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Common sense becomes common law

DOMA’s demise raises many questions

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holding hands, gay marriage, gay news, Washington Blade
holding hands, gay marriage, gay news, Washington Blade

Consult with an attorney to determine what is best for you: Tenants in Common, Joint Tenants with Right of Survivorship or Tenants by the Entirety when purchasing a home with a loved one. (Photo by Bigstock)

Ding-dong! The wicked witch DOMA is dead!

As new brides and grooms exchange wedding vows in D.C., Maryland, California, and in 11 other states across the country, the Supreme Court in its ruling on the Defense of Marriage Act may have let Pandora Boxx out of, well, Pandora’s Box.

After a round of congratulations and a toast or two, I stepped back to focus on what this may mean in the world of real estate. Interestingly, the demise of DOMA brings with it more questions than answers at this point.

In our area, there are up to three ways that two or more people can take title to a property as outlined in general below. When purchasing a home, however, be sure to consult with your title attorney to determine the best situation for you and your loved ones.

Tenants in Common: Tenants in common have undivided interests in the property but the amount of each person’s interest (share) need not be equal. There is no right of survivorship and each person’s ownership may be passed upon death in accordance with his or her will or trust.

Joint Tenants with Right of Survivorship: More commonly, two or more people may purchase property as joint tenants, where their shares are equal. Upon the death of one, the property passes automatically to the other(s).

Tenants by the Entirety: This type of ownership is reserved for married couples and provides the best protection from creditors for real property assets.

According to Stan Goldstein, president, Capitol Title Insurance Agency, Inc., “the effect of the DOMA case on real estate transactions in the District of Columbia and Maryland will be minimal, if any, since both jurisdictions already recognize same-sex marriage and a same-sex married couple can take title as Tenants by the Entirety just like an opposite-sex couple may. Virginia does not have a same-sex marriage law and a same-sex couple may not take title as Tenants by the Entirety.”

Goldstein goes on to say that further regulations, acts of Congress and future lawsuits may be needed to fully clarify and implement the court’s decision, since there are more than 1,000 statutes affected and each one has different language concerning eligibility.

“For example,” he asks, “is it the ‘state of celebration’ (where the couple was married) which determines eligibility or the ‘state of domicile’ (where the couple lives) which determines eligibility?” Only time, and maybe some litigation, will tell.

With a great many issues still to be resolved, those that could have the greatest impact on the ability to purchase sell, or rent real property seem to be the ruling’s effect on federal financial benefits such as Social Security and Medicare, federal taxes, bankruptcy and estate planning, military and veterans’ benefits, and of course, federal lending and housing laws.

Think for a moment about your spending patterns and how the ruling may affect your disposable income.

Do you currently spend more for federal taxes, family health insurance, or other federally sponsored or mandated programs than your different-sex married friends?

Will you soon be applying for a federal retirement plan or Medicare where your spouse may also be entitled to benefits? Have you declared bankruptcy and been unable to wipe out the debts of your spouse?

Now add to that potential changes affecting mortgage loans.

Are you a veteran who wants to use your housing benefits and have your same-sex spouse on the deed without going through a lengthy and often frustrating review process at the Veteran’s Administration? Will there now be other government loans you may qualify for? Have you been considering a reverse mortgage where benefits may be available to a surviving spouse?

Finally, consider where you may want to live. With your spouse on a military base? In a state where same-sex marriage is not yet legal? As an expatriate in a foreign country while still collecting benefits from federal sources in the U.S.?

Yes, there is still a smorgasbord of questions to be answered, but isn’t it nice that more guests are finally invited to the banquet?

Valerie M. Blake can be reached at 202-246-8602 or at [email protected]. Prudential PenFed Realty is an independently owned and operated broker member of BRER Affiliates, Inc. Prudential, the Prudential logo and the Rock symbol are registered service marks of Prudential Financial, Inc. and its related entities, registered in many jurisdictions worldwide.  Used under license with no other affiliation with Prudential. Equal Housing Opportunity.

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Real Estate

Exploring LGBTQ-friendly neighborhoods across the U.S.

Finding your safe haven, knowing your rights

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D.C.’s Dupont Circle remains one of the best-known LGBTQ-friendly neighborhoods in the country. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Finding a safe and inclusive community is paramount for LGBTQ individuals seeking a place to call home. Throughout the United States, various neighborhoods have become havens for our LGBTQ community, offering not only welcoming environments but also rich cultural scenes, diverse housing options, and vital community resources. 

The evolution of LGBTQ neighborhoods in the U.S. is deeply intertwined with the history of LGBTQ rights and activism. From the Stonewall Uprising in New York City to the Harvey Milk era in San Francisco, these neighborhoods have been at the forefront of social change. They serve as cultural and historical landmarks, symbolizing the resilience and strength of the LGBTQ community.

Top LGBTQ-Friendly Neighborhoods Across the U.S.

San Francisco – The Castro: The Castro is renowned for its rich LGBTQ history and vibrant community. Known as one of the first gay neighborhoods in the U.S., it offers a variety of local businesses, annual events like the Castro Street Fair, and an inclusive atmosphere that attracts both residents and tourists.

New York City – Greenwich Village: Greenwich Village holds a special place in LGBTQ history, being the site of the Stonewall Inn. Today, it remains a cultural hub with numerous LGBTQ-friendly bars, cafes, and shops. The Village’s historic charm, combined with its progressive vibe, makes it a desirable location for many.

Chicago – Boystown: Boystown, officially known as Northalsted, is one of the most recognized LGBTQ neighborhoods in the Midwest. It boasts a lively nightlife, an array of LGBTQ events such as the annual Pride Parade, and a supportive community. The neighborhood’s diverse housing options cater to various preferences and budgets.

Atlanta  – Midtown: Midtown Atlanta is a thriving LGBTQ community with a robust cultural scene. It’s home to the iconic Atlanta Pride Festival and numerous LGBTQ-friendly establishments. The neighborhood’s blend of urban living and Southern charm attracts a diverse group of residents.

Seattle – Capitol Hill: Capitol Hill is Seattle’s epicenter of LGBTQ life, known for its inclusive atmosphere and vibrant nightlife. The neighborhood hosts events like Seattle Pride and offers a wide range of housing options, from historic homes to modern apartments. Capitol Hill’s progressive environment makes it a welcoming place for all.

Washington, D.C. – Dupont Circle: Dupont Circle is a historic and cultural hub for the LGBTQ community in D.C. Known for its vibrant nightlife, diverse dining options, and numerous LGBTQ-friendly businesses, Dupont Circle offers a welcoming atmosphere for residents and visitors alike. The neighborhood is also home to several LGBTQ organizations and events, making it a supportive and inclusive place to live.

Navigating the real estate market as an LGBTQ individual involves understanding both the market trends and the unique needs of the community. Here are some tips to consider:

Work with LGBTQ-Friendly Real Estate Agents: Finding an agent who understands the needs of LGBTQ clients can make the home-buying process smoother. The agents at GayRealEstate.com are often more knowledgeable about LGBTQ-friendly neighborhoods and legal protections.

Understand Legal Protections: Ensure you are aware of local and state laws that protect against discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. The Fair Housing Act provides some protections, but it’s essential to understand additional state and local regulations.

Consider Community Resources: Look for neighborhoods with robust LGBTQ community centers, support groups, and events. These resources can provide invaluable support and help you integrate into the community.

Evaluate Housing Options: From historic neighborhoods to modern developments, evaluate the types of housing available in your desired area. Consider factors like proximity to LGBTQ+-friendly businesses, safety, and community vibe.

Resources and Support

Numerous organizations and resources support LGBTQ home buyers and renters nationwide:

  • GayRealEstate.com: Provides a network of LGBTQ and allied real estate professionals.
  • Lambda Legal: Offers legal assistance and information on LGBTQ housing rights.
  • Human Rights Campaign: Provides resources on LGBTQ equality and advocacy.

Finding a safe and welcoming community is essential for LGBTQ individuals seeking a new home. By exploring neighborhoods known for their inclusivity, working with knowledgeable real estate agents, and leveraging community resources, you can find a place where you truly belong. Whether you’re considering The Castro, Greenwich Village, Boystown, Midtown, Capitol Hill, or Dupont Circle each neighborhood offers unique opportunities and a supportive environment.

At GayRealEstate.com, we’re committed to helping you find your safe haven in cities throughout the United States and Internationally. Explore these neighborhoods and connect with resources to make your home-buying journey a positive and empowering experience. Together, we can create a future where everyone can live authentically and safely.

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

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Real Estate

Real Estate in 1776

A revolutionary transformation of land ownership laws began centuries ago

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In 1776, the United States was on the brink of a revolutionary transformation in terms of land ownership.

I have been interested in real estate most of my life. Even at age eight, during family vacations when we drove to Nana’s house via old, country roads, I would point to any wood frame house in disrepair and talk about fixing it up. 

It got to be a joke in our family. My father would join in, pointing to every dilapidated barn we passed and saying, “Here’s one you could fix up.”  Little did he know that my childhood interest in real estate would make up a big part of my future.

That’s but a small part of my real estate history, but since I was born on Independence Day, I thought I’d relay a few facts about the real estate world of nearly 250 years ago. Turns out, it’s remarkably similar to today.

In 1776, the United States was on the brink of a revolutionary transformation (as we may also be in 2024), not only politically but also in terms of land ownership and real estate. This era was characterized by a blend of colonial practices, evolving legal frameworks, and a growing sense of independence, having separated ourselves from British rule.

Land ownership then, as now, was a primary source of wealth and status. Its distribution was highly uneven. Most of the land in the Thirteen Colonies was controlled by a small elite class, including wealthy merchants, planters, and colonial governors. 

These large landowners acquired vast tracts of land through royal grants, purchases, and inheritance. Small farmers, artisans, and laborers either owned modest parcels of land, paid to work on rented property, or became indentured servants as immigrants. 

The legal framework governing real estate in 1776 was a combination of English common law, colonial statutes, and local customs. Property rights were well-established, with deeds, surveys, and title records playing crucial roles in documenting and securing land ownership. Colonial courts adjudicated land disputes, often referencing English legal precedents.

The doctrine of primogeniture mandated that a family’s land holdings be passed down to the eldest male heir. This practice ensured the preservation of large estates but also contributed to social stratification and limited opportunities for younger sons and women. However, the revolutionary ideas of liberty and equality began to challenge such entrenched norms, leading to gradual reforms in inheritance laws.

The late 18th century saw a surge in land speculation, driven by the promise of new opportunities in the vast western territories. Wealthy individuals and companies acquired large swaths of land with the intent of selling them to settlers and investors at a profit. This speculative fervor was fueled by the belief that westward expansion would continue unabated, opening new frontiers for agriculture, trade, and settlement.

Land speculation, however, was fraught with risks and controversies much as it remains today. Conflicts with Native American tribes, who rightfully resisted the encroachment on their ancestral lands, were a constant threat. Additionally, disputes over land claims and titles were common, as overlapping grants and fraudulent transactions complicated the already murky legal landscape. 

While rural land dominated the real estate market, urban properties in burgeoning colonial cities like Boston, New York, and Philadelphia also held significant value. These cities were centers of commerce, trade, and political activity, with thriving ports and markets. Real estate in urban areas included residential houses, commercial buildings, warehouses, and wharves.

The design and architecture of colonial urban real estate reflected both practical needs and social aspirations. Wealthy merchants and professionals built grand townhouses, often in the Georgian style, while more modest homes and tenements housed artisans, laborers, and the urban poor. The value of urban properties was closely tied to their location, with prime spots near markets, docks, and government buildings commanding higher prices. (Sound familiar?)

The Revolutionary War marked a pivotal point in American history and had profound implications for real estate. The war disrupted traditional land ownership patterns, as loyalists who sided with the British Crown often had their properties confiscated and redistributed. This period also saw the rise of the new concept of individual rights, which influenced land policies.

In the aftermath, the new nation faced the challenge of creating a fair and equitable system of land distribution. The Northwest Ordinance of 1787, for instance, established a standardized system for surveying and selling western lands, promoting orderly settlement and expansion. 

As the United States embarked on its journey toward independence and nationhood, the evolving concepts of property rights and land distribution would continue to shape its development for years to come. Generational wealth for the masses, however, still has a long way to go.

Valerie M. Blake is a licensed Associate Broker in D.C., Maryland, and Virginia with RLAH Real Estate / @properties. Call or text her at 202-246-8602, email her via DCHomeQuest.com, or follow her on Facebook at TheRealst8ofAffairs.

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Dining

RAMMYs honors restaurant industry professionals

A busy summer for D.C.’s dining scene

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D.C.’s Summer Restaurant Week runs from Monday, Aug. 12, through Sunday, Aug. 18.

Representing the ever-growing, increasingly recognized restaurant industry in Washington, D.C., the Restaurant Association Metropolitan Washington (RAMW) held its first-ever RAMMYs Honors Event on June 18 in the lower level of the Watergate Hotel. Restaurant and hospitality industry professionals, leaders, and community members gathered to celebrate RAMMY special distinctions. 

The event took place as an extension of the traditional RAMMY Awards Gala, which honors “the exceptional ability and accomplishments” of the region’s restaurants and foodservice community. The 42nd Annual RAMMY Awards Gala will take place on Sunday, July 21, at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center.

The RAMMYs Honors event kicked off with a cocktail hour, and was hosted by author, seasoned democratic strategist, and co-host of MSNBC’s The Weekend, Symone Sanders Townsend.

While there were several awards presented, this inaugural event only held onto one announcement until the event itself: the RAMMYS Joan Hisaoka Allied Member of the Year Winner, presented to an associate member who best exemplifies commitment to and support of RAMW. This year, the Carlos Rosario International Public Charter School won, a school supporting adult immigrants that includes a culinary arts program.

Other honors that evening included the Duke Zeibert Capital Achievement Award Winner, which was given to Greater Washington Partnership CEO Kathy E. Hollinger “for her excellence and community leadership, increasing the profile and success of the metropolitan Washington foodservice community.” Prior to joining the Partnership, Hollinger was president and CEO of RAMW. Hollinger sat for a wide-ranging interview on stage with Sanders Townsend, who is married to Shawn Townsend current president and CEO of the RAMW. 

Finally, the 2024 Honorary Milestone RAMMY Award recipients were also honored, celebrating a significant number of years serving locals and visitors in Metropolitan Washington: The Dubliner (50 years), Black’s Bar & Kitchen (25 years), Equinox on 19th (25 years), KAZ Sushi Bistro (25 years), Marcel’s (25 years), and Passage to India (25 years).

As the restaurant industry grows in the city, for the first-time, the RAMMYS Honors event allowed for a unique opportunity to highlight a range of special distinctions determined by RAMW’s executive committee. Instead of being public-facing, the Honors were dedicated to industry professionals, to give extra attention and the spotlight to those that often get overlooked at the main RAMMYs Gala. These awards were chosen by RAMW’s executive committee whereas the other awards, given at The RAMMYS, are chosen by both the public and an anonymous panel of judges.

Summer, traditionally a slower time for the restaurant industry, means that RAMW is pulling out the stops for diners to try out new and favorite spots across the area.

First, finalists for Restaurant Association Metropolitan Washington’s 2024 Wine Program of the Year will take part in promotions planned for the second week of July. From Monday, July 8, through Sunday, July 14, the region’s top wine programs will showcase their outstanding varietals and pours. The 2024 Wine Program of the Year Finalists include: Apero (Dupont Circle), Era (Mt. Ranier), Irregardless (H Street), Lulu’s Wine Garden (Shaw), and St. Anselm (Union Market). Each will have discounts, tasting parties, special blends, flights, and other ways to savor the area’s top wines.

Finally, the season also sees the return of Summer Restaurant Week, celebrating the region’s restaurant industry from Monday, Aug. 12, through Sunday, Aug. 18. Participating restaurants will offer multi-course brunch and lunch menus with updated tiered pricing for $25 or $35 per person, and multi-course dinner menus for $40, $55, or $65 per person for on-premises dining. Many restaurants will also offer cocktail, wine, and non-alcoholic pairings.

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