My Partner and I Want to Hire an Agent to Help Us Purchase a Home. What is the Difference Between an Agent and a Broker?

The term ‘real estate agent’ is generally used interchangeably between both types of agents, but there is a difference. Following is a general definition and duties of an agent and a broker.

downloadReal Estate Agent

A real estate agent is a person that has passed both state and national exams to become licensed by the state where they will be working. The requirements vary, depending on state laws, but general qualifications include minimum age and education and/or experience and real estate pre-license or college courses. Once licensed, an agent must work under a real estate broker and cannot be paid directly for his or her services.

The general duties of a real estate agent that represents buyers include interviewing clients to determine the type of property they are looking for, preparing documents related to the purchase, presenting purchase offers to sellers, and acting as an intermediary in negotiations between the buyer and the seller. The agent also coordinates with lenders, home inspectors, escrow companies and others to ensure that the conditions of purchase agreements are met before the closing date, coordinates the actual closing, and oversees signing of documents.

Real Estate Broker

A real estate broker is required to have more education and/or experience than a real estate agent in most states. For example, to apply for a broker license in Montana, the person must have two years experience as licensed real estate salesperson. In California, a person must have a four-year degree and eight real estate courses at the college level. Two years experience as a licensed real estate salesperson may be substituted for the four-year college degree.

Broker’s are authorized to work independently, own real estate businesses, and to employ real estate agents. If the broker hires real estate agents, he or she is required to oversee all aspects of selling and buying real estate by those agents to ensure proper representation of clients within the confines of the law.

What is a Buyer’s Agent?

When you hire a real estate agent or broker to assist you in finding and purchasing real estate, he or she will be your buyer agent. Your legal relationship in most states will be with the broker that the agent works under. Some states allow an agent to act for a buyer, rather than the broker, so that the business can take advantage of working for both buyers and sellers without creating a conflict of interest.

Along with the real estate agent general duties described above, your buyer’s agent has the duty to act in your best interests and do everything possible to gain an advantage for you. For example, he or she must assist you in paying the least amount of money possible for a home you would like to purchase. He must disclose any facts that he has about the value of the real estate and any knowledge about the seller, such as his or her motivation to sell, that may have an effect on negotiations.

How To Find a Qualified LGBT Real Estate Agent

Although you may find a gay real estate agent by looking in your local yellow pages, there is no guarantee that he or she is a good agent. The best way to find a reputable  LGBT real estate agent is to conduct a free search at The professionals listed are all highly qualified in their particular areas of expertise and have been interviewed to ensure that their approach to working with the LGBT community meets our standards.

San Francisco Real Estate $82,000.00 (just for parking!)

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.

ParkingThe 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.

The sale was all cash.

Read the original story at Yahoo

Deposit to Sell Your Timeshare? Could be FRAUD!!

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.

Deposit to Sell Your TimeshareFlorida 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.

Victimizing People

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.

Spiking Scams

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.

See Original Story at Bloomberg

Interview Questions to ask a Real Estate Agent before Buying a Home

Real estate agents are varied and have multiple levels of experience and motive. Finding a good real estate agent before you purchase a home is worth shopping for.

It will take time to find a home that you like, and you should be as determined to find a great real estate agent that you like and trust to keep your best interests at heart. A professional real estate agent or REALTOR® should not have a problem answering some of the following questions, and it will give you peace of mind. Communication and understanding should be a strong foundation of your relationship with your agent.

  • Is your real estate agent new, experienced in the field, full time or just part time?
  • Have they provided you a list of references with contact information?

Asking for references of past clients helps to get a good understanding of personal reviews, take the time to actually speak to some of them.

Contact people who have been home buyers working with this Realtor or company. Even if the references did not purchase a home, they will have very useful information about their experience with the Realtor.

If it is just a part time position for the Realtor, you may find it difficult to schedule meetings or viewings at times which are convenient to you. If they have a team, or assistants involved, get a list of anyone that you would likely be in contact with.

Determine the mode and frequency of contact whether via e-mail or phone. If you lack communication, you may miss important home viewing opportunities.

  • Does the agent have an informational and easy to access website for communication and reference?

It can save valuable time reviewing properties before you actually go to the location.

  • Does the Realtor represent you, or the seller?

This makes a huge difference when it comes to making a decision on the price. If they have a personal connection with the seller, they may not have your best interests in mind. Ask for a list of fees in writing, so that there are no surprises in the total cost.

When buying demand to work with a buyer’s agent (buyer broker), no exceptions!

  • Will the agent show all available properties from other companies’ listings, or just their own?

Buying opportunities could be missed, and it would be costly to have more than one Realtor.

These are just basic guidelines, but if you are not afraid to ask, it will make a much less stressful buying experience. Well constructed research builds the strong foundation of a future home.

Author Jeff Hammerberg is the Founding CEO of ~ Free Instant Access to the Nation’s Top Gay, Lesbian and Gay Friendly Realtors Coast-to-coast.

To Buy or Not to Buy, that is the Question

Whether or not to buy a home is one of the largest financial decisions most individuals will ever have to make.

There are both advantages and disadvantages to buying a home. Owning one’s own home can provide a sense of satisfaction, stability, financial security and comfort, although home ownership does not come without certain costs ~ both the benefits and the costs should be considered before making a final decision.

Homes are expensive both in their upfront costs and in their ongoing upkeep. Typically buyers finance such large purchases for 20, 30 and even 40 years, this means that the home will cost you much more in the long run than just the sticker price, in fact for the first 15 years of your loan your payment will largely pay interest and barely touch the principle (purchase price).

Fortunately, interest rates for home loans are typically quite affordable these days hovering around 4.5%.

In addition to the interest you will have to pay on your purchase there will be insurance costs and upkeep costs. Insurance is generally affordable and maintenance can vary widely. Of course these costs are significantly offset when you consider what you would be paying in rent and the fact that you are actually making an investment that will be at least partially recouped when you eventually sell your home.

In today’s economy, real estate prices have plummeted dramatically. One way of interpreting that plummet, however, is that in a majority of markets this is indeed the time to buy, precisely because prices are so low!

One of the biggest advantages to home ownership is the peace of mind it is supposed to give you;

  • Just think, you’ll never have to move again because a landlord decides they no longer want to rent their property.
  • You can buy furniture and your own appliances because, in theory at least, you will never have to worry about moving them.
  • Home ownership imparts stability.
  • You will be able to truly become a member of your community, a member that won’t be moving away after just a couple of years’ stay.
  • Your neighbors will finally begin to consider you one of them.
  • And for those with kids, your kids will go to the neighborhood schools, you’ll shop at the neighborhood grocery, and your family will attend church at the neighborhood church.

There are, therefore, many positives associated with home ownership. As is always the case, however, it is important not to delude yourself that everything will always be positive.

The decision to buy a home should be based on a careful consideration of the facts, not solely on emotion. Only then will you be assured that you are indeed making the right choice.

Author Jeff Hammerberg is the Founding CEO of ~ Instant Free Access to the Nation’s Top Gay, Lesbian and Gay Friendly Realtors Coast-to-coast.

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 offering Free Instant Access to Gay, Lesbian and Gay Friendly Realtors Coast to Coast.

Trick or Treat ~ What to Look for in a Home Inspection

Buying a home isn’t as clean cut as you would like it to be, requiring that you take the time to inspect the home before you decide if it’s the right fit for you and those that will be living with you if you have a family.

Your inspection should involve several things, most importantly, electrical, roofing, pluming and foundation. In addition, whether or not the floors are stable, without drooping spots or sink holes, and whether or not the windows are updated or if there is going to be an efficiency problem. At the same time, you want to do your homework and determine the condition of any included appliances. 

When you are initially going through the home, you are of course tempted by the difference to overlook many things, but you should always take the time to hire a professional certified home inspector and complete a thorough home inspection. I’d recommend an inspector affiliated with: The American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI) North America’s oldest and most respected professional society of home inspectors.

This helps to assure no scares or surprises by the home or the inspector.

The very first thing you want to consider is the actual electrical service panel and proper wiring throughout the home.

As you continue through the home, you’ll want to check out the plumbing… everything secure, and lurking lead pipes? How old is that roof, and how many layers are currently on the home?

You’ll want to also check out the windows as these are very important to the comfort of the home. If the windows are out-dated, it is easy to deduce that they will leak out heat and air, causing issues with efficiency. Updated windows seal in the heat and air into the home much better, therefore can introduce much greater savings when it comes to electric and heating bills. Also, updated windows signify that other elements of the home may have also been updated.

Don’t forget to do your homework when it comes to the inspection of a home, as there are things in the past that can affect the home as it stands today.

You also want to find out the average heating and lighting bills in the home by simply calling the utility company and providing the property address to ensure you aren’t getting into a money pit that is going to make it difficult to maintain the cost of the home.

If there are any major issues, they should be addressed before considering the home so you are able to determine the steps that will be taken to prepare the home for you.

Your real estate contract will allow for a home inspection, and working together with your realtor, you can determine what are safety / security issues and need to be addressed, vs. cosmetic issues which you noticed when you wrote your initial offer.

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

What are the Tax Savings when buying a home?

There are several places to look for tax savings for people who are buying or who own a house. In fact, the purchase of a main residence for a person has a lot of different financial advantages. Tax savings will accrue each year, especially if the homeowner has a mortgage on the home, tax savings are a major reason for a person to buy and improve a home.

Each year, the different tax advantages may change, so it is important to speak with your CPA or tax professional to figure out these tax savings year by year.

A homeowner can take many home related deductions on their federal income tax form each year. They can deduct the mortgage interest each year, within very generous limits. This mortgage deduction is a real significant bonus for the homeowner (the interest portion of your house payment is significant; it may be as high as 90 – 95% of your entire mortgage payment… deductible). 

Most homeowners could not afford to pay cash for their homes, and so a mortgage is necessary, they can deduct most if not all of the interest paid on this mortgage on their federal taxes. This is a primary tax savings advantage for homeowners.

Some home improvements can be tax savings for the homeowner also. For example, some energy improvements can result in tax savings on both federal and state taxes.

Homeowners can also deduct the various property taxes paid on the home. These are deductable because that tax has already been paid to the municipality. The municipality will often fund schools, roads, and police with this tax. This property tax savings is an additional benefit to homeowners, and it is also deducted on the federal income tax and for several states as well. The result of the property tax of course will provide a wonderful neighborhood, city and services equaling peace of mind for the homeowner. When a person is considering the purchase of a home, neighborhood conditions, the various tax savings, and improvements are crucial considerations.

Finally, in addition to these excellent tax savings, the buildup of equity for a home will help the homeowner against the ravages of inflation. Historically, the homeowner will have more and more equity, or value in the home, each year. The mortgage will be paid off a little each year, increasing your equity, and potentially lowering your taxes as you enter your golden years.


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

Should I get my real estate license before buying a home?

There is no doubt that getting a real estate license will take a large portion of time, devotion, energy and, of course, money… all of which will be done to ultimately “Earn you a commission” (that may be a question). My other question to you would be, “If you put this much time, devotion, energy and investment into furthering your own career, what would the payoff be?”

It seems focusing on your career, and working with an expert in the real estate business pays off in two separate ways;

  1. When working with a professional buyer or sellers agent that is experienced in real estate, your chances of costly mistakes are minimal and your chances for an expert negotiation on your purchase or sale are enhanced.
  2. Putting this type of commitment into your own profession should earn you an annual raise equal to a commission, which you will collect every year for the rest of your working life.

I’d also like to point out that the real estate industry has experienced such complication over the past few years, that it’s hard to imagine anyone would be interested in such a fiasco.

You should seriously consider the amount of time, dedication, energy and money it will take to obtain your Real Estate license. The decision is yours whether you think it’s worth it or not, but, as far as I’m concerned, I would not be willing to go through that entire process in order to buy or sell one house. It is normally a better idea to leave it up to someone who is highly qualified, experienced and does this every day.

It certainly may be worth your time, however, if you’re retired, unemployed, underemployed, and were planning to purchase a home strictly for the sake of fixing it up and re-selling for a profit ~ Or even better if you plan to buy multiples houses.

Real estate license requirements vary depending on which state you reside in. In addition to licensing and testing there are requirements for insurance, continuing annual education, and don’t forget as a new agent you’ll be required to hang you licensed under an employing broker, which of course will want a piece of every commission you earn.

Every state has its own specific requirements and restrictions for individuals who are seeking a Real Estate License: There is a broad variety of regulations among all the United States.

The best suggestion I can offer is that you take a blank piece of paper and make a basic pros and cons list… for each item that is listed (as a pro/con) assign a number between 1 and 3 which will represent the importance of that particular pro/con. Once you have completed your list, add up the importance value numbers for each column. This should be a simple process for discovering the better solution for your specific situation.

Additionally, there is certainly an extraordinary amount of resources throughout the internet and also specialists who you can refer to for advice, so this would be a good idea as well.

Being a real estate agent is a great career ~ if you’d like to make a career of it, move forward with this knowledge… otherwise, continue doing what you do best.

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

Should I buy a bank owned home if I have to move by a certain date?

In today’s housing market, there are many bank owned homes available that are well worth the bargain price tag.

Not only are homes being sold for less, but mortgage rates are at historic lows. Getting an interest rate near 4% has never happened in the history of mortgage lending!

Although there is some risk associated with purchasing an REO (Real Estate Owned by a bank due to a foreclosure), the bank is trying to cut their losses and unload as many homes as possible – which makes it a buyer’s dream. Part of the risk associated with an REO home is the uncertainty of when the bank will actually make a decision on your offer… is it 4 days or 4 months? ~ most lending institutions have a “history” which your real estate agent should be able to determine, but buyer beware “banks move at incredibly slow speeds historically”.

If you’re scheduled to move out of your current home by a certain date, purchasing a bank-owned home before the clock runs out could be a tricky matter. Having all of your ducks in a row will help with the approval process, i.e.; Pre-Approved for a Mortgage, No Contingencies, Quick Inspection Dates, etc. will help the bank choose you, over the possible stack of offers it may receive.

If your magic move-out date is less than 60 days away, you might have some cause to worry, but if that date is six months away, the likelihood of missing the deadline is quite small. Hopefully, the closing process will take less than 90 days.

When dealing with REO’s as a backup plan, a buyer should consider alternative, temporary living space, in the event that the sale doesn’t close within the allotted time. That may mean staying with a relative or friend and renting a storage unit for a few months, or renting an apartment on a short term basis.

If you’re getting a smoking deal on a home, this would be a small price to pay.

And what if the bank chooses another offer? Another concern with writing an offer on an REO is your hands are tied until you hear from the bank… how many great properties will you have to pass by, hoping for this deal to be approved. 

With REO’s you’re in the driver’s seat if time is on your side.

The beauty of obtaining an REO home is that it practically pays for itself as soon as you lay your money down. In just a few years, the housing market should recover and your investment will automatically be worth much more than you invested.


Author Jeff Hammerberg is the Founding CEO of ~ Instant Free Access to the Nation’s Top Gay, Lesbian and Gay Friendly Realtors Coast-to-Coast, offering Free Buyers Assistance.