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In shakeup, HRC poised to lead Md. marriage effort

Longtime activist Dana Beyer will serve as executive director of a new group, Gender Rights Maryland, which will work to pass a gender identity anti-discrimination bill; HRC poised to lead revamped Md. marriage effort.

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Dana Beyer

The Human Rights Campaign is expected to emerge as the coordinator of a reorganized coalition of national and local LGBT groups pushing for passage of a same-sex marriage bill in the Maryland Legislature next year, according to sources familiar with the effort.

In a separate development, a new statewide transgender advocacy organization called Gender Rights Maryland announced its presence on the Maryland political scene this week, saying it will take the lead role in pushing for a “comprehensive” gender identity non-discrimination bill.

Attempts failed earlier this year to pass same-sex marriage and gender identity bills in the Maryland Legislature. Now, insiders familiar with LGBT politics in the state say these two new developments represent a shakeup of the established order, where the LGBT group Equality Maryland led lobbying efforts on behalf of the two bills for the past seven years.

Meanwhile, rumors that HRC has offered to make a significant cash contribution to the financially troubled Equality Maryland in exchange for the group allowing HRC to select its next executive director were heightened this week when HRC’s regional field director, Sultan Shakir, began working at Equality Maryland’s headquarters office in Baltimore on Monday.

“HRC is working with local and national groups to help build a strong campaign to pass Equality Maryland’s entire legislative agenda next year,” said HRC spokesperson Fred Sainz. “While HRC currently has a field staffer working in the Baltimore headquarters to support their new executive director, there are no set plans to keep him there,” he said.

“Reports of large cash contributions in return for certain actions are completely false as evidenced by the fact that Equality Maryland has a leader,” Sainz told the Blade on Wednesday.

Sainz was referring to the selection last month by the Equality Maryland board of LGBT rights advocate Lynne Bowman of Ohio as Equality Maryland’s interim executive director. The board, which said it was conducting a search for a permanent executive director, named Bowman to the interim post after firing the previous executive director, Morgan Meneses-Sheets.

Meneses-Sheets’ dismissal prompted the group’s development director and chief fundraiser, Matthew Thorn, to resign in protest, raising questions about whether the staff turmoil would further hinder the group’s finances.

Two sources familiar with Equality Maryland who spoke on condition that they not be identified, said some Equality Maryland staffers and board members reported that HRC had expressed an interest in installing HRC’s Shakir as the lead decision maker for Equality Maryland regardless of the title he would assume.

The sources said Shakir is well-liked by most LGBT activists in Maryland who know him and is viewed as a qualified strategist on LGBT issues. But they said reports of HRC arranging for one of its chief lieutenants to assume a lead role in Equality Maryland’s day-to-day operations would be viewed by some Maryland activists as an intrusion by a national group into the affairs of an established state organization.

“Sultan is here to look at, with me, which is part of the job I was brought in to do, how the marraige campaign was run during the beginning of this year and to start to make some plans for how we can move foward,” Bowman said on Wednesday. “He is not an employee of Equality Maryland. He’s not going to start running Equality Maryland. It’s simply a partnership extra hand on deck as we move things forward.”

Bowman noted that Shakir worked on the marriage campaign during the Maryland legislative session this year as part of HRC’s field team.

“He has a history and perspective that I don’t have,” she said.

Patrick Wojahn, a member of the board of the Equality Maryland Foundation, which operates out of the same offices as Equality Maryland, said it wasn’t unusual for a staff member of HRC – which he noted is one of Equality Maryland’s national coalition partners – to be spending time in the Equality Maryland office.

“But I can tell you Sultan Shakir has no formal relationship with our organization right now and there is no intention to give him one,” Wojahn said. “I can say that we’re working together with HRC. We appreciate their support but our relationship is as a coalition partner with them and no more,” he said.

Evan Wolfson, executive director of the national same-sex marriage advocacy group Freedom to Marry, confirmed that his organization is among the national groups working with HRC to put together a revamped and strengthened Maryland marriage equality coalition.

“Freedom to Marry is going to look closely together with HRC, with Equality Maryland, with local leaders and other players at how best to set up the team effort to get the job done,” he said. “I look at this as a really positive thing.”

Wolfson acknowledged that many in the LGBT community were disappointed over a decision earlier this year to recommit Maryland’s same-sex marriage bill to committee in the state’s House of Delegates after it passed in the State Senate by a comfortable margin. Recommitting the measure to committee killed it for the legislature’s 2011 session, which ended April 11.

Advocates for the bill were divided over the decision to recommit it to committee. Some blamed the national groups — including HRC and Freedom to Marry — for pressuring Equality Maryland and the seven gay or lesbian members of the House of Delegates to go along with a decision to pull the bill rather than risk a losing vote.

“We decided we needed a little more time to make the case and pick up the extra couple of votes that were short,” Wolfson told the Blade on Tuesday. “And so what we’re looking at now is how we do that in the strongest, best way possible to pick up where we left off, fix the things that we need to do better and make the case to pick up the remaining votes.”

He said representatives of the emerging new coalition are already making plans for an aggressive outreach to the black community in Prince George’s County and other parts of the state where black lawmakers were reluctant to support the bill following opposition from black churches.

“We believe there is actually significant African-American support in Maryland and there are certainly many African-American families and allies who have important stories to tell that can help shore up the votes,” Wolfson said. “And we want to get those stories out there. So the work over the next several months is to do exactly that.”

Beyer to head new trans group

Dana Beyer (Blade file photo by Michael Key)

In a statement released on Tuesday, the newly formed group Gender Rights Maryland announced that former eye surgeon and nationally recognized transgender rights advocate Dana Beyer will serve as the group’s executive director.

Sharon Brackett, president and CEO of a Maryland-based systems engineering company, will serve as chair of the group’s board, a statement released by the group said.

Three other founding board members include Donna Cartwright, co-president of Pride AT Work, an LGBT group within the AFL-CIO; Caroline Temmermand, division chief for Parks and National Resources for Arlington County, Va.; and Alex Hickcox, former board member of Equality Maryland.

“The purpose of Gender Rights Maryland is to promote civil rights, education, tolerance, equality and acceptance on the basis of sex and gender identity/expression in the State of Maryland,” the group said in its statement. “Gender Rights Maryland’s initial legislative goal is to see the passage of a comprehensive gender identity anti-discrimination bill by the end of the 2012 legislative session.”

Beyer told the Blade that the new group plans to work closely with Equality Maryland, which led efforts to push for the gender identity bill this year and in past years.

But she noted that the staff shake-up at Equality Maryland in April, when the board fired Meneses-Sheets and its chief fundraiser resigned in protest, has raised questions about whether it has the capability to begin lobbying effectively on the gender identity bill between now and January, when the legislature begins its 2012 session.

Beyer said one of the group’s first objectives will be to raise funds needed to hire a professional lobbyist to coordinate a campaign on behalf of the gender identity bill.

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Real Estate

No, you really don’t have to put down 20 percent

There are many options when financing your new home

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When buying your home, there are alternatives to the old 20 percent down requirement.

I was just out at brunch this weekend (I know a gay in D.C. at brunch — groundbreaking). Anyway, I was at brunch and naturally the subject of real estate came up and your boy’s ears perked up and as the resident real estate expert at the table, some of the newcomers were making conversation about some open houses they had been to in the past few weekends, some trends they had seen that they hated that developers seem to continually do in the D.C. area, how unaffordable things are and some comments about where the best areas to invest are in D.C. I just sat and listened while eating my food, which was rather under seasoned, but I digress. The one comment that came up several times that really got me was the affordability comment and what it was based around. It might very well shock you.

When we speak about affordability in the District we are typically speaking to the price of real estate and how expensive it is to purchase a place here in D.C. However, for this conversation – the affordability factor in particular that I was hearing about that piqued my interest was the specific line item of “we have to put down X as a down payment to purchase a home.” The consensus at this brunch table and even when speaking to some buyers on a daily basis is that you must put down 20% to purchase a home. While there are some perks to this, yes. The fact that you MUST put that amount down is just not true. When my parents purchased their first home for $60,000 it was much easier to put down 20% versus a first-time buyer in D.C. putting down 20% for a $600,000 purchase. Furthermore, most buyers are staying in their homes for as little as six years, according to the National Association of Realtors. If you do the math – does it make sense, for your personal situation, to put down 20% versus 5% or 10%? Yes, that’s right – you can purchase a home for as little as 5% down and in some cases as little as 3% down.

When my husband, who was a first-time homebuyer in D.C., purchased his condo, he was able to put down 3% and qualify for a conventional loan. We will stay in this condo for under the average 7-10 years so putting anything more than 3% down for our personal situation just didn’t make sense. Now, because we didn’t put 20% down we pay what is known as PMI, or private mortgage insurance, however it was still worthwhile for him to save the capital and only put the 3% down and pay the small PMI amount monthly as he could put the rest of the 17% he didn’t put into a house in an investment account to yield more. Again, he was a first-time buyer in the District so he qualified for a 3% down loan and the numbers made sense for him. Everyone’s personal situation is different.

According to a 2023 report from the National Association of Realtors the average down payment for a home was 15% while the average down payment when looking at first time buyers was right around 5%. Again, each situation is specific to each person, their credit, finances, debt to income ratio etc., so there is really no recipe that fits every single buyer. It is important to work with a local lender to ensure that you are well qualified and understand which loan packages are out there for you that make the most sense for you so that when you do find that home you are ready to go.

I say all of this to say that gone are the days when you are required to put down 20% in most cases. Depending on the loan type and loan amount – you likely can get away with putting down 5-15% down and save some funds for upgrading from that tragic Ikea dresser from college or hiring a painter because let’s be real, you are not a professional. Like with most things in life you can pick and choose the things that are right for you and a mortgage and its down payment are exactly that same. If you would like to and can put down 20% for a mortgage then please do so – however if you want to get out from under the power and money hungry landlord and buy a condo where you are paying yourself back with equity – you can do so in a manner that is much more affordable than you may have thought possible – especially if you are a first-time buyer in D.C.

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

2024 tax season tips for landlords

A crucial period for investors to assess financial standings

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For many landlords, March can be a stressful time due to the upcoming deadlines to file annual tax returns. The year prior to April is a crucial period for property investors to assess their financial standings, ensure compliance with tax regulations, and take advantage of available tax-saving strategies. As a housing provider, understanding the intricacies of the tax code and how it impacts landlords can significantly impact your bottom line. 

Deductions for Rental Property Owners

One of the advantages of being a landlord in the United States is the ability to deduct numerous expenses related to the rental which can significantly reduce your taxable income. Do not overlook this benefit as it is the federal government’s incentive to promote the development and ownership of rental property. Schedule E of the federal form 1040 organizes the financial results of the rental property from the tax year and is how you report it to the IRS. 

If you qualify as a real estate professional under IRS guidelines, you may be able to deduct rental real estate losses against your other income, reducing your overall tax liability.

Here are some key deductions to consider:

Mortgage Interest: Landlords can deduct the interest paid on mortgage loans for rental properties. Keep detailed records of your mortgage payments and ensure that the loan is used to acquire, improve, or maintain the property.  The lender delivers a form 1098 form to owners of the property to make it easier to claim this deduction.

Property Expenses: Ordinary and necessary expenses related to the property can be deducted. This includes all expenses getting the property ready to rent, charges for finding tenants, management fees, repairs, preventative and on-going maintenance, utilities, HOA dues, etc.  Homeowner insurance premiums and real property taxes can also be deducted and if they are paid to the lender in escrow who in turn pays those bills for you. Those payments will be located on your annual escrow report from the lender or on the form 1098.  Even travel expenses incurred for property-related purposes may be deductible from rental income.

Professional Services: If you do not manage your rental properties yourself, any fees paid to property management professionals such as my firm, an accountant you may have, or real estate attorneys you retain are deductible. These experts should also be able to help you navigate the complexities of tax on income generated by owning and renting out residential real estate.

Depreciation: Depreciation is a non-cash deduction that allows you to account for the wear and tear of your rental property over time. Even though you are not recording this as an expense that you pay for, the IRS provides for a declaration of depreciation expense to recognize that assets lose their value over time.  There are specific guidelines for depreciating different components of your property, such as buildings and appliances or capital improvements made.

Depreciation: A Valuable Benefit to Landlords

Depreciation is a powerful tax-saving tool that deserves special attention. It allows you to allocate a portion of the property’s cost over its useful life, thus reducing your taxable income. To make the most of depreciation, consider the following:

The Modified Accelerated Cost Recovery System (MACRS) is the method used by the IRS to determine depreciation deductions.  MACRS tables to calculate depreciation accurately are located online and individual residential properties depreciate at a rate of 3.636% each year for 27.5 years.  Note that only buildings and contents are depreciated.  You cannot depreciate the land value.  

Make sure to maintain good records of the property’s original purchase cost, all acquisition fees and charges paid, improvements over time, and other expenses that can be depreciated. These records may be harder to locate if you have lived in the house as owner occupant for some time.  All of this information will be needed to set up your depreciation schedule whether you do it yourself or rely on a tax preparation professional.  Lastly, be aware of  the “recapture tax.” If you sell a rental property for a profit after having claimed depreciation expenses, you may need to pay “recapture tax” on the accumulated depreciation deductions. Proper planning can help minimize this tax liability.

Tax Preparation Tips for DC Landlords

If someone else collects your rental income for you, they will deliver to you a form 1099-MISC. The income reported should match the gross income you receive over that tax year, not the net income after expenses. This is a common misunderstanding.  All rental related expenses can be deducted from the reported gross income.

If your rental income includes subsidized rental payments from the DC Housing Authority, you will be sent a form 10099-MISC.  If your manager also issues a form 1099 on your tax ID, then it needs to be reconciled in your tax return to inform the IRS and to avoid double reporting (and taxation) of rental income.

Every year owners with rental property in the District of Columbia need to file tax returns with the DC Office of Tax and Revenue (OTR). It is important to keep your tax filings current as it can create a roadblock in the future to renew your business license or do other business with the District government if you need a clean hands certificate.

A D-30 form is filed to report rental income, even if you do not earn other income in the District. You must also file a Personal Property Tax return FP-31, even if you have no personal property at the rental. The latter filing can be done online within minutes as a zero dollar return in your MyTaxDC portal. CPM has instructions if you need help. 

If you wish to file an extension so that your DC taxes are filed later in the year, use form FR-128 and file it on time.  NOTE: If you expect to have tax due for when you file the D-30, you must pay the estimated amount at the time of filing the extension. Failure to do so or failure to pay the right amount, will result in fines and penalties.

Navigating tax season as a property investor or landlord requires careful planning, attention to detail, and a good understanding of the tax code. Deductions, depreciation, and tax-saving strategies are essential tools that can help you maximize your return on investment and minimize your tax liability. 

As March arrives and tax filing begins, consider consulting with a tax professional to ensure you are making the most of these opportunities. With the right approach, you can make tax season a financially rewarding time for your real estate investments rather than a burden..

This article was written with publicly available information and is not to be considered as professional tax advice. A taxpayer should always consult a tax professional to determine if the ideas and strategies presented in this article apply to their situation. 

Note: Tax deadlines may vary based on individual circumstances, state residency, and tax situations. Always verify deadlines with the relevant tax authorities and consult with a tax professional if needed.

Scott Bloom is owner and Senior Property Manager of Columbia Property Management. Bloom founded Columbia Property Management in 2012. CPM’s goal is to provide a powerful, personal level of service to clients. For more information and resources, go to columbiapm.com 

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Real Estate

Building dream homes with confidence

The pros, cons, and LGBTQ insights of new construction

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One key advantage of buying a newly constructed home is the ability to customize its finishings.

Buying a new construction home offers a unique set of advantages and challenges compared to purchasing a pre-owned property. Understanding these can help potential homeowners make informed decisions. Here’s an exploration of the pros and cons of buying a new construction home and the importance of professional real estate assistance.

Advantages of Buying a New Construction Home

Customization: One of the primary benefits of buying a new construction home is the ability to customize it according to your preferences. Buyers often have the option to select floor plans, finishes, and fixtures, making the home truly their own.

Modern Features: New homes are built with the latest technologies and materials, offering more energy-efficient windows, appliances, HVAC systems, and construction methods. This can lead to significant savings on utility bills and a smaller carbon footprint.

Less Maintenance: Since everything from the appliances to the roof is brand new, homeowners typically face fewer maintenance issues in the first few years compared to older homes where systems might be nearing the end of their lifespan.

Warranties: New construction homes usually come with warranties that cover the structure and sometimes appliances and systems for a certain period, providing peace of mind to the buyer.

Disadvantages of Buying a New Construction Home

Higher Costs: Often, new construction homes come at a premium price compared to older homes. Customizations and upgrades can also add up quickly, further increasing the overall cost.

Delays: Construction timelines can be unpredictable due to weather, supply chain issues, or labor shortages. This can lead to delays in the move-in date, which can be problematic for buyers with specific timing needs.

Immature Landscaping: Newly developed areas may lack mature trees and landscaping, which can affect the property’s aesthetic appeal and privacy. It may take years for new plantings to grow fully.

Community Development: In new subdivisions, construction can continue for months or years after you move in, leading to ongoing noise, dust, and traffic.

Importance of Connecting with a GayRealEstate.com Realtor

Expert Guidance: A Realtor familiar with new construction can provide invaluable advice on the quality of different builders, potential future developments in the area, and the negotiation of upgrades and closing costs.

Representation: Builders have their own sales agents or representatives looking out for their interests. Having your own real estate agent ensures someone is advocating for your best interests, helping to navigate contracts and warranties.

Market Knowledge: Realtors have a deep understanding of the local real estate market, which can help in evaluating the new construction home’s quality and price against current market conditions.

LGBTQ Friendly: For LGBTQ individuals and families, finding a welcoming and supportive community is crucial. Realtors from GayRealEstate.com specialize in understanding the unique needs and concerns of the LGBTQ community, ensuring a smooth and respectful home-buying experience.

Before visiting a new home community, connecting with a Realtor from GayRealEstate.com can provide you with a competitive advantage. Their expertise, advocacy, and personalized support can help navigate the complexities of buying a new construction home, making the process less stressful and more rewarding. Whether it’s negotiating the price, understanding the fine print of your contract, or choosing the right community, a professional real estate agent is an invaluable asset in your home-buying journey.

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