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Dispelling myths of buying for the first time

Many perceived obstacles are just myths

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myths buying, gay news, Washington Blade
myths buying, gay news, Washington Blade

In the long run, buying a home is more cost-effective than renting.

“I can’t afford the down payment.”

“I have no idea where to start.”

“My income is above the threshold to qualify for first-time buyers programs.”

“There is absolutely no way I can buy while single and have college debt still.”

Every day, I hear the same excuses from clients who want to purchase their first home. These excuses, while valid for some, are myths in the buying process.

The reasons to purchase over renting are discussed frequently. In the long run, buying is more cost-effective than renting (by about 35 percent in D.C.). For any buyer who lives in their property as their main residence, the Homestead exemption lowers their assessed tax value by $70,200. Not only is purchasing cheaper by the month, but it also delivers annual returns.

Let’s state the obvious: Buying a home can be a scary process for anyone, let alone purchasing for the first time. Another reality, while many do purchase with cash, not everyone has the liquidity to make a first purchase in cash. For many first-time buyers, a majority of life savings goes toward a down payment of 20 percent to avoid a less desirable loan product. For many, the words private mortgage insurance (PMI) causes fear. However, many do not realize that your PMI on a purchase with less than 20 percent down can be built into the rate of your loan. Moreover, PMI is tax-deductible when your homeowner’s adjusted gross income (AGI) is less than $100,000, and still deductible, though reduced, when above this threshold.

Purchasing in D.C. and the surrounding areas for the first time does have its incentives. For example, DC Open Doors is a great opportunity for first-time buyers to receive a great loan while making a low down payment. On the surface, the program is simple, you can qualify if you make up to $123,395 a year, a much higher ceiling than the average first-time buyer may expect. Moreover, the maximum loan amount is $417,000, easily allowing a first-time buyer to purchase a variety of housing across the city. Even better, DC Open Doors has some products with the option of down payment forgiveness with 20 percent of your down payment forgiven each year for five years.

Perhaps a program like DC Open Doors isn’t the right product for you to finance your first home. Many lenders have products tailored to buyers who are hoping to make a low down payment. For example, one of my preferred lenders at First Home Mortgage, David Toaff, assists his clients with loan products that provide a maximum $625,500 loan with only 5 percent down. Moreover, the same lender can provide a loan of $850,000 with just 10 percent down. The takeaway message here is that financing is possible at all levels of income and price points without the industry standard 20 percent down.

In all honesty, purchasing real estate relies heavily on relationships. For a first-time buyer, find a lender who specializes in working with first purchases. Many look first to their bank, many times a national or international financial institution, to finance their purchase; however, sometimes the best lender isn’t always the one you bank with. Instead, look to a more local mortgage brokerage (in fact, feel free to call David with First Home at 610-348-3772).

Finally, there is nothing wrong with searching in the long-term. Yes, mortgage rates are lower now than they have been in a year, and we do not know when this trend will reverse (have no doubt, rates will have to rise eventually). Regardless of your timeline, take the first steps in the buying process; find a lender and real estate agent you can trust. I can promise you will not regret the decision to purchase your first home.

Tim Savoy is a real estate agent with Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage, Dupont Circle. Reach him at 202-400-0534 or [email protected].

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Real Estate

Acquiring a down payment for your dream home

Unconventional strategies for finding the money you need

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Saving for your dream home? Here are some tips for finding the down payment.

Purchasing a home is a significant milestone, but for many aspiring homeowners, the biggest hurdle is saving for a down payment. While traditional saving methods are widely known, exploring creative and unconventional strategies can provide alternative pathways to gather the necessary funds. 

In this article, we will explore a range of innovative approaches to acquiring a down payment for your dream home. By thinking outside the box and considering unique options, you can turn your homeownership aspirations into reality.

1. Shared Equity and Co-Buying:

Consider exploring shared equity or co-buying arrangements with family members, friends, or trusted partners. Pooling resources can significantly boost your collective down payment savings, making homeownership more attainable. Whether it involves jointly purchasing a property or establishing an agreement to share ownership and expenses, this approach allows for shared financial responsibility and increased purchasing power.

2. Down Payment Assistance Programs:

Research and explore various down payment assistance programs offered by government agencies, non-profit organizations, or local housing authorities. These programs provide financial aid or grants to eligible homebuyers, assisting them in meeting the down payment requirements. Each program has specific criteria and limitations, so it is essential to understand the options available in your area.

3. Creative Financing Options:

Investigate alternative financing options such as seller financing, lease-to-own arrangements, or rent-to-own programs. These arrangements often provide more flexibility in acquiring a down payment and transitioning into homeownership. Seller financing allows buyers to negotiate terms directly with the seller, while lease-to-own or rent-to-own agreements provide an opportunity to build equity over time while renting.

4. Crowdfunding and Community Support:

Tap into the power of crowdfunding platforms and community support to gather funds for your down payment. Share your homeownership goals with family, friends, and social networks, and consider launching a crowdfunding campaign to garner financial contributions. Additionally, some employers offer matching programs for down payment savings, so explore potential workplace assistance programs or incentives.

5. Homebuyer Grants and Loans:

Research available homebuyer grants or loans specifically designed to assist first-time buyers or those with limited financial resources. These grants and loans can provide a substantial boost to your down payment savings. Government agencies, local housing authorities, and non-profit organizations often administer these programs, offering various terms and conditions to support homebuyers.

6. Income-Generating Assets:

Explore income-generating opportunities to supplement your savings. Consider renting out a spare room, starting a small business or freelancing, or investing in income-generating assets such as rental properties or dividend-paying stocks. Generating additional income can accelerate your down payment savings, bringing you closer to homeownership faster.

7. Negotiating with Sellers:

When making an offer on a property, explore the possibility of negotiating a lower down payment requirement with the seller. In some cases, sellers may be open to more flexible terms, especially if it expedites the sale or helps them achieve their own financial goals. Engage in open and honest communication during the negotiation process to explore mutually beneficial solutions.

8. Downsize or Liquidate Assets:

Consider downsizing your current living situation or liquidating assets that are not essential to free up funds for a down payment. This could involve selling a car, downsizing to a smaller rental, or parting with belongings that hold significant value. Evaluate your current financial situation and identify areas where you can make temporary sacrifices to prioritize homeownership.

9. Savings and Budgeting Strategies:

Implement creative savings and budgeting strategies to accelerate your down payment savings. Explore the possibility of living with roommates, cutting back on discretionary expenses, or negotiating lower interest rates on existing debts. Every dollar saved brings you closer to your down payment goal, so diligently review your budget and identify areas where you can reduce expenses and allocate more funds towards your down payment savings.

10. Employer Assistance Programs:

Check if your employer offers any homeownership assistance programs or benefits. Some companies provide down payment matching programs, low-interest loans, or financial counseling services to help employees achieve homeownership. Take advantage of these resources and explore how your employer can support you in reaching your down payment goals.

Persistence and creativity are key when it comes to acquiring a down payment. Stay focused on your goal, be open to alternative methods, and adapt your approach as needed. With determination, resourcefulness, and a willingness to explore new avenues, you can overcome financial barriers and achieve your dream of homeownership. Start exploring these unconventional strategies today and take a step closer to making your dream home a reality.

Jeff Hammerberg is the founder of GayRealEstate.com, the largest and longest-running gay real estate agent referral service in the nation, boasting more than 3,500 LGBTQ Realtors who operate in cities across the United States, Canada, and Mexico. For more than 25 years, he has been a prolific writer, coach, and author.

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Real Estate

Thinking of renting your place short-term in D.C.?

Here are some key factors to consider

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You’ll need a license if renting your place in D.C.

Summer is coming, and in D.C., many homeowners turn their attention to generating revenue from their primary D.C. residence while they are away for the summer. Due to the way some D.C. employers enable staff to work remotely and permit longer vacation schedules in the summer months, many owners can find extra income annually by considering short-term rentals. Here are a few key things you should know before getting started.  

In 2021 the D.C. Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs announced it was “finally ready to start implementing and enforcing ” a law passed three years earlier for short-term rentals (AirBnB, VRBO, etc.). According to DCist, the agency started accepting license applications for short-term rentals on Jan. 10 last year and started enforcing the law’s provisions in April 2022.

According to Martin Austermuhle’s “D.C. to Start Restricting Airbnb and Other Short-Term Rentals” he wrote for DCist, “The law applies specifically to short-term rentals, those lasting less than 30 days at a time. Under the new law, any D.C. homeowner who wants to rent out a bedroom, basement, or entire home on Airbnb or any other platform has to get a short-term rental license from DCRA. (The two-year license costs $104.50.)”

Charlotte Perry, owner of LUXbnb, a property manager specializing in furnished short-term rentals in D.C. for more than 15 years, is a trusted partner to Columbia Property Management. She shared her expertise and guidance with me on short-term rentals. Her business, LUXbnb, punches above its weight in the D.C. area, bringing owners greater opportunity to realize the gains they hope to make. She brings deep insight into what you can expect if you were to go down this path with your property. 

Companies like hers function like any other property manager might. LUXbnb collects the rents, “hotel” taxes, security deposits, departure cleaning, and any other applicable feeds on behalf of the owner. They manage turnover between guests including cleaning and any needed repairs. And at the end of each month, they release the rental income earned less the management fee and any repair costs or new purchases.

In the District, if the owner resides at the house during the rental, s/he can host short-term renters all year long with no consequence. However, if, like many of Charlotte’s clients, the owner is renting their property while they are gone during the summer or while on assignment for, say, the World Bank, those owners can only do so for a total of 90 days for the entire year. Owners like these will want to consider that under the new law, you cannot rent out your second home as an Airbnb/VRBO short term rental, and so knowing the regulations can save you a lot of headaches.

Registration Requirements  

Did you know all short-term rental hosts in D.C. are required to obtain a Short-term Rental License? 

According to the Office of Short-term Rental Licensing, “In order to operate a short-term or vacation rental in the District, the property must be owned by an individual, and serve as a homeowner’s primary residence – with the owner being eligible to receive the Homestead Tax Deduction. ”

To be eligible for such a license the home must be your primary residence and owner-occupied.  You will need to provide DC’s Office of Short-term Rental Licensing (DLCP) the following:

Specify whether you currently have a Homestead Exemption on the property.

Proof of your liability insurance with a minimum of $250,000 in coverage. (See below for more details).

A Certificate of Clean Hands issued within the last 30 days in the property owners name must be obtained from the Office of Tax and Revenue.

The owner, or “host,” must attest to the habitability of the property.

If the rental is a co-op, condo, or if the property is in a community where there is a homeowners’ association, the owner must attest that the bylaws, house rules, or other governing documents of the homeowner/condo/ cooperative governing board or association allow short-term and/or vacation rentals, do not prohibit owners from operating short-term rentals and/or vacation rentals, or that they have received written permission from the association to operate a short-term and/or vacation rental at the address.

Once you have successfully registered with DLCP, you will be provided with a license. You will then upload this Short-term Rental License number into your property profile in both Airbnb and VRBO. Those sites will then provide bookings for “under-31-nights” on your property.  

By working with an experienced rental property manager specializing in furnished temporary stays, you can ensure that you’re operating your short-term rental legally and safely. Better yet, you can avoid any penalties or fines that could result from non-compliance with District regulations.

Some factors you might want to consider on your journey to short-term rental success:

Cleaning Fee and Preparation Service

Perhaps you’ll want to have a cleaning service at-the-ready in case your renters have a slight disaster while they’re there. Or maybe you’ll want a service to clean prior to arrivals and directly after departures, so you can quickly turnaround the property for further rental. 

Pets

Do you want pets in your home while you’re away? If so, you might want to add in an automatic post-stay pet cleaning fee to cover the expense of hair and other less pleasant odor removal.

Insurance/Accidental Damage

Charlotte’s company takes out a $3,000 accidental damage insurance policy on every stay in lieu of holding a damage deposit. The cost to the guest is $39 per rental. This insurance is a safe-guard for the guest, property owner and her company, of course. This insurance policy “allows for the equitable transfer of the risk of a loss, from one entity to another – in this case the insurance company. It is a simple way for all parties involved to mitigate risk, and most importantly, provides peace-of-mind.”

Liability Insurance

As you saw above, the District requires all owners to possess a liability insurance policy with a minimum of $250,000 in coverage to gain a license in the District. A variety of companies can help, according to the Motley Fool’s “The Ascent” newsletter, but some do this faster and better than others. And they even recommend ones that are best for Airbnb and VRBO rental owners. The Ascent’s best homeowners insurance for short-term rentals include the following:

Allstate Insurance: Best for possessing a large network of agents

Proper Insurance: Best for Airbnb and VRBO owners

Nationwide Insurance : Best for bundling policies

Farmers Insurance : Best for vacation rentals

Steadily Insurance: Best for getting coverage quickly

Safely Insurance: Best for fast claims processing

Should you have further questions or seek to explore the option of short or mid-term rentals, do not hesitate to contact Charlotte Perry directly at 202-341-8799 or [email protected]

Scott Bloom is senior property manager and owner of Columbia Property Management. 

For more information and resources, visit ColumbiaPM.com.

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Real Estate

Multiple options for buying a beach house meant for rentals

Consider going in with friends, making use of the off season

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Rehoboth Beach, Delaware (Washington Blade photo by Daniel Truitt)

As we near the summer season and you hear the beach calling and taste the orange crushes – let’s take a look at a few ways to make those dreams a reality. The real estate market across the U.S. is still very hot due to the lack of inventory and the higher interest rates. However, when looking at an investment property, it’s a little easier to stomach a higher interest rate when it is offset by rental income. Let’s take a look at a few of the options we have for rental styles.

The typical idea of a beach vacation is for a week right? While we wish it were longer (and it can be!) the usual summer beach vacation is a week long. In the Rehoboth and Delaware coast region – most homes rent for a week at a time in the summer season. While the idea here is to make the most you can in summer rentals – you as the owner, of course, can always block off weeks when you want to use the home for your personal use. Talk about the best of both worlds.

Short-term rentals are a great way to make some extra money. If you plan to use your beach house for most of the season but know you have a wedding weekend here and a week long vacation planned in the Bahamas – then put that on a short term rental site for those dates. This way you can make a little extra money. Most of the time, you can make as much or even more than a weekly rental scenario. Short-term rentals are great for the sporadic renter – if you want to use your home most of the time but you want to rent it out every other weekend and during the week all of August – you don’t have the need for the “my family rents this home the same week every week and has done so for three years now…” kind of dedicated renters. It is important to make sure that your community allows for short-term rentals or this option might not be possible for you.

If you know anything about the coastal regions in the Northeast – things in the winter are not like they are in the summer. In my humble opinion – they are better! But I digress. If you are looking at a rental pro-forma and wonder if it makes sense to winterize your beach house or to rent it out, I would say rent it. You can easily rent for long weekends in the “off season” and in most cases you can also rent to one person for the entire off season period as off-season rentals are hard to come by in most markets. In this case, you wouldn’t charge the same premium you do during the summer. 

I have mentioned this ownership option before. If you have a group of friends that love to kiki in Rehoboth then it might just be an option to get four together and buy a house. I would say this option is a risky one and one I would highly encourage you to speak to an attorney about. The idea here is that an arrangement would be formed to outline what party uses the home during which periods of time. Expenses would be split based on share of the home.

Oftentimes people forget that you can often provide your rental home to a charity event for example an item at a silent auction for your children’s school gala. A portion would be tax deductible and as such is a savings for you that year. Of course – speak with a CPA to ensure these items are true and correct for you.

The above options are all great ideas in black and white on paper — but what option will work best for you is based on what you want, where you want to be, and for the last option, how well you trust your friends who you might be interested in doing a group beach house option with. In this case I would highly recommend speaking with an attorney who can walk you through the pros and cons of a group purchase with multiple people on a deed and mortgage. 

Cheers to a happy, healthy, and fun 2023 summer season and hope you can make your beach house dream a reality – I’m here to help.

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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