good investment for you.
Benefits: You’d have no management responsibility, no liability past your initial investment, experienced management investing your money and liquidity in selling the shares.
Risks: You could lose your total investment. Shares and company value are subject to regional, national and stock market influences and risks, which could diminish share value even if the company is relatively strong and well managed.
Leonard Baron, MBA, is America’s Real Estate Professor®. His unbiased, neutral and inexpensive ‘Real Estate Ownership, Investment and Due Diligence 101’ textbook teaches real estate owners how to make smart and safe purchase decisions.
Same-sex couples often jump through legal hoops when dealing with their joint finances — and owning real estate is no exception. If the Supreme Court strikes down the law that defines marriage as the legal union between a man and a woman, some, but not all, of these obstacles may be removed.
When it comes to owning a house together, gay married couples can expect to see a few changes if the Supreme Court rules that a part of the Defense of Marriage Act, or DOMA, is unconstitutional. Those changes will affect the mortgage interest tax deduction and Veterans Affairs home loans.
A Supreme Court ruling could have a harder-to-define effect in the 50 states and District of Columbia. Each jurisdiction has its own laws regarding the treatment of same-sex couples, as well as its own laws governing ownership of real estate.
This article first describes what could happen federally with the mortgage interest tax deduction and VA loans. Then, a clickable map summarizes how same-sex homeownership is governed in the states.
Same-sex marriage and the mortgage tax deduction
Married gay couples who have a mortgage together will be able to claim the mortgage tax deduction jointly if DOMA is struck down. That’s because without DOMA’s federal definition of marriage, they will be allowed to file federal tax returns jointly.
Currently, same-sex couples married in states that allow gay marriage have to file their federal income taxes separately because DOMA prevents the federal government from recognizing their marriages.
“If the federal government doesn’t recognize your marriage and you cannot file jointly — even if, for state purposes, you do file jointly — then one person is usually claiming the (mortgage) tax deduction even though in reality two people are paying for the mortgage,” says Gideon Alper, an attorney in Orlando, Fla. “Right now, I am taking the mortgage interest deduction on my property, and my partner is not, even though we are both contributing to the mortgage payment.”
Two unmarried people who have a joint mortgage can split the mortgage interest tax deduction, as co-borrowers. Say they have $5,000 in interest to deduct. Each co-borrower could claim $2,500. But splitting the deduction and filing separately doesn’t always make financial sense to a couple. For example, the deduction might not be higher than the standard deduction when it is split in two.
Same-sex marriage and Veterans Affairs loans
Currently, a service member or veteran married to a person of the same sex who wants to get a Veterans Affairs loan can’t include his or her partner as a spouse on the loan. According to federal rules, the definition for spouse requires the individual to be a “person of the opposite sex.”
They could get a VA loan with a joint loan, but unless both partners are veterans, the VA would guarantee only the portion of the loan allocable to the veteran. For example, if the two partners apply for a joint VA loan of $200,000, the VA guaranty would apply to $100,000. Eliminating DOMA’s definition of marriage would be the first step to allow the same-sex spouse of a veteran to get the same rights as opposite-sex married couples.
The change wouldn’t be automatic because in addition to DOMA, Title 38 — which governs VA benefits — also restricts the definition of spouse to opposite-sex couples. But if DOMA is ruled unconstitutional, Title 38 would likely go the same way, says Caren Short, an attorney at Southern Poverty Law Center. She is co-counsel on a federal case challenging both DOMA and Title 38.
“Challenges to Title 38 exist, and they already are in a position to be decided as soon as the Supreme Court decides on DOMA,” she says. “Courts that have been waiting for that decision will also find Title 38Â unconstitutional.”
Many real estate rules, including title laws, are governed by states, so rules for same-sex couples who own property together vary by state.
The DOMA case before the Supreme Court focuses on whether the federal government has the right to define marriage as the union between a man and a woman. It will ultimately determine whether “the existing marriages of same-sex couples will be recognized and respected for federal program purposes,” says James Esseks, director of the Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender and AIDS Project of the American Civil Liberties Union.
The case challenges only Section 3 of DOMA. Another part of the law, Section 2, says that states don’t have to recognize marriages of same-sex couples even if they are legally married in another state. That section is not the issue being considered by the court. Unless the court’s opinion says states must recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states — which is unlikely — little will change in states that don’t allow gay marriages.
States and districts where same-sex marriage is legal:
Delaware (as of July 1, 2013)
District of Columbia
Minnesota (as of Aug. 1, 2013)
Rhode Island (as of Aug. 1, 2013)
Marriage is a legal status that provides the spouses a variety of reciprocal obligations, rights and protections. Heterosexual marriages in each state are recognized by all other states, as well as by the federal government.
These states already treat same-sex married homeowners with equal rights. Married couples can take title to the house as spouses regardless of sex or sexual orientation. The overturning of DOMA would give same-sex couples in these states additional rights on a federal level, including claiming the mortgage tax deduction as a couple filing federal taxes jointly.
States where civil unions are recognized:
Delaware (until July 1, 2013)
Rhode Island (until Aug. 1, 2013)
A civil union is a legal status that provides legal protection to same-sex couples in the applicable states only. Civil unions typically are not recognized outside the couples’ state of legal residency.
In these states, same-sex couples can own a home with similar rights to married couples. As partners in a civil union, they can hold title through tenancy by the entirety, which is a right that used to be available only to “husband and wife.”
With tenancy by entirety, the parties own an undivided part of the property, which means a spouse can’t sell his or her interest in the property without the other spouse’s signature. Another benefit to this method is that, when one spouse dies, the property automatically reverts to the survivor without going through probate. Tenancy by entirety also protects spouses from creditors because a creditor is not allowed to take away the home to satisfy the debt of one spouse.
Colorado does not have tenancy by entirety. Instead, the state has marital property rules, meaning that any property acquired by a spouse during the marriage belongs to both parties. Partners in a civil union in Colorado have these marital property rights.
Still, couples in these states could remain at a disadvantage with regards to the mortgage tax deduction and other federal benefits. That’s because even if the federal government recognizes gay marriage, it remains unclear whether civil unions would be treated as marriages on a federal level.
States that recognize domestic partnerships:
A domestic partnership is a state-sanctioned legal status that allows unmarried couples, heterosexual and same-sex, to formalize their relationships and which extends some state rights to those couples.
These states allow domestic partnerships, but not all grant the same spousal rights to domestic partners when it comes to owning real estate as a couple. In Nevada and Oregon, partners in a domestic partnership have the same title rights as married couples.
In Wisconsin, partners can inherit property without a will. As long as the deed lists them as domestic partners, the property can be transferred automatically if one partner dies. But when partners separate, they don’t have the same marital benefits for the division of property.
Washington is a special case: As of 2014, the state will allow domestic partnerships only to couples who are 62 years of age of older. Domestic partners don’t have any of the community property rights that married couples have.
State that recognizes domestic partnerships, complicated by Proposition 8:
A domestic partnership is a state-sanctioned legal status that allows unmarried couples, heterosexual and same-sex, to formalize their relationships and which extends some state rights to those couples.
The most populous state allows domestic partnerships. In May 2008, the California Supreme Court legalized gay marriages. Five months later, voters approved Proposition 8, which bans the marriage of same-sex couples. That law has been challenged and is under review by the Supreme Court, separately from the DOMA challenge.
California has community property laws, which is the presumption that property acquired during marriage belongs to both spouses. Registered domestic partners in California have the same community property rights as married couples. During the period gay marriage was legal in California, about 18,000Â couples got married. The Supreme Court is expected to rule on the constitutionality of Proposition 8 by July. If ruled unconstitutional, same-sex marriage would resume in California — and, potentially, similar bans in other states could be affected, as well.
There’s a series of potential outcomes for the Proposition 8 case, says James Esseks, director of the Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender and AIDS Project of the American Civil Liberties Union.
“One of them is, gay couples get to get married in California, but it does not affect any other state,” he says. “There is another version that could say every state in the country has to allow same-sex couples to marry. People are not superoptimistic that that is going to happen, but it could happen. Then that would change this issue about whether (same-sex) people can get married at all.”
States that do not allow same-sex marriage, civil unions or domestic partnerships:
Same-sex couples in these states don’t have the benefits and protections that married couples get. They are not allowed to hold title with tenancy by entirety in states where this right is available to opposite-sex couples. With tenancy by entirety, the parties own an undivided part of the property, so a spouse can’t sell his or her interest on the property without permission from the other. When one spouse dies, the property automatically reverts to the survivor without having to go through probate. Tenancy by entirety also protects spouses from creditors as creditors are not allowed to foreclose on the home to satisfy the debt of one of the spouses.
In states with community property laws — which say that property acquired after the marriage belongs to both spouses regardless of who paid for it — the rights are reserved solely for opposite-sex couples.
Generally, same-sex couples in these states own property as tenants in common or as joint tenants with rights of survivorship. These methods are often used by business partners or relatives who own property together. While they grant the homeowners similar rights of joint ownership, they don’t offer the full protection that married couples get. The rules in these states won’t change with the DOMA ruling, unless the court requires states to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states.
Parking spots apparently aren’t immune from the recent surge in San Francisco real estate prices. A spot in the city’s trendy South Beach neighborhood sold last week for $82,000, the San Francisco Chronicle reported on Thursday.
The 8- by 12-foot parking space is in an enclosed garage in a condominium building near the San Francisco Giants’ ballpark. A Porsche SUV was parked in it on Thursday. The Chronicle said the unidentified buyer did not respond to interview requests.
While it may seem like a lot of money, real estate agents said parking could be a good investment in densely packed San Francisco, where vehicle spaces go for a premium. They can add as much as $100,000 to the purchase price of a property or be rented out at rates of $400 to $450 a month the going rate in South Beach.
“We had a very good response right out of the gate,” said Sean Sullivan with Climb Real Estate, which sold the spot. “It was only in the market two weeks.”
Sullivan said he sold a parking spot in the same building at the height of the last real estate boom for $95,000.
Overall, the city has seen real estate prices climb. Home prices in San Francisco grew by 22.2 percent in March compared with a year ago, second only to Phoenix among U.S. cities, according to The Standard & Poor’s/Case-Shiller home price index released in May.
Home prices in the wider, nine-county San Francisco Bay area posted a 12th straight month of double-digit price increases last month, according to research firm DataQuick. DataQuick said Thursday that the median price for new and existing houses and condominiums reached $519,000 in May, up 30 percent from the same period last year.
Condos in the South Beach area are going for $1,000 a square foot, the Chronicle reported. At 96 square feet, the parking space was a relative bargain at $854 per square foot.
Sullivan said the building where the parking spot was sold was built before the city restricted spaces to one per unit. It is one of the few buildings that allows nonresidents to own a spot.
The owner has a deed and must pay property taxes and homeowner association dues.
U.S. and Florida officials said they filed almost 200 civil and criminal cases for timeshare resale frauds over the past two years as scams in the business have increased, with defendants now more likely to have violent and drug-related backgrounds.
Florida this year sued nine timeshare resale companies based in the state for fraudulent activity, and has requested temporary restraining orders against six of them, according to Miami U.S. Attorney Wifredo Ferrer and Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, who announced the actions at a press conference today in Miami.
“We cannot allow our elderly and vulnerable real property owners to continue to be the target of fraud schemes,” Ferrer said in a statement. These victims “looked to sell their units to help make ends meet or pay other bills. Instead, they were defrauded out of more than $14 million in total.”
Some 83 civil cases have been filed in 28 states and more than 184 people are facing criminal charges in federal and state court. In the timeshare resale cases, “boiler room” operations were set up to call timeshare owners to sell the properties for a “deposit” of hundreds and sometimes thousands of dollars.
The majority of the folks who have been doing this are from Florida and are victimizing people from outside states, Ferrer said. “The white collar nature of these scams seem to be a thing of the past,” he said, noting many of the defendants had violent and drug-related criminal records.
Timeshares give owners the right to use a property for a set period of time each year, typically a week. Fractional ownership plans usually offer longer stays at a property and tend to include more services and amenities, according to the American Resort Development Association, or ARDA, a Washington-based trade group.
Marriott International Inc., owner of the JW Marriott and Ritz-Carlton brands, spun off its timeshare unit in 2011 as the business had been slow to recover from a decline in consumer spending.
Timeshare fraud “involves telemarketing companies that market their advertising services to timeshare owners interested in selling or renting their timeshare interests,” Florida officials said. “Many of these companies charge exorbitant fees and perform few services.”
The Florida Legislature in 2012 passed the Timeshare Resale Accountability Act requiring timeshare resellers to provide consumers with specific disclosures before providing services and also bars timeshare resellers from taking advance fees from consumers, according to the statement. The year following the law’s enactment, the number of timeshare resale fraud complaints received by Bondi’s office fell by more than 57 percent, she said.
“Timeshare resale scammers have cheated tens of thousands of timeshare owners out of tens of millions of dollars by convincing them to pay for a false promise,” said Charles Harwood, acting director of the Federal Trade Commission’s Bureau of Consumer Protection.
Harwood said that, beginning in 2009, timeshare scams began spiking, with 2011 being the worst year. The number of complaints his office received dropped slightly in 2012.
Bondi said in a statement that the nine companies sued as part of the Florida initiative include International Timeshare Exchange LLC, Travel Buy Owner Inc., Premium Marketing Solutions Inc., Universal Timeshare Sales Associates, Resort Property Depot, Resort Solution Trust, BML Marketing Company Inc., A1 Marketing Unlimited and Access Travel Network. Calls to the companies for comment either weren’t immediately returned, messages couldn’t be left or numbers were disconnected.
Tracy Casaceli, of Jupiter, Florida, said at the press conference that she fell for a timeshare scam twice before reporting the third offer to sell her timeshare to the FTC.
“Like a lot of individuals, I was ready to get rid of my timeshare when they called,” she said. The first time she was scammed, the phone number of the company to which she paid $600 was disconnected just two months later, she said.
“When you’re watching our monthly expenses carefully, choosing a home with solar is a no-brainer. We chose to build our new solar-powered home with KB Home because we were able to personalize nearly every aspect of our new home, including its energy efficiency through a process KB calls Built to Order,” said Rutstein.
Sales of new production homes with rooftop solar power systems nearly doubled from 2011 to 2012, suggesting homebuyers are searching for ways to control monthly electricity costs, the California Solar Initiative said.
In California last year, an estimated 4,000 new production solar homes were built, 10 times the number built seven years ago during the housing construction boom, said homebuilder KB Home ($20.19 0%) in a press release.
SunPower Corp. ($18.47 0%) expects growth to continue, with more than 20% of new production homes being solar powered this year.
Putting even more power behind that statement, SunPower announced Wednesday that it will install its 10,000th high efficiency solar power system on a new production home.
SunPower will add an upgraded solar power system on the house as well for the home’s soon-to-be owners, Justin Levine and Bethany Rutstein, who are soon to be married.
The millennial generation is showing differing housing tastes than their parents generation. For example, millennials say they prefer smaller, functional homes than sprawling “McMansions,” and they’re not interested in “cookie cutter” homes that look like everything else on the block. Instead, this generation of do-it-yourselfers wants to put their individual stamp on their home and make sure it reflects them and their tech-driven lifestyle.
Millennials are the next big demographic of home buyers emerging in real estate.
“It’s critical that real estate professionals understand what embodies a quintessential home for the millennial generation, which vastly differs from the traditional norms of generations before them,” says Sherry Chris, president and CEO of Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate LLC. Better Homes and Gardens recently conducted a survey of 1,000 adults aged 18-35, known as “Generation Y” or the millennial generation. “Understanding technologies to communicate with this generation is now only one piece of the puzzle for agents; smart technological capabilities must now be ingrained into the home itself.
About 30 percent of millennials surveyed say they prefer a “fixer-upper” home rather than a home that needs only a few repairs.
They desire homes where they can entertain, and they don’t necessarily need all the upgrades. Fifty-nine percent said they prefer extra space in the kitchen for a TV rather than having a second oven.
They’re also technology driven and they want their homes to reflect that too. Forty-one percent of Millennials surveyed say they are more likely to brag to a friend about a home automation system rather than a newly renovated kitchen. Seventy-seven percent say they want a home with technology capabilities.
They also want each room in their home to have a purpose. One in five of Millennials surveyed said they’d prefer the name “home office” be used for their dining room since that’s how they would usually use it. Forty-three percent said they’d like to change their living room into a home theatre, according to the survey.
Americans are continuing to flock to Texas ~ the state boasts the most cities that added the highest percentage of residents in the past year. However, New York continues to hold the crown as the largest city in the U.S., and added 67,000 new residents between July 2011 and July 2012 which is the largest gain of any city in the nation.
The following cities saw the biggest increases in new residents between July 2011 and July 2012, according to the U.S. Census Bureau: