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Queery: Martin Espinoza

The Victory Fund event planner and Stonewall Kickball founder answers 20 gay questions

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Martin Espinoza (Blade photo by Michael Key)

Martin Espinoza was lucky to have strong gay mentors early in his career.

Upon moving to Phoenix from his native Yuma, Ariz., in 2001 at age 18, he met Neil Giuliano, the former Tempe, Ariz., mayor and GLAAD director who’s now with an AIDS group in San Francisco. And Steve May, a former member of the Arizona House for whom Espinoza worked for several years.

He also met Chuck Wolfe from the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund, which led, eventually, to Espinoza moving to Washington in 2008 to join the Victory Fund staff where he works as director of events. He’s got his hands full these days planning the organization’s next big event — a brunch planned for March 20 at the Washington Hilton (victoryfund.org).

Espinoza, 28, is also the co-founder of Stonewall Kickball, a non-profit gay kickball league of 12 teams that plays spring and fall seasons on Sunday afternoons behind JR.’s. The group’s 300 players are about 85 percent LGBT and everyone’s welcome (stonewallkickball.com).

“It’s more fun than competitive,” he says. “It’s really back to the basics and fun. I think the main reason a lot of people like it is it’s a chance to meet other people in the community you’d never meet otherwise. You hang out at the bars on 17th Street and you kind of feel like you know everybody there is to know after a few years. But there are so many people who come out for kickball that you’ve never seen around before. I don’t even know all the captains and players. It’s great for friendship and networking.”

Espinoza grew up in Arizona and is from a family of carpenters and homebuilders. He picked a lot of it up, helping May sell houses during the height of the market several years ago. He now uses his skills to take on four or five renovation projects a year as a hobby. Naturally more inclined to jeans and T-shirts, Espinoza says he could imagine eventually doing renovation work full time.

Espinoza is single and lives at the Cairo in Dupont, which he says has “the best view of the city.”

How long have you been out and who was the hardest person to tell?

I came out to my mom when I was 18 when I decided to move to Phoenix. The hardest person to tell was my stepdad, my mom did it for me and next time I saw him he gave me two thumbs up.

Who’s your gay hero?

Neil Giuliano, he has always been there for me good or bad and been a true father figure. All his accomplishments have proven to me and so many others how great life can be, if you choose it to be.

What’s Washington’s best nightspot, past or present?

JR.’s Bar & Grill and Cobalt. I never leave 17th Street.

Describe your dream gay wedding.

I have many dream weddings but as me playing the part of Jennifer Lopez in “The Wedding Planner.”

What non-LGBT issue are you most passionate about?

Poverty

What historical outcome would you change?

Harvey Milk’s death.

What’s been the most memorable pop culture moment of your lifetime?

Watching the American Music Awards at home with Rihanna performing, “Oh, na na – what’s my name?” It has changed the way I’ve danced forever.

On what do you insist?

Just tell me what you want.

What was your last Facebook post or Tweet?

“… Can U Host?”

If your life were a book, what would the title be?

“Do You Get Me?”

If science discovered a way to change sexual orientation, what would you do?

I would send that science to Scott Herman — kidding — he’s my favorite straight ally. I would throw it right down the drain.

What do you believe in beyond the physical world?

Someone else is having just as much fun as me.

What’s your advice for LGBT movement leaders?

Imagine what we will accomplish in 20 more years.

What would you walk across hot coals for?

A one shot cure for addictions.

What gay stereotype annoys you most?

I should dress better.

What’s your favorite gay movie?

“Broken Hearts Club”

What’s the most overrated social custom?

Black tie dress code. Have you seen me without a jacket on?

What trophy or prize do you most covet?

Every time my mom smiled for the accomplishments that have occurred through my life.

What do you wish you’d known at 18?

Propecia works.

Why Washington?

I had always loved visiting Washington for business but never imagined living here. I have always loved the warm desert in Arizona. I believe life happens for a reason and that is exactly what happened. My previous company was sold in 2008 and I had never applied for a job since turning 18. The whole world of options were out there between finishing school, returning to the finance world or doing something new. I had always known and supported the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund and fortunately there was an opening on a Monday and I signed my D.C. apartment lease on Wednesday. Life since then … well, if only the trees on 17th Street could talk.

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Real Estate

Spring market readiness: buyer’s edition

Get ready for more inventory and faster sales

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The spring market technically gets underway next month.

Here in the D.C. metro area there are historically two cyclical “busy” times in the market. Spring market, which falls between February through June/July, and fall market, which is around August until about November. Honestly, the D.C. metro market is historically always pretty active, however the spring and fall markets are those times where we see an increase in inventory, open houses attendance, open house traffic and properties selling quicker. As we are heading into the spring market time (historically begins after the Super Bowl, aka the Rihanna concert for my non-sports folks that is Feb. 12) I wanted to go over a few tips to do NOW in order to make sure you are ready to go.

PICK A QUALIFIED REAL ESTATE AGENT

It is vital to work with a real estate agent that you can trust. I often tell my clients that we are about to get real intimate and basically start dating. The home buying process involves many late night phone calls, weekends spent driving around looking at properties and learning truly what a client wants. For this very reason you should feel comfortable with your agent. You need someone who will speak your language as well as speak the language of negotiating and get you into a home.

Where do you start looking for a real estate professional? For starters, I am sure you know one real estate agent in D.C., but if you don’t, look to friends and family. Ask if they know of a great Realtor and then go from there. It’s not always the agents that are plastered all over bus stops or grocery carts that you should gravitate to; do some homework and seek an agent who writes for the Washington Blade, was voted Best DC Realtor by the Washington Blade readers (aka me – and this is totally a joke – maybe).

PRE-APPROVAL

This is almost more important than selecting a real estate agent. Find a lender who will fight for you. One thing as a listing agent that I love to see is when a buyer’s lender calls me when a purchase offer is submitted to tell me how wonderfully well qualified their clients (aka you) are and that they will fight to keep the transaction on the estimated timeline. This illustrates that you have a team behind you that supports you and your goal of purchasing a home. When I get a call from a buyer’s agent that they have submitted an offer for their clients and this is why they are the most well-qualified buyers and love the home right before I get a call from a lender who speaks highly of their buyer clients and the buyer’s agent — chef’s kiss — it truly does make a difference.

Where do you start looking for a lender? Well once you meet an amazing real estate agent, ask who they would recommend. Please note that we as real estate professionals are not allowed to receive any kickbacks from lenders or service providers. I always provide a list of lenders that I have worked with in the past that have performed well – it’s your duty to research and speak to those lenders, and more, in order to select the one that is best suited for you.

UNDERSTAND YOUR CURRENT LEASE

This is one that is often overlooked. You should have a look over your current lease. Reviewing your lease will give you timeline info as to when you can start your search and what timeframes you are working with. For example, if you are on a month-to-month lease currently then you can begin your home search now. You will need to give your current landlord a 30-day notice that will likely line up with a 30-day closing period, which is pretty standard here in the D.C. metro market. If you have a lease with a few months left, it’s important to understand what a possible lease break would look like from a financial perspective or if you are not willing to break your lease then it will give you a timeframe of when you can start the home buying process.

DON’T LOSE SIGHT OF THE GOAL

This is super important. While the market has changed in the past few months, we are still not out of the water completely. The ripple effect of COVID and the constraints on the housing market will be seen for a while longer. While you might not have 15 offers on a home it’s likely you could still expect two or three. Even though we are heading into the spring market where there is historically an increase in inventory, we are in such a shortage currently that it’s even more vital now than ever before to ensure you are ready to rock and roll.

The home buying process can truly be a fun process. By following the steps above and ensuring that you are well equipped and positioned to start off the spring real estate market there is little doubt that you will meet your goal of becoming a homeowner this year.

Justin Noble is a Realtor with Sotheby’s international Realty licensed in D.C., Maryland, and Delaware for your DMV and Delaware Beach needs. Specializing in first-time homebuyers, development and new construction as well as estate sales, Justin is a well-versed agent, highly regarded, and provides white glove service at every price point. Reach him at 202-503-4243,   [email protected] or BurnsandNoble.com.

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Real Estate

Affordable home renovations for successful selling

From paint to floors, a few simple fixes to boost value

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Refreshing your home’s paint job can add instant value.

Without question, the 2023 housing market is off to a slow start, particularly in comparison to the red-hot market that existed during the pandemic. This can understandably be discouraging for those who need to sell their home and hope to obtain a favorable offer. The good news is that one constant truth about the housing market is that it will change – eventually. In the meantime, there are steps that hopeful sellers can take to increase the value of their homes and their chances of obtaining the offer that they want. 

One step that some sellers consider is making minor upgrades or renovations that will increase the sale value of their home. This leads to the question – what are some fairly easy upgrades a homeowner can make without breaking the bank that may be appealing to potential buyers? Let’s take a look at a few options together.

Refresh the paint: This is a simple and very cost-effective option for giving your home a new, fresh look. A quick coat of paint can truly work wonders. It helps the home look brighter, cleaner, and newer, and can be appealing to the eye of many potential buyers. When considering which colors to choose, it’s important to keep in mind that selecting more traditional, neutral colors is often advisable. After all, you don’t know what a potential buyer may like, so choosing colors that appeal to many and are more subdued may be a wise choice. You may want to also consider repainting the trim and the ceilings to complete the fresh new look.

Make some easy kitchen upgrades: Many have heard that upgrading the kitchen is one of the most popular renovations to a home and one with the best return on investment. As the kitchen is often the hub of the house, this is certainly true. The good news is that homeowners often need not do a complete and expensive kitchen renovation to get some bang for their buck. Some more simple tasks like upgrading older appliances to newer ones, changing out light fixtures, or repainting cabinets and adding new hardware may go a long way toward increasing your kitchen’s appeal to potential buyers.

Landscaping: Landscaping is the literal “curb appeal” that many homeowners need to give their house that extra sparkle to attract potential buyers. Upgrading your landscaping may sound intimidating at first, but it can truly be a cost-effective option for increasing the value of your home. It may be worthwhile to pay for a consultation with a landscaper regarding some steps you can take to increase your home’s appeal from the outside. Often these options can be very simple – things like removing debris, planting a few shrubs here and there, pruning trees, and other similar tasks. After all, the first step to getting a buyer to appreciate the inside of your home is to draw them in from the outside.

Refinish hardwood floors: While replacing your flooring entirely is an expensive and time-consuming process, the good news is that refinishing your floors is a fairly simple and cost-effective option for increasing your home’s appeal. It can add extra shine and a little bit of wow factor, without breaking the bank. 

These are only a few options of many for cost-effectively updating your home. Regardless of the market conditions, there are always steps that potential sellers can take to add to the appeal of their home and hopefully catch the eye of potentially interested buyers. Another important step that sellers can always take is consulting with a knowledgeable and experienced real estate agent who knows their particular community and what attracts buyers in that community.  At GayRealEstate.com, we are here to help you find the perfect agent to achieve your real estate goals.

At GayRealEstate.com We’re Here for You

The current real estate market may seem intimidating to those hoping to sell their home for the best possible price – and that’s understandable. While it may be intimidating, however, it doesn’t have to be overwhelming. By marketing your home well, investing wisely in renovations and staging, and finding the right real estate agent, you can greatly increase your chances of obtaining a favorable offer, even in a difficult market. 

At GayRealEstate.com, we’re here to help you find that real estate agent. You need and deserve an agent who understands the unique needs of LGBTQ home buyers and sellers, and who understands the market in your local community. If you’re ready to get started, get in touch with us today. We look forward to learning how we can help. 

Jeff Hammerberg is founding CEO of Hammerberg & Associates, Inc. Reach him at 303-378-5526 or [email protected].

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Autos

Mod makeovers: Kia Niro EV, Nissan Z

Carmakers add pizzazz without compromising function

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Kia Niro EV

I love New Year’s resolutions. There’s that anticipation of a fresh start — just like a first date, where everything is possible. Same for vehicle makeovers, where automakers must strike a tricky balance: Add plenty of pizzazz to an existing model, yet don’t alienate diehard purists who love their cars just the way they are. For 2023, two rides receive some spicy updates but without losing any of their old-school cool. 

KIA NIRO EV
$40,000
MPGe: 126 city/101 highway
Range: up to 253 miles on a full charge
0 to 60 mph: 7.1 seconds

For some time, Kia has been all charged up about electric vehicles. There’s the EV6 crossover, cousin of the award-winning Hyundai Ioniq 5. Both of these mid-priced, midsize rides debuted last year, and they look, whir, and pretty much drive like earthbound spaceships. Coming later this year is the EV9, based on the popular Telluride full-size SUV but with a boxy-yet-bold design straight out of “Transformers.” 

By 2027, Kia plans to offer a whopping 14 electric vehicles. Yet I still remember the thrill of driving a Niro EV— Kia’s first all-electric contender—three years ago when it arrived in showrooms. This compact four-door hatchback was fun, feature-laden and affordable. For 2023, the Niro EV gets a full redesign, with sassier styling and the same spunky performance that initially was so impressive. Battery range, which already was better than the competition, is now 14 miles more than the previous model. Using a DC fast charger, the updated Niro EV takes about 25% less time —or some 60 minutes — to charge up to 80 percent. Inside, the cockpit-like interior has been smartly revamped, with a sculpted center console, angled digital display panels and two-tone color scheme that’s vintage chic. 

Another plus: a slightly longer wheelbase means more cargo space and rear legroom. The original Niro EV offered an insanely long list of standard amenities, but this redo boasts even more goodies: smartphone integration, wireless charging, voice command functionality, forward-collision warning, automated emergency braking, adaptive cruise control and other creature comforts. Choice of two groovy-sounding trim levels: base-model Wind and more upscale Wave, which adds a sunroof, ventilated seats and power take-off. There’s also Kia’s impressive 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty. “Niro” means “to rise” in Korean, and with so many splendid upgrades here, this latest EV does just that. 

Nissan Z

NISSAN Z
$42,000
Mpg: 19 city/28 highway
0 to 60 mph: 4.5 seconds

For just $28 million, you can own the most expensive car in production today. That would be the Rolls-Royce Boat Tail coupe, with a tapered rear that looks like, well, the back end of a 1930s yacht. This two-door beauty can be ordered with a pair of bespoke Bovet wristwatches, which can be used as pocket watches, desk clocks, or even the car’s dashboard clock — as well as a chic Montblanc pen in a hand-crafted case for the glovebox. 

Or you could ignore such extravagance and opt for a reasonably priced coupe that oozes sex appeal. That would be the redesigned Nissan Z, resurrected this year with a retro vibe that harkens back to the 1970s. Few cars stir your loins each time you slip behind the wheel (well, it certainly stirred mine aplenty). Perhaps the Jaguar E-Type—built from 1961 to 1975—is the only other two-door classic to evoke such nostalgic passion. 

With the latest Z, the dramatic design carries through to the interior, with its swooping dashboard, thickly padded steering wheel and bolstered sport seats. There’s a nice blend of old and new here, with conventional knobs mixed with a high-tech digital instrument cluster. And yes, for all you gearheads out there, the Z is available in a six-speed manual transmission. Alas, the nine-speed automatic actually shifts faster than any human being. Either way, stomp on the accelerator and this sports car thunders down the road. The suspension is extremely taut, as my keister can attest. Yet handling and cornering are so smooth it’s easy to be zipping along much faster than you realize. Standard features include keyless entry, 8-inch touchscreen, smartphone integration, Bluetooth and voice recognition. There also are some nice options, such as eight-speaker Bose stereo, user-friendly nav system and Wi-Fi hot spot. But if you’re expecting to find swanky wristwatches or a pricey writing pen, I’m afraid you’ll have to bring your own.  

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