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Freedom from unfair housing

Protection from discrimination when buying, renting

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Fair Housing Act, gay news, Washington Blade
Certain questions from buyers may seem innocent, but answering them could constitute a violation of the Fair Housing Act.

June 19. Freedom Day. Jubilee Day. Cel-Liberation Day. It commemorates the end of slavery when on June 19, 1865, Union general Gordon Granger finally made it to Galveston, Texas to read federal orders from 1861 announcing that all previously enslaved people were free. It is the oldest nationally celebrated commemoration of the ending of slavery in the United States.

Yes, this was two and a half years after President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation that became official on Jan. 1, 1863. The Proclamation had little impact on Texas due to the minimal number of Union troops there to enforce the new order. With the surrender of General Lee and the arrival of General Granger’s regiment, the forces were finally numerous and strong enough to overcome the resistance.

On this year’s June 19, and with the world focused on equality for all, it is important for us also to talk about equality in the home buying process. Despite being given the freedom from slavery in 1865, it wasn’t until 1968—52 years ago—that the Fair Housing Act was passed. The Act, in simplest terms, protects people from discrimination when they are renting or buying a home, getting a mortgage, seeking housing assistance, or engaging in other housing-related activities. It prohibits discrimination in housing based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status, and/or disability.

Discrimination can come in two forms—direct and indirect. Direct is purposefully and impermissible basing the sale on a protected class/characteristic. Indirect is unconsciously applying a requirement or rule in the sale or rental of housing.

Direct is easy to understand. If an agent or mortgage officer steers you to one area, discourages you from others, or flat out refuses to show you homes in an area, it is fairly easy to see how that is a violation of fair housing. As a renter, no landlord can refuse to accept a housing voucher if that voucher is applicable to the price point and area assigned.

Indirect can be much harder to detect. It can be treating clients differently in subtle ways. For example, as agents, our clients often ask us about schools, crime rates, and the demographic make up of a neighborhood or a building. On the surface, a buyer typically asks these types of questions for a variety of sincere reasons. Many of our clients are relocating to an area and they are looking to their real estate agent as a trusted source of information—and they know agents love to be helpful. As innocent and sincere as these questions may be, your agent should never answer them. Why you may ask? Answering these could steer a buyer toward an area, or away from a home, toward or away from a condo building, or even toward or away from an entire neighborhood. Answering questions on crime, schools, and regarding people are violations of fair housing even if the intent was to be helpful to you as a buyer. What your agent should do instead is assist you with finding resources that can help you as the buyer with finding the information you want and need. They can direct you to sites that track crime, sites that offer insights on school rankings,and other neighborhood resources so you can learn about the areas in which you are considering a purchase.

Are we still seeing fair housing violations today? Unfortunately, yes. Even ones that aren’t meant to hurt or harm. Even agents are discriminated against as we are often treated differently in a listing presentation or at the buyer agent selection interview process.

As a Realtor, helping people find their vision of home is a responsibility and a privilege. Treating everyone with equal respect and dignity is paramount. Everyone deserves a wonderful place to call home in the neighborhood of their choice. Homeownership is more than shelter; it is a gateway to emotional and economic opportunities. Homeownership enriches lives, supports communities, strengthens culture, and enhances society. Additionally, owning a home is a wealth builder as a home is often the largest asset of a homeowner’s net worth.

At Coldwell Banker, we are proud to stand up for Fair Housing. Our company has designed an entire education module that includes training, a pledge for all employees and agents to stand up for Fair Housing, and a certification course that takes the education and that pledge even further.

Equality, respect, and dignity—three tenants that are of the utmost importance in housing, and on this June 19.

Sherri Anne Green is an award-winning Realtor with Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage having earned the prestigious International President’s Circle Award designating her among the top 5% internationally. She provides impeccable, high-touch service tailored to her clients’ unique situations. Reach her at 202-798-1288, [email protected], on Facebook and on Instagram.

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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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Real Estate

What makes for a successful real estate transaction?

There is no magic wand to make the process go smoothly

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Taking the time to explain any confusing concepts more than once can help put a buyer’s mind at ease.

A successful real estate transaction involves multiple parties all working toward the same goal. The goal is “purchase the house” or “get the house sold.” It is not a confusing or vague goal. One of the most satisfying aspects of being a real estate agent is to see a client reach their goals.  

What can really help a client to achieve their goal is to have a team of people seamlessly working together to help them reach the goal. The team can include, but is not limited to, a lender, a title company, a home inspector, the agents involved, and sometimes a spouse, a family member, a best friend, an estate attorney, or an appraiser. When all these parties involved are working together toward the goal, the goal can be easily achieved. “Working together” can mean:

Recognizing that time is of the essence – returning phone calls, emails, and texts in a timely fashion.

Blocking out time in their day to see properties, attend inspections, or finding a suitable stand in (family member or a friend) should work obligations get in the way.

Taking the time to explain any confusing concepts more than once, and sometimes to multiple people.

Ensuring that needed documentation and funds arrive at the desired location by the agreed upon time and date.  

Having a shared communication style that helps the others involved in the transaction to feel comfortable.

Paying close attention to the details specified in any addenda, disclosures, or wiring instructions, etc. 

There is no magic potion or wand to make a real estate transaction smooth and easy. But when many of these guidelines are followed by all parties involved in the transaction, any issues that do arise can usually be worked out. As in most exchanges in life, a little grace can go a long way. If you have more questions about achieving your real estate goals, don’t hesitate to reach out.

Joseph Hudson is a Realtor with the Rutstein Group of Compass. Reach him at 703-587-0597 or [email protected].

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