"Herman Chan is a San Francisco-based real estate expert whose hit video blog, Habitat for Hermanity, earned him national attention . His unique brand of humor and insight can be seen athabitatforhermanity.com. Chan shares with dot429 pieces of advice for prospective LGBT homeowners."
7 Tips for Prospective LGBT Homeowner
by Herman Chan
Even all the recent ups and downs of the market cannot deter people from pursuing their piece of the American Dream. And the LGBTQ community is no different. We have every right to stake our claim in that Dream. As exciting as it is to purchase property, special considerations must be taken into account for LGBTQ buyers. As you embark on your house hunt, keep these tips in mind.
Finding an agent you are comfortable with is crucial. Whether it is a fellow LGBTQ member or an ally, realize that you may see this person every week for months and months. You better like him/her at the very least! Work with someone who truly understands the nuances and needs of an LGBTQ buyer. If an agent asks you and your partner, “So, which one of you is the man and which is the woman?”, move on!
Vet your Agent
Be mindful who you give your business to. For example, the local listing queen bee may sell beaucoup homes, but if she donated $30,000 to the “Yes on 8” campaign, do you really want to support someone who thinks you are a second class citizen? Find someone who shares your worldview.
Weho, Chelsea, Castro. It is a knee-jerk reaction to gravitate towards the "gayborhoods." But, what may have been a great place to live when you were a young and fresh out of the closet may not be where you want to settle down with your partner. This is especially true if you have children. There is nothing like crooning lullabies to your child at night while Rihanna blares from the club across the street. Be open-minded to other areas that are not the gay meccas and may actually better fit your needs. Yes, Virginia, plenty of gays live in the suburbs.
Unfortunately, gay bashing still occurs in 2011. Do your due diligence and ensure the neighborhood you are considering satisfies your safety standards. Research crime stats online and ask neighbors (especially if they are family) if they have been harassed or welcomed. Contact the local police to speak to the officer who is responsible for the beat where subject property is located and get their thoughts on the local hate crimes, if any. Better safe than sorry.
Different Forms of Ownership
“Taking title” is how you legally assume ownership of a property. Straight couples typically take title as husband and wife or community property, but since we don’t have that option to marry (yet), LGBTQ couples usually take title under both names in joint tenancy. That simply means you both have equal rights to the property, and should one of you pass away, the other is granted ownership of the house. Another way to hold title is a tenancy in common. Unlike a joint tenancy, tenants in common have no right of survivorship. So when one party passes away, his/her portion of the property can be bequeathed to whomever he/she specified in the will. Note that tenants in common can own property in unequal shares. For instance, Laverne may own 70 percent and Shirley may own 30 percent, depending on their arrangement.
Be aware that oftentimes partners bring different amounts of down payment to a purchase. If Jo contributes $90,000 and Pat brings in $10,000, it is clearly lopsided. An LGBTQ couple must decide how they want to deal with this disparity. When it comes time to sell or divorce, the proceeds may be split down the middle if an agreement is not in place. Jo would be short-changed, and Pat would get a windfall! Have that hard conversation about how the money will be distributed early on.
Get it in Black and White
Whether an LGBTQ couple buys as a joint tenancy or a tenancy in common, it is advisable to find a lawyer who can draft up an additional legal document to stipulate the couple’s agreement. In most jurisdictions, the current laws on the books do not adequately cover how to deal with LGBTQ separations. Spend the money on the attorney to make sure all is spelled out before you finalize your purchase.
Owning property is a huge economic asset and big responsibility. Follow the aforementioned tips to avoid making boo-boos when buying your piece of the American Dream. And with luck, you and your partner will live happily ever after!