I won a silver medal in rowing in Gay Games IX in Cleveland in 2014. It was my Olympic experience from the Opening Ceremony procession of thousands LGBT athletes from around the world with full fanfare, thumping music and glitter, to the tough competition on the Cuyahoga River, to walking proudly though the Festival Village with my partner at my side and my silver medal around my neck. I rowed with DC Strokes, one of 34 LGBT sports clubs in the Washington, D.C. region that have about 7,000 members combined. Under the umbrella of Team DC, a 501(c)3 that promotes LGBT sports in the area, the D.C. region historically sends one of the largest contingents to the compete in the Gay Games.
I started writing this piece while flying back to Dulles, on a beautiful United Airlines Boeing 787 after making the case to bring the 2022 Gay Games to D.C. to the Federation of Gay Games (FGG) in 5 days of activities in Paris (Oct 26 – 30). The FGG is the sanctioning body for the Gay Games. D.C. was one of three finalist cities. Representatives of the other two, Guadalajara and Hong Kong were also in Paris. D.C. previously competed for Gay Games IX, which was awarded to Cleveland. This was Guadalajara’s and Hong Kong’s first attempt. Paris will host Gay Games X in 2018. The FGG selected Hong Kong to host Gay Games XI in 2022 at a press conference on Oct. 30.
According to Brent Minor, “We left it all on the field.”
Minor, the Gay Games DC 2022 Chairman, asked me to co-chair the bid committee to bring Gay Games XI to D.C. with Blade publisher Lynne Brown and Clark Ray in 2016. I said, “yes” without hesitation. Minor, a veteran of six Gay Games, former FGG male Co-President and Chair of the DC Gay Games IX Bid, possesses the knowledge, institutional memory, and drive to ably lead D.C.’s second bid team. He pulled out all the stops.
The D.C. 2022 bid book details our plan, budgets, sponsors, venues, cultural events, lodging, transportation, security, etc., in 300 pages of glorious detail based on our experience with the Gay Games IX bid and years of experience hosting large-scale sporting events under the advice of people like Paul Tagliabue, former NFL commissioner, Gay Games DC 2022 Honorary Co-chair. The bid book was submitted on Nov. 30, 2016. It is fact-based, complete and shows our math.
Our bid book, packed with facts and figures, touches the head. Our 2022 final presentation, Inspire, touches the heart. Inspire is a beautifully imagined and produced multimedia and live presentation that captivated the FGG delegates, bringing many to tears. Briana Scurry, two-time Olympic gold medalist was greeted with thunderous applause and cheers repeatedly as she revealed then wore two gold medals as she told her story as an elite out lesbian athlete. Mayor Bowser, who led D.C.’s delegation, was cheered as she made D.C.’s pledge of $2 million in person to support Gay Games XI if the FGG selected D.C. Council member Jack Evans and Finance Committee Chair and Council member Brandon Todd also made the trip to demonstrate the City Council’s support of the D.C. bid. There was more applause and audible gasps and cheers as each of our Honorary Co-Chairs, Billie Jean King, Eric Holder, former U.S. Attorney General and Paul Tagliabue voiced their endorsements and support for the bid via video. Tagliabue, who “knows a thing or two about selecting cities for major sports events,” closed his remarks by proudly acknowledging his gay son and son-in-law. Chris Mosier, the first trans athlete to qualify for Team USA, took the podium and told his story about his transition, competing in the Cleveland Gay Games and qualifying for Team USA as a trans man to a hushed room. Mosier is living evidence of the power and importance of the Gay Games movement in nurturing and uplifting LGBT people.
Brent Minor, Elliott Ferguson, president and CEO of Destination DC, and Ryan Bos, executive director of Capital Pride, expertly covered the DC Bid’s Experience, Affordability and Fun topics respectively, rounding out the 45-minute presentation. D.C. made its final presentation last, following Guadalajara and Hong Kong. Bid teams cannot attend the other presentations. As Mayor Bowser concluded and asked for the FGG’s support for our bid, the room erupted with applause and cheers. A Honorary Life Member (HLM) stated that he’d seen every final presentation and the D.C. presentation is the best he had ever seen by far. We heard many such accolades as the D.C. delegation left the auditorium on Saturday Oct. 28 and over the next two days. But something was missing. It was like nailing an audition or interview, being told enthusiastically, “you were great,” and realizing there is a “but” coming.
Indications that things were going sideways
All three delegations attended a joint and lengthy question-and-answer session on Sunday Oct. 29. Each delegation had to select two people to answer for their city. Mayor Bowser and Brent Minor provided thorough, concise answers that were responsive to the questions directed at D.C. Questions came only from the FGG delegates and were pre-written. A moderator selected the questions asked during the session. Hong Kong tended to pivot away from providing details on the Hong Kong games to talk to more about their aspirations for Asia. Guadalajara generally answered the questions with some gaps in detail and revealed their focus on Latin America. Here are a couple of the questions and answers:
How would your city fund the games?
Guadalajara: Half would come from registration fees and the remainder from a business entity that to me sounded similar to a tourism-related business improvement district.
Hong Kong: Claimed to have $1 million in corporate funding and another $1 million “conditionally pledged,” but details were sketchy. From what we could glean, this $2 million was not mentioned in the Hong Kong presentation the previous day. In a separate question, a FGG delegate asked how “the private funding would work,” since Hong Kong has no government funding. The gist of the rambling reply was that Hong Kong will have very nice sponsorship packages.
Washington, D.C.: Minor: Our budget is strong and detailed in our bid book. We have the $2 million pledge from D.C. Fourteen major sponsors are on board now and have already contributed $200,000 to the bid (cash and in-kind). Each of the 34 LGBT sports clubs also contributed to the D.C. bid.
Bowser: Remember EMILY – Early Money is Like Yeast – Early money from the city will enhance the committee’s ability to bring on more sponsors. EventsDC and the Sports and Entertainment Commission, which have independent income streams based on tourism revenue can also help. If D.C. is selected, the budget process starts in 2018. EventsDC and the Sports and Entertainment Commission can help cover interim budgets.
How does your city define diversity?
D.C.: Bowser: D.C. is a melting pot. Every color of the rainbow is represented. Diversity is central to our bid as you can see in our bid committee and presentation. Sports and culture break what divides us.
Guadalajara: Mexico is diverse. One hundred languages are spoken.
Hong Kong: Hong Kong is diverse. A melting pot. HK named the people supporting the HK bid that included people from Hong Kong, the U.S., Europe and former British colonies. No one from another Asian country was mentioned or present.
Describe your bid in 3 words.
Guadalajara: Color, Inspirational, Legacy
Hong Kong: Empowerment, Legacy, Light
Washington, D.C.: Participation, Inclusion, Personal Best
The big announcement
The winner was announced at a FGG press conference the focus of which was really Gay Games X which occurs in Paris in 2018. After what seemed to be an eternity, Bruno Julliard, First Deputy Mayor of Paris, announced Hong Kong the winner.
Mayor Bowser pulled the D.C. delegation to the side and expressed her thanks for everything the Gay Games D.C. 2022 team did to develop the bid and to represent D.C. on the world stage. Most of the D.C. delegation remained for the gala dinner in the sumptuous Paris City Hall; after all it was the sportsman-like thing to do. There was yet one more surprise that evening, however. A couple, part of the Hong Kong delegation, was called to the stage where they announced a €10,000 pledge to the Paris Gay Games to support the 2018 scholarship program.
So what happened?
FGG delegates vote via secret ballot so it is not known who votes for which city but more delegates voted for Hong Kong. An anti-U.S. sentiment caused in large part by the current resident in the White House and his travel bans exists within the FGG. There is also a very clear pro-Asia sentiment. Some FGG delegates want to use the games to “open Asia” which is a very laudable and ambitious goal. There are certainly millions LGBT people in Asia who don’t have the freedoms and protections that we have as residents of gay-friendly Washington, D.C. and as citizens of the United States. It took decades of fighting to earn the LGBT protections we have. We are still fighting to protect them. The White House is trying to ban trans airmen, soldiers and sailors from the military as its initial assault on LGBT rights
Will the FGG be effective in bringing change to Asia with the 2022 games? Who in Asia knows about the Gay Games? The Hong Kong bid team effectively used social media to support its bid. I asked one of the members from Hong Kong how they were going to use social media in China and other Asian nations where terms like “gay” and “LGBT” are censored. She mentioned virtual private networks or VPNs, which are used by people with the money, knowledge and access. The Hong Kong team cannot reach the masses using VPNs. FGG delegates are concerned about the American White House but will the Chinese government open its arms to the Gay Games?
I believe the FGG was touched by the D.C. bid. I believe that the FGG knows that D.C. would host an amazing Gay Games. But that didn’t matter. A majority of voting delegates aspire to take the games to Asia. So the answer to the question, “Is D.C. is too gay to host the gay games” is, Yes. What about your city?
Marvin Bowser is a lifestyle blogger and regular Blade contributor. He served as a co-chair of the D.C. Gay Games 2022 bid committee. Follow him on Instagram @FirstBroDC.
The evolution of the open house
The more sophisticated the advertising, the more the events flourished
In the early 20th century, there were no exclusive agreements between a seller and a real estate agent. Any broker who knew of someone wanting to sell could participate in an “open listing” by planting his sign in the yard of that person and competing with agents from other brokerages who did the same. To the victor who obtained a buyer went the spoils of commission.
The rules began to change in 1919, when being a real estate broker now required a license. An agent might handle only one property at a time exclusively, but an “open for inspection” period could be used to introduce a model home or new community to the buying population.
According to the National Association of Realtors, Dallas homebuilder, Howdy Howard, hosted one of the most successful open houses of all time in the 1950s. During the first 12 days of the event, an estimated 100,000 people attended, drawn by free sodas and the ultimate prize for the buyer – a new Cadillac.
Soon, brokers began hiring additional agents who could handle multiple properties. Unlike Howard’s marathon open house, agents would now host them for a few hours at a time, usually on a Sunday, to whet the appetite of the buyer pool.
Classified advertisements with a description of a property would be placed in a local newspaper and potential buyers would review them with their morning coffee to decide which houses to visit later in the day.
Marketing in newspapers went from a few lines of black and white text to a photo of a home’s exterior, to a multi-page spread that included both photos of houses and the agents who represented them.
The more sophisticated the advertising became, the more the open house flourished as a marketing tool, not only for the home itself, but also for the agent and the brokerage. It allowed agents to prospect for buyers for that home and others, and converse with neighbors who might want to sell their homes as well.
Soon, the sign-in sheet was born, used by the agent to capture the contact information of a potential client or customer and to let the seller know who had visited his home. While sign-in sheets or cards are still used, some agents have gravitated to electronic applications, using a tablet computer instead of paper for the same purpose.
Fast forward to the early 2000s in D.C., when open houses became the primary source of showing property. An agent would enter a property into the multiple listing service (MLS) on a Thursday, entertain no showings until Saturday, host an open house on Sunday afternoon, and call for offers either Sunday night or Monday. The open house allowed agents to send their buyers rather than accompany them and serve multiple clients at once.
The delayed showing day strategy referenced above has since been supplanted by the MLS’s Coming Soon status. Agents can now email or text links to upcoming properties to their clients in advance of showing availability and the clients can view photos, read property descriptions and disclosures, and schedule future visits accordingly.
Enter COVID-19. Due to the proliferation of the virus and the subsequent lockdown, the real estate world had to accommodate new public health requirements.
One of the first things to go was the open house. Even agent showings were constrained, with visitors limited to an agent plus two people and additional requirements for wearing masks and disposable shoe covers and gloves.
Overlapping appointments were not allowed, showings were limited to 15 to 30 minutes, and bottles of hand sanitizer sprung up on kitchen counters everywhere.
Ultimately, technology and ingenuity provided new marketing avenues for agents that included 3-D virtual open houses, Facetime and Duo viewings, videos, property websites and QR codes. Many of these marketing techniques remain, even though traditional open houses are coming back post-lockdown.
But are they really necessary? Certainly not for all types of properties.
I believe the days of using a public open house to procure a buyer are limited. Agent security has become a concern and the desire for in-person viewings during a specific day or time has waned.
On the other hand, Internet marketing and social media have a much wider reach, so much so that some people now feel comfortable buying a home – probably the most expensive item they will ever purchase – without even stepping into it until after closing.
After all, if we can work in sweatpants or pajamas while Zooming corporate meetings, how can naked virtual reality house hunting be far behind?
Valerie M. Blake is a licensed Associate Broker in D.C., Maryland, and Virginia with RLAH Real Estate. Call or text her at 202-246-8602, email her via DCHomeQuest.com, or follow her on Facebook at TheRealst8ofAffairs.
D.C. homebuyers face hyper competitive market
Sellers in driver’s seat as region faces record low inventory
With job growth rising during a period of aggressive government spending and historically low mortgage rates, the spring 2021 market sits at the lowest level of inventory since 1983.
Homebuyers in the D.C. area continue to face an incredibly competitive market. This is truly a seller’s market.
Lack of Inventory: Washington, D.C. has been in a gradually worsening housing shortage since the Great Recession. The area hasn’t had a six-month supply of homes for sale for almost 12 years. Now, we add a global pandemic that seriously altered what homeowners want out of their home, Wall Street on fire, and insanely low interest rates and we get a surge in motivated homebuyers.
According to the National Association of Realtors (NAR), the number of homes nationwide reached a record low in December 2020, with just 1.07 million properties on the market. The DC metro area is even worse off than the national average with only one month’s supply of homes. That means if new listings were completely dried up, there would be no homes available in four weeks. On average, D.C. homes have been selling within 11 days, which is 15 days faster than this time in 2020.
Seller’s Market: The time is now for Washington, D.C. homeowners to seriously consider selling their homes if they have played with the idea. Experts predict 2021 will be another strong housing market with an increase in demand from existing homebuyers in search of larger homes and buyers who delayed purchasing a home due to the uncertainty of the pandemic.
Zillow forecasts a nearly 30 percent annual growth in homes for sale in 2021. This would be the largest home sales growth since 1983. Zillow’s annual report stated, “Home price appreciation will reach its fastest pace since the Great Recession, as the inventory crunch continues to pit buyers against each other, competing for a scarce number of homes for sale.”
D.C.’s Current Market: According to the NAR, in March of 2021, D.C. home prices had increased 4.1% compared to March 2020, for a median price of $635,000. There were 1,004 homes sold in March 2021, an increase from 842 at this time last year.
We are seeing many homes receive multiple offers within just a few days in the D.C. area. The average home is selling a little above 1% of the listing price and many hot homes are seeing large bidding wars and selling for 3% or more above the listing price; 42.7% of D.C. homes sold above list price in March of 2021. That is a 13.4% increase from last year at this time. Active inventory for March of 2021 was 1,457 homes, down 9% from March 2020. March 2021 also saw 991 homes sell in the D.C. area, an increase of 31% from February of 2021. March 2021’s total homes sold had a 19% increase from March 2020.
Buying a Home: In the current seller’s market, buying a home can be like playing a chess match. You need to know the rules and be strategic. It can seem more like winning than purchasing a home right now. If you find a home you want to buy, chances are you won’t be the only one making an offer. It is a seller’s market everywhere in the country right now and D.C. is no different. Be sure you know what you qualify for and what you can afford.
Conclusion: The NAR and the Mortgage Bankers Association both project prices of existing homes to increase 5.9% in 2021. This may mean buyers will have to be more flexible than in the past. For example, making an offer contingent upon the sale of a current home may be harder than before. It’s also possible you will pay more than the list price. The D.C. real estate market is on fire and many homes are off the market within 24 hours of listing. For sellers, if you have been thinking of selling your home there is no better time than the present.
Khalil El-Ghoul is Principal Broker for Glass House Real Estate. Reach him at [email protected] or 571-235-4821. Glass House Real Estate is a modern, more affordable way to buy and sell a home in the D.C. Metro area. Learn more about what makes us different at glassshousere.com.
Still the hottest vehicles in dealer showrooms
Crossovers keep wending their way into our driveways—and our hearts. After overtaking sedans, station wagons and minivans as the hottest vehicles in dealer showrooms, crossovers are now taking aim at the most quintessential of American rides: the muscle car. With naughty looks and hepped-up engines, the two dynamite crossovers below are sure to blow your mind—and just maybe your budget.
DODGE DURANGO SRT HELLCAT
Mpg: 12 city/17 highway
0 to 60 mph: 3.5 seconds
For more than 20 years, the Dodge Durango has been a solid if nondescript family hauler. But this year the automaker jazzed up its midsize crossover with brawnier styling and the latest tech toys. And for the first time, Dodge is offering a limited-edition Durango SRT Hellcat—a high-test model with the same hellacious Hemi V8 engine in the Challenger super coupe and Charger sport sedan. With 710 horsepower, this blazingly fast crossover can kick some serious ass, outrunning many a Ferrari and Lamborghini.
The upgraded suspension provides more dynamic handling and cornering, as well as selectable steering for better grip. For straight-line acceleration and to prevent nasty fish-tailing, I simply flipped the “launch control” toggle switch. The massive Brembo brakes also were stellar, with stop-on-a-dime performance and flaming red calipers on each wheel. Another plus: the iconic Hellcat exhaust rumble could be heard blocks away—music to the ears of any auto aficionado. As with all Durangos, this bruiser has best-in-class towing capacity of 8,700 pounds.
Inside, there’s plenty of space, including more room than expected for third-row passengers. The steering wheel, dash, and trim accents now have trendy Euro styling, though it’s more VW than upscale Audi. And you can opt for flashy seatbelts and premium seats in a color Dodge calls Demonic Red, along with black velour floor mats and a soft-touch headliner. Other features include heated/ventilated seats, a large 10.1-inch touchscreen, wireless smartphone integration and the ability to pair two Bluetooth devices at once. Options include a 19-speaker Harman Kardon stereo and rear-seat entertainment with Blue-Ray player. Alas, this is a limited-edition model and all 2,000 of these speed demons quickly sold out months ago. But there’s still hope: Dodge allocated some of the racy Durangos to select dealerships, so you can call around to see if any are still available. And you can always try social media to find a lucky Durango Hellcat owner who just might be willing to sell this rollicking ride, if the price is right.
LAND ROVER DEFENDER X
Mpg: 17 city/22 highway
0 to 60 mph: 5.7 seconds
For decades, both the Land Rover Discovery and Range Rover have been ubiquitous in the United States. Not so the smaller and less ostentatious Defender, often seen as a work-horse vehicle in BritBox reruns or action flicks like Lara Croft: Tomb Raider. But last year the Defender returned to these shores after nearly a quarter-century hiatus.
Available in two- or four-door models, both Defenders start around $50,000. My test vehicle was the new top-of-the-line Defender X, which added—yikes!—another $35,000 to the sticker price. The look on these crossovers is boxy chic, which allows for a ginormous amount of headroom, legroom and cargo space. Land Rover also added extra stowage areas and cubby holes, as well as transom windows and a sliding panoramic sunroof to keep things airy. While the cabin may be sparse and full of solid plastics, the walnut trim on the center console and door panels is quite elegant.
Land Rovers have a somewhat infamous reputation for less-than-stellar electronics, but the 10-inch touchscreen was crystal clear and synced up seamlessly with the infotainment system. Tricked out with a jet-black roof, hood, and side cladding, the press vehicle I test drove was painted a haughty Eiger Gray Metallic. It also came with thick all-terrain tires, adding to a slightly menacing vibe. A full-size spare is conveniently mounted on the vertical tailgate, which swings completely open like a refrigerator door for easy access. The Defender X may not be as lightning quick as a Dodge Durango SRT Hellcat, but it’s still plenty fast. And this brute can tackle the toughest of terrains, thanks to locking differentials, hill-descent control and a standard air suspension that can raise the chassis 11.5 inches above the ground. Overall, the Defender X can’t quite hide its refined roots as a tony Land Rover. But as with the Dodge Durango SRT Hellcat, this burly crossover flexes some serious muscle.
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