Public Defender or Private Attorney: Which Should You Use?

“Mr. Beaver, should we hire a private attorney or insist that our son, ‘Tom,’ just ask for a public defender for his possession of a controlled substance charge? He was arrested with several other young men in a car that had illegal drugs in the passenger compartment. 

“We own an automotive and commercial truck parts delivery service.  Tom is 25, works as one of our drivers, and it is my hope that he will take over the business.

“My wife says that he needs to deal with this on his own, and as he can’t afford a private attorney, to ask for a public defender, but he yelled, ‘Public defenders are second-rate lawyers!’

“We succeeded in enabling him to have an entitled attitude, and this scares us. I know that you began your law career as a deputy district attorney, so, what’s your recommendation? Does it really make a difference if he uses a PD? Thanks, Terry.”

Bite the Bullet! The Consequences of a Drug Charge are Real

I ran this often-asked question by Denver-based criminal defense attorney Peter Lloyd Weber. His law practice concentrates on drug transportation and distribution.

“Where a family is facing the dilemma between teaching their kid a lesson and saving money — or biting the bullet and hiring a private attorney — there is really no choice as the collateral consequences of a drug conviction are so great,” he says.

“It can result in his being unable to obtain certain kinds of employment, licenses, may impact his credit rating, make it impossible to join the military, dramatically increase auto and homeowners insurance rates — in short, nothing good comes from a drug conviction.

“Especially where Tom’s parents expect him to take over their delivery business, a drug record is the last thing in the world they should risk.”

A Parade of Defendants Pleading Guilty

I recall as a deputy D.A. the parade of defendants represented by the Public Defender’s office or appointed counsel who, in my opinion based on what I saw, were induced to take plea deals on potentially defensible cases. And it wasn’t because these lawyers were lazy or incompetent.

Rather, it had to do with the economics of time. In fact, many articles have been written — –going back years — sympathetic to what faces these dedicated attorneys who want to help their clients. 

But when you are given a huge caseload and lack adequate time and resources, justice suffers.

Weber agrees.

“This does not mean that public defenders are bad lawyers, far from it,” he says, “But you’ve got to look at the reality of having a PD or appointed counsel as your defense attorney. It often comes down to getting what you pay for.

“Public defenders are government employees and generally, across the country, are significantly underpaid. In fact, some are so badly paid they would qualify for a PD!

“So, it is a perfect storm of the millions of people who can’t afford to hire an attorney for their criminal defense, given a PDs or equally low-paid appointed counsel — all of them juggling massive caseloads.

“Often these lawyers meet with their clients a few minutes before entering a plea. The results are negotiated pleas in almost all of their cases, due primarily to their huge caseload.

“It is common for PDs to plead their clients to years in jail with little more than a brief conversation beforehand. They simply do not have the time, energy and attention necessary to formulate a legal defense that could have prevented or minimized the impact of a conviction,” He maintains.

Advantages of Privately Retained Counsel

There are many advantages in hiring your own lawyer, and a main one is that clients can expect adequate time to be devoted to the case in addition to support staff, including private investigators — typically retired from law enforcement — and technical experts who are able to challenge evidence against their client.  These all cost money, but as Weber observes, “They level the playing field.”

On the nightly news, we see body cam police video. He asks, “Do you think that public defenders or appointed counsel have the time to watch what could be hours of video? Often they do not. A privately retained lawyer will take the time to examine all avenues that help the client.”

Flat Rate or Hourly?

“Stories of defense attorneys being paid thousands of dollars upfront and then just walking their client through a guilty plea are common and are so unfair,” he underscores.

“Don’t let fear interfere with your common sense about the cost of hiring a lawyer. We can only charge reasonable rates, and with that in mind, I recommend that clients strongly consider paying by the hour — on a time-based approach — instead of one large flat fee.”

And what does he like most about his job?

“What I do is more than a job; it is a calling. People phone me every day asking for help. I never charge for phone consultations. When someone contacts a criminal defense attorney, this could be one of the worst times in their lives, and they should be able to talk with a lawyer without worrying if they can pay for that time on the phone.”         

Dennis Beaver Practices law in Bakersfield, Calif., and welcomes comments and questions from readers, which may be faxed to  (661) 323-7993 or e-mailed to [email protected] And be sure to visit www.dennisbeaver.com.

Attorney at Law, Author of “You and the Law”

After attending Loyola University School of Law, H. Dennis Beaver joined California’s Kern County District Attorney’s Office, where he established a Consumer Fraud section. He is in the general practice of law and writes a syndicated newspaper column, “You and the Law.” Through his column he offers readers in need of down-to-earth advice his help free of charge. “I know it sounds corny, but I just love to be able to use my education and experience to help, simply to help. When a reader contacts me, it is a gift.” 

Source: kiplinger.com

How Risky is Investing in Rental Properties?

I am trying to buy as many rental properties as possible because of the great returns they provide. I am also trying to help other investors discover the fantastic world of investing in long-term rentals through my blog. However, I run into a lot of feedback from people who are worried about how risky it is to invest in rental properties. I hear: “my friend went broke investing in real estate” or “my parents had a rental and it was a money pit up until the day they were forced to sell it.” There are many horror stories involving real estate, but I have no doubt whatsoever long-term rentals are a great investment if you do your homework and buy properties right. Most of those horror stories come from people who did not do their homework, turned a personal residence into a rental out of necessity, or were hoping for appreciation. What are the real risks of rental properties and how can you mitigate these risks?

What are the main risks of investing in rental properties?

There are real risks with investing in rental properties. Many people felt the wrath of these risks in the last housing crash. Housing values plummeted and in some areas rents plummeted as well. Interestingly enough, not every area saw lower rental rates. Some areas saw rents increase because there were so many more renters (people who lost their houses) and the demand pushed rents up.

The investors who were hurt the most in the housing crash were those who were breaking even on their properties or losing money each month and hoping prices would increase to make money. When the bottom dropped out, they now had a property that was losing money each month and was worth less than they had bought it for. Many investors allowed these homes to go into foreclosure because they didn’t think they were worth keeping.

Other risks come from rentals when people buy a property and do not have enough cash to maintain the property or hold it when it is vacant. Most banks will require a certain amount of reserves when you get a loan on an investment property. But as soon as the property is purchased there is nothing stopping the owners from spending that reserve money. When you own a rental there will be times when the tenants move out, there can be evictions, and rarely a tenant can destroy a property. We see these situations occur quite often because people love to see drama but for the most part our tenants take care of our rentals and are awesome.

Why invest in rentals with these risks?

Rental properties have made me a ton of money over the last decade. Prices have increased significantly, which is great, but the properties also make money every month, and I always get a great deal on everything I buy which means I build equity on day one. There are many ways to mitigate the risks of rentals and the money I have made from my properties more than makes the risks worth it!

A lot of people will assume that when you are investing in large value assets like real estate and there can be huge returns, that the risk must be through the roof. There are types of real estate that can be very risky. We flip houses as well, and that is a much riskier venture than owning rental properties in my opinion. Development can also be much riskier but again come with huge rewards as well.

I also was an REO broker during the housing crash and I talked to many investors who lost homes. I was able to see why they lost their homes, what they could have done differently, and what happened after they lost their homes. For the most part, they bought houses that did not cash flow or make money every month and when things went bad they lost the motivation to keep paying into them. Losing the houses was also not the end of the world for these investors. Many of them had put little money down thanks to the crazy lending that was happening prior to that last crash. They were also able to keep those houses for quite a while after they stopped making payments. Many investors kept collecting rent during this time period which may or may not have been legal, but it did happen.

Many of those investors got right back in the real estate game after recovering and invested the right way with cash flow!

How can you mitigate the risk from rentals?

Buy below market value

One key to a low-risk rental strategy or any successful real estate strategy is to buy property below market value. Buying a property below market enables you to create instant equity, increase your net worth, and protects against a downturn in the market. One of the investors who was hurt badly during the crash was buying brand new houses and turning them into rentals. The houses were in great shape, but he paid full retail value for them.

When I buy rentals I want to pay at least 20% less than they are worth after considering any repairs are needed. For example:

  • A home needs $20,000 in repairs and will be worth $200,000 after those repairs. I want to pay $140,000 or less for that property ($200,000 x .80 – $20k). If I am flipping houses, I need to get an even better deal!

I also usually put about 20% down when I buy rentals which means after the property is repaired I have a loan around $110,000 and a property worth $200,000. Even if prices lost 30%, which is about how much they dropped across the county I am fine.

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Cash flow

I consider cash flow the most important factor in my long-term rental strategy. I want every property to make money each month after paying all expenses. Finding these properties that are also a great deal is not easy, but if you want to change your life with massive returns, it is not easy! When I invest I look for a return of 15% cash on cash. That means I make 15% on the money I have invested into the property. These are very high returns and not everyone needs to make this much but it is what I shoot for.

When you have cash flow coming in every month, it does not matter if values decrease because you do not need to sell the property. While it is true that rents can decrease and lower your cash flow, that is very rare and was even very rare in the last housing crash. There were some areas like Florida and Arizona that were massively overbuilt that saw lower rents, but the nation as a whole barely saw any drop.

My cash flow calculator can help you figure the real income on rentals.

Type of property

The older the property, the better the chance of a major repair needing to be done. I have enough cash flow coming in to account for major repairs, but homes over 100 years old can have issues come up that could wipe out all equity. It is rare, but a foundation or structural problem can make a property uninhabitable and cost tens of thousands of dollars to repair. By purchasing newer properties, I lessen the chances of running into repairs that could wipe out my profit for a year or even two.

Multifamily and commercial real estate can also carry more risk. Those types of properties are more complicated and have fewer buyers. I also buy multifamily and commercial properties but I am very careful what I buy and understand there will most likely be way more costs and exposure if the market changes.

If you buy properties that need a ton of work that can add to the risk as well. On my flips and rentals, the worst deals I have done were properties that needed massive remodels. It takes so much time, so many resources, and there is so much that can go wrong. It can also be risky trying to do all of that work yourself!

Cash reserves

One of the most important things to have when investing in real estate is cash! If you buy rentals or flips that can be expensive at times. It is very important to set aside cash to take care of the problems that might come up. When I figure my cash flow I set aside money for vacancies and repairs. You need to have cash set aside in case something goes wrong and this is one of the biggest mistakes landlords make is not having cash around.

Ironically, getting a loan allows investors to have more cash in many cases. Paying down the mortgage early or trying to pay it off with all your extra cash can leave you in a bad situation. If you do pay a property off and need to access that money in an emergency it can be hard to get to without selling.

Good management

Another way to have problems with your rentals is to manage them poorly. Many people have no idea how to manage a rental but decide they can do it on their own. They choose a bad tenant after not screening them, then never check on the property, and are surprised when it gets trashed. If you are going to manage rentals on your own you have to take the time to learn how to manage them. You have to screen tenants, and keep tabs on the properties!

If you don’t want to manage them yourself, you can hire a property manager as well. It takes time to find a good property manager and this is where it takes from work from the landlord as well. Again, no one said owning rentals was easy, but there are many ways to make them a great investment if you are willing to put in the work.

Liability and damage

Another risk that comes with rental properties is natural disasters or liability from accidents. People can get hurt and can sue tenants or tornados can wipe your property off the earth. Both instances are rare, but they happen. To mitigate the liability side you can put your properties in an LLC or make sure you have the property insurance coverage like a landlord and umbrella policy. With these policies, if you have a tenant destroy property or need to be evicted, they can help cover those costs as well! Putting a property in an LLC can help with getting sued but is not foolproof.

It is important to make sure your insurance agent knows you are using the property as a rental so you have the right coverage. It might be cheaper to leave homeowners insurance on the property if you used to live there but that can cause problems down the road.

Risks that are tough to mitigate

There are some cases where a landlord does everything right but still has a massive loss. These are rare but can happen and just about any investment or simply living life comes with risks.

  • Meth or drug house: If someone is cooking meth or using meth in your house it can cause damage that insurance will not cover. You may have to make major repairs depending on how bad it is. These risks can be alleviated by good tenant screening and checking on the properties often. It is not always the case, but many drug houses we see have cameras all over. That can be a sign to check the house out more if you see cameras on your rental.
  • Floods: Not all floods are covered by insurance. You often need an additional rider or flood coverage. If you are in a flood zone the lender will require the additional coverage but if you pay cash or use private money you may not be required to have it. There is also the risk of a flood outside a flood zone. If the property has a risk of flooding it is important to talk to your insurance agent about additional coverage.

Why does everyone say rentals are risky?

I won’t tell you it is impossible to lose money investing in long-term rentals. It can easily happen if you don’t have a plan, have reserves, or are impatient. It is not easy to buy properties below market value with great cash flow. If it were easy investing in long-term rentals, everyone would be investing in real estate.

The reason so many people think rentals are risky is that they hear anecdotal stories. Stories are good for entertainment and drama but they don’t give the entire picture. “my cousins, aunts, friend, lost all their money when their rental was trashed!” They failed to tell us the person self-managed a property they used to live in from 4 states away and never once talked to the tenant in 3 years. Then they were surprised it was trashed. There are all kinds of stories but usually, you can find one of the main reasons above for why people lose money on rentals. Overall, real estate is one of the best ways to build wealth!

Don’t be scared to invest in rental properties

There are many people who have gotten rich and retired early by investing in long-term rentals. There is a lot of opportunity and many advantages to investing in real estate. Just because you can have some great rewards does not mean there is a massive risk. Some risk? Yes of course and the less you pay attention to your investment the riskier it will get!

Categories Rental Properties

Source: investfourmore.com

Why I Expect Mortgage Rates to Go Down Sometime Soon

If you thought 2021 was bad, just in general, you might think 2022 is even worse, if the subject happens to be mortgage rates.

They’ve started the year off with a bang, higher, and are now at their highest point in about two years.

A lot of market watchers expected mortgage rates to rise in 2022, but perhaps not this quickly and violently.

For example, the 30-year fixed finished the year 2021 close to 3%, and is now hovering around 3.5%, depending on the loan scenario in question.

It could be even higher than that depending on your FICO score and LTV ratio, and there’s fear things could get even worse.

A Big Jump in Mortgage Rates Is Often Followed by a Correction

Now I don’t want to be a sucker and try to time the market, but I’ve been thinking about this ever since mortgage rates shot up a week or so ago.

It seems like it came out of nowhere, despite the advanced warnings that the Fed would be raising rates this year.

The Fed thing was telegraphed and baked in, but the ongoing story has been inflation, which started off as “transitory” and lately became more concerning and perhaps permanent.

That has forced the Fed to get a bit more aggressive, prompting the dual stock market and bond market carnage we’ve seen lately.

At the same time, most 2022 mortgage rate predictions have called this, though just not this quickly.

There’s also a sense that the worst is behind us with COVID, even if omicron is leading to record numbers in all categories.

I’m hearing a lot of pandemic becomes endemic…emphasis on end.

So Much Bad News Yet Mortgage Interest Rates Are Higher?

mortgage rate trend

While it’s decidedly gloomy out there, here’s why I think mortgage rates might actually get cheaper next month.

If you look at short periods of volatility, they’re usually followed by a correction, whether it’s up or down. This seems to apply to most things, most notably the stock market.

Because mortgage interest rates surged so quickly, there’s a good chance they could fall back to earth for that very reason alone.

Simply put, too much selling makes something oversold and ripe for a purchase, in this case mortgage-backed securities (MBS).

Just look at this 30-year fixed chart from MND, which shows periods of rate spikes, followed by some correcting.

It’s obviously not a perfect science, and still a risk, but I could see rates taking a breather in February. Or perhaps March.

There are other factors working in favor of that argument, like surging COVID cases and hospitalizations.

Yes, we’ve all heard that the omicron variant is “mild,” but somehow daily cases are set to triple the record set a year ago.

And some 132,646 Americans are currently hospitalized with COVID, above the 132,051 record set in January of last year.

While it seems like everyone has COVID, it seems fewer are getting severe disease, despite the hospitalizations.

There’s also a sense that this was expected, seeing that we’ve been through a bad winter already. And there was much more mingling this holiday season.

That could explain why mortgage rates haven’t gone down, but UP. But give it time and things could change direction.

And I think it’d be silly to think there isn’t a next variant on the horizon, even if it’s all media hype.

There’s also that psychology when you think something can’t possibly happen that it does. And right now, it’s hard to imagine mortgage rates improving.

Mortgage Lender Competition to the Rescue?

Lastly, consider mortgage lenders for a moment. While an everyday homeowner or prospective home buyer certainly won’t like a higher mortgage rate, lenders despise them.

A big rate surge like this one will tank their loan volume in a hurry and have them wondering about rightsizing their staff.

It’ll make a cash out refinance less attractive and put a rate and term refinance out of reach for millions of homeowners.

When volume drops, lenders have to get more aggressive pricing-wise to stay afloat. It might mean making less per loan to get the loan to begin with!

And as I’ve written about before, it can be wise to apply for a home loan when it’s not busy.

Not just because your loan will get to the finish line faster, but because it should be cheaper, relatively speaking.

Why? Because the lender is willing to shrink their profit margin to get your business. When they’re slammed, they’ll maybe even ignore you.

So if it feels like all hope is lost on the mortgage rate front, it probably isn’t, for that reason alone.

When things turn around is another question. Does it happen in the next week or two, in February, or in March? Do things get worse before they get better?

I’m not sure, but I do think we could see a reprieve before the traditional home buying season gets underway in later March and April.

It might be short-lived though, so be ready to pounce if and when it happens.

Read more: What time of year are mortgage rates lowest?

Source: thetruthaboutmortgage.com

What You Need to Know About Virtual Open Houses in the COVID-19 Era

In 2019, the real estate industry celebrated 100 years of open houses. Over the course of those decades that real estate professionals have been hosting open houses, they have evolved, and in some cases, disappeared. Since the arrival of the COVID-19 crisis, the real estate industry has scrambled to evolve once again. That includes if, and how, open houses are conducted. At the guidance of the National Association of Realtors, open houses during this time should look different and those marketing properties have found new ways to make touring the home virtually accessible.

The traditional open house is what we’re all widely familiar with. It’s hosted by a real estate agent and potential home buyers are allowed to come and go while they tour the property. However, since the COVID-19 outbreak, the National Association of Realtors has advised suspending in-person open houses. While this is simply a guidance to brokers, many state and local governments have also enacted “shelter-in-place” orders which deem in-person open houses not permissible.

Virtual Open Houses: A Quick Guide

What is the Difference Between a Virtual Tour and a Virtual Open House?

Many programs exist to provide 24/7, 360-degree virtual tours to buyers. While a virtual tour is the first step any prospective homebuyers should take, if interest is there for that property, a guided tour would be the next step. The difference between virtual tours and virtual open houses are that a real estate professional will guide you through the open house while virtual tours are completed on your own. Virtual tours can be completed from the listing page of a property without any prior scheduling. Virtual tour software goes beyond photography and provides 3-D, walking virtual tours of a property. This allows potential buyers to feel like they are literally standing in the middle of the room touring the home, but without having to leave the comfort of their own home.

Young woman sitting on bed in bedroom and having video call via laptopYoung woman sitting on bed in bedroom and having video call via laptop

Virtual open houses can help provide more insight to potential homebuyers. They’re usually scheduled after you took a virtual tour or looked through the listing’s photos and felt interested enough to see the property in all its glory. Buyers can schedule a virtual open house with an agent directly from the Homes.com listing page. As in-person open houses and home tours are suspended, the prevalence of virtual tours will be of paramount importance.

Having these services are a crucial part of an effective real estate marketing plan during this time, so if you’re looking to sell, make sure you can find an agent that has the capability to utilize virtual tours and open houses.

Questions to Ask, or Be Prepared for, During a Virtual Open House

While your agent helps conduct the virtual open house, it’s always good to be prepared in advance with a list of questions for each property you’re going to see (virtually, that is). Start gathering your list after, or during, the virtual tour of that property. You can find a list of questions to start here, but also take into consideration that you’ll want to know the following:

  1. What’s the neighborhood like? Is it safe and walkable? Are there kids in the area and is it in a good school zone? These questions are important to ask local real estate agents, so make sure you’re working with someone who is familiar with the area you’re shopping around in.
  2. Are the current owners living in the home? Is it move-in ready? If the current owners are still living on the property, get an idea for the length of time to help set a basis for when you’ll be moving.
  3. Is the home in a flood zone? If so, what does the cost of flood insurance look like? If you’re in a coastal city or living near a body of water, these questions are pertinent to ask during the virtual open house.

Looking to Sell? Try These Alternatives in Addition to Virtual Open Houses

Despite a pandemic, many homeowners still need to sell their home which requires creativity on the part of the listing agent to market the home effectively and safely. By hiring an experienced and innovative real estate professional to the list a home, homebuyers can be rest assured that Realtors are working to reinvent the wheel and best serve their clients through a host of options.

Professional Photography

While hiring a list agent that understands the value of professional photography over cell phone list photos has always been crucial, the quality of digital images is even more important as more buyers will be searching on sites like Homes.com. By incorporating high resolution professional photography into the marketing plan, homes have statistically sold 32% faster.

A kitchen in a modern farmhouse.A kitchen in a modern farmhouse.

Drone Video

The rule of real estate is location, location, location. Even with the best professional photography and 3D tours of a home, many of these options lack the ability to properly view the location of the home. By incorporating drone images and video into a marketing plan, home buyers can evaluate surrounding conditions, proximity, as well as other factors. In fact, homes with aerial & drone photography sold statistically 68% faster than listings without aerial images.

As Realtors work to promote social distancing and safe practices, they have not slowed in their efforts to effectively assist buyers and sellers. If anything, real estate professionals are working harder than ever to reinvent the wheel and evolve in an ever-changing climate. While open houses and real estate marketing may look different than before, the real estate industry has incorporated multiple tools that adhere to social distancing guidelines without sacrificing the exposure of available properties.


Jennifer is an accidental house flipper turned Realtor and real estate investor. She is the voice behind the blog, Bachelorette Pad Flip. Over five years, Jennifer paid off $70,000 in student loan debt through real estate investing. She’s passionate about the power of real estate. She’s also passionate about southern cooking, good architecture, and thrift store treasure hunting. She calls Northwest Arkansas home with her cat Smokey, but she has a deep love affair with South Florida.

Source: homes.com

What’s the Difference Between a Co-op and a Condo?

It’s easy to get confused about the difference between co-ops and condos. If you pulled up pictures of each during a home search, they might seem exactly the same.

But if you’re in the market for a home — especially in a large city where both housing types are popular — you’ll learn quickly that the terms are not interchangeable.

You might have wondered if you’d prefer a house or a condo. But if you’re moving in the direction of co-op vs. condo, it’s important to understand their many distinct features.

Both give a resident the right to use certain common areas, such as pools, gyms, meeting rooms, and courtyards. But there are big differences when it comes to what you actually own when you purchase a condo or co-op.

You’ve done the work of budgeting for a home. Now you need to get a handle on the difference between a condo and a co-op.

What Is a Condo?

With a condominium, you own your home, but you don’t solely own anything outside your unit — not even the exterior walls. Common areas of the complex are owned and shared by all the condo owners collectively.

Buying a condo is not all that different from securing any other type of real estate.

Typically, the complex will be managed by a homeowners association that is responsible for maintaining the property and enforcing any covenants, conditions, and restrictions that govern property usage. The HOA sets the regular fees needed to pay for repairs, landscaping, other services, and insurance for the shared parts of the property. Special assessments also might be levied to pay for unexpected repairs and needed improvements that aren’t in the normal operating budget.

What Is a Co-op?

In the co-op vs. condo debate, it’s key to know that with a housing cooperative, residents don’t own their units. Instead, they hold shares in a nonprofit corporation that has the title to the property and grants proprietary leases to residents. The lease grants you the right to live in your specific unit and use the common elements of the co-op according to its bylaws and regulations.

A co-op manager usually collects monthly maintenance fees; enforces covenants, conditions and restrictions; and makes sure the property is well kept.

As a shareholder, you become a voting manager of the building, and as such have a say in how the co-op is run and maintained. Residents generally vote on any decision that affects the building.

With a co-op, should you want to sell your shares, members of the board of directors will have to approve your new buyer. They will be much more involved than would be the case with a condo. That can make it a lengthy process.

Co-ops and condos are both common-interest communities, but their governing documents have different legal mechanisms that determine how they operate and can affect residents’ costs, control over their units, and even the feeling of community.

Some Pros & Cons of Co-Ops vs Condos

Financing

It’s important to drill down on the details of buying an apartment. Because you aren’t actually buying any real estate with a co-op, the price per square foot is usually lower than it would be for a condo. Eligibility for financing may depend on credit score, down payment, project analysis, minimum square footage of a unit, and more.

However, it might be somewhat harder to get a mortgage for a co-op than a condo, even if the bottom-line price is less. It might not have all that much to do with you. Some lenders are reluctant to underwrite a mortgage for a property on which they can’t foreclose.

Most condo associations don’t restrict lending or financing in the building. If you can get a mortgage, the condo association will usually let you buy a place.

Fees

Because a co-op’s monthly fee can include payments for the building’s underlying mortgage and property taxes as well as amenities, maintenance, security, and utilities, it’s usually higher than the monthly fee for a condo. Either way, though, generally the more perks that come with your unit, the more there is to maintain and in turn, the more you’re likely to pay.

If you’re concerned about an increase in fees, you might want to ask the association or board about any improvements that may lead to an increase in the future — and what the rules are for those who do not pay their assessed dues.

All of these factors are important to weigh when you’re making a home-buying checklist, which includes figuring out how much money you’ll need and the best financing strategy.

Taxes

If you itemize on your income tax return, you may be able to deduct the portion of a co-op’s monthly fee that goes to property taxes and mortgage interest. However, none of a condo’s monthly maintenance fee is tax deductible.

You might want to consult a tax professional about these nuances before moving forward with a co-op or condo purchase.

Privacy vs Community

If you’ve ever lived in one of those neighborhoods where the only time you saw your fellow residents was just before they pulled their cars into their garages, it could take you a while to adjust to cooperative or association living. Because you share ownership with your neighbors, you may be more likely to see them at meetings and other events. And you can trust that they’ll know who you are.

Co-op boards often require prospective buyers — who are potential shareholders — to provide substantial personal information before a purchase is approved, including personal tax returns, personal and business references, and in-person interviews.

You may find that you like the sense of community and that everyone knows and looks out for each other. Or you may not. Again, you might want to ask some questions about socialization and privacy while checking out a particular co-op or an active condo community.

Restrictions

In a co-op, you might run into more rules regarding how you can renovate or even decorate your unit. And don’t forget: You’ll also have to deal with that rigorous application approval process if you ever decide to sell.

Both condos and co-ops frequently have restrictions on renting your unit, how many people can stay overnight or park in the parking lot, the type of pets you can have and their size, and more. Before you look at a unit, you may want to ask your agent about covenants, conditions, and restrictions that could be difficult to handle.

The Takeaway

Whether you end up saying home sweet co-op or condo, ownership offers many benefits you won’t find in a rental. When you’re ready to start a serious search, take the time to look for a lender that will work with you on whatever type of loan you might require. In the co-op vs. condo terrain, there are specialists for both sides.

SoFi offers competitive options for home loans and refinancing, working with you to find the right fit for your financial needs. You can get prequalified online in just minutes, and you may be able to put as little as 5% down.

Check your rate on a SoFi mortgage today.


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The 15 Best Neighborhoods in Colorado Springs for Renters in 2022

A small town close to big city amenities.

Colorado Springs is one of the best cities to live in Colorado. Housing is relatively affordable and it’s only an hour away from Denver. Residents love that you can get big-city amenities while still enjoying the sense of community most commonly felt in smaller towns.

Colorado Springs is also one of the most health-conscious cities in the nation — and it’s no wonder! When you’re surrounded by such breathtaking natural beauty, you can’t help but get out into nature as often as possible.

If you’re ready to call this lovely city home, we want to help you find your new home. To do that, you need to know which neighborhoods fit your needs, personality and budget.

Here’s a guide to the best neighborhoods in Colorado Springs.

  • Median 1-BR rent: $1,657
  • Median 2-BR rent: $1,992
  • Walk Score: 35/100

One of the reasons Briargate is one of the best neighborhoods in Colorado Springs is because it’s centrally located. This means you get to enjoy living outside the urban area and enjoy everything that nature has to offer.

However, you’re also close enough to many of the attractions that make Colorado Springs so great. Briargate is about 15-20 minutes outside of the Downtown area, 40-45 minutes to Denver and a little over an hour to Red Rock Amphitheater (it’s world-famous, so you should definitely check it out).

You’re also close to (20–60-minute drive) Dome Rock Trail, Gardens of the Gods Park and Monument Valley Park.

Briargate is a Master-planned community that’s family-friendly and community-oriented.

  • Median 1-BR rent: $1,314
  • Median 2-BR rent: $2,100
  • Walk Score: 51/100

A charming neighborhood located west of Downtown is Old Colorado City, or OCC as the locals call it. During the Pike Peak Gold Rush, this was the hub for gold mines and for five whole days it was the territorial seat. Now, it’s a popular tourist attraction because of its proximity to Pikes Peak, its history and its charm.

OCC has an eclectic feel, with a mix of upscale, well cared for homes, as well as homes that are quite the opposite. Homes and apartments are on the smaller side (1,000-1,500 square feet). Population density is low (407 people per square mile), so you’ll feel like you have space to breathe while you enjoy the natural beauty around you.

  • Median 1-BR rent: $957
  • Median 2-BR rent: $971
  • Walk Score: 60/100

East Colorado Springs is a mature community surrounded by beautiful trees and rolling hills. You’ll find several subdivisions throughout the neighborhood. It’s ideal if you’re looking for a neighborhood that has a more traditional, residential feel to it. Most of the residences in the area are larger homes on big lots, providing plenty of space for kids and pets to play.

That said, less than half the population has kids, so the neighborhood is relatively quiet. Another great feature is that it doesn’t take long to commute to Downtown Colorado Springs. Most people have a commute of 20 minutes or less.

Garden of the Gods, Colorado Springs, CO

Garden of the Gods, Colorado Springs, CO

  • Median 1-BR rent: $1,505
  • Median 2-BR rent: $1,741
  • Walk Score: 34/100

Pleasant Valley has an interesting history as the first true neighborhood in Colorado Springs. Before settlers came, it was the summer home of the Ute Indians. Then, pioneers settled the area in 1858 during the Pikes Peak or Bust Gold Rush, and then again in 1891 during the Cripple Creek boom. Pleasant Valley was the place where prospectors would purchase supplies before heading up the Ute Pass to look for gold.

These days, Pleasant Valley is a relaxed neighborhood surrounded by mature, towering trees. As a resident here, you’ll love being just minutes away from Garden of the Gods Park and Westmoor Park, while having a stunning view of Pikes Peak.

  • Median 1-BR rent: $1,150
  • Median 2-BR rent: $1,481
  • Walk Score: 37/100

One of the reasons why Peregrine is one of the best neighborhoods in Colorado Springs is that it offers an easy commute to Downtown.

Ultimately, though, people move here because of the views. Calling them stunning is putting it mildly. You’ll have easy access to Marshall-Sprague Park, Blodgett Open Space, Woodmen Valley Park and Woodmen Valley Open Space for walking, jogging, biking and other outdoor activities.

No matter where you live in this neighborhood, you’ll get the chance to see some incredible wildlife and a dramatic natural landscape.

  • Median 1-BR rent: N/A
  • Median 2-BR rent: N/A
  • Walk Score: 18/100

Pine Creek is a Master-planned community located near Briargate. It encompasses 900-acres and within it are upscale homes, townhouses and apartments, making it one of the best neighborhoods in Colorado Springs. As a resident in this neighborhood, you’ll have access to a golf course, parks, trails and common green spaces.

The architectural style of the neighborhood is that of historic Colorado Springs, which includes European Cottage, Craftsman, Spanish Eclectic and Prairie homes styles. Safety, security and beautiful landscaping are high priorities for all residents in this neighborhood, not only to ensure high property values but to create a comfortable, safe living environment.

Air Force Academy, Colorado Springs, CO

Air Force Academy, Colorado Springs, CO

  • Median 1-BR rent: N/A
  • Median 2-BR rent: N/A
  • Walk Score: 29/100

Located west of Interstate 25, south of Peregrine, Mountain Shadows sits in the foothills just southwest of the United States Air Force Academy.

Homes and rentals in the area sit on oversized lots surrounded by indigenous vegetation. It’s close to Ute Valley Park, as well as national forests, all of which contain trail systems that are perfect for walking, jogging and hiking.

Within 30 minutes, you’ll be in Downtown Colorado Springs. You can also quickly access various malls, like the Citadel Shopping Mall and the Chapel Hills Mall.

  • Median 1-BR rent: $1,424
  • Median 2-BR rent: $1,677
  • Walk Score: 40/100

Broadmoor is in the Southwestern part of Colorado Springs. It has one of the top-rated school districts (Cheyenne Mountain School District), making it one of the best neighborhoods in Colorado Springs for families.

Two other perks of living in this neighborhood are the fact that it’s home to The Broadmoor Resort (a high-end resort with beautiful grounds) and NORAD (North American Aerospace Defense Command). NORAD is a training site and alternate command center and has featured in the movies “War Games” and “Independence Day.”

Broadmoor is also close to Interstate 25 and takes less than an hour and a half to get to Denver.

  • Median 1-BR rent: N/A
  • Median 2-BR rent: N/A
  • Walk Score: 60/100

The Palmer Park neighborhood is a family and pet-friendly neighborhood, but also noted for being a quiet and peaceful neighborhood. The residents are welcoming and can’t wait to meet new neighbors like you.

People who live here are usually into the great outdoors, whether they’re taking their dog for a walk on one of the many trails, going camping or hiking or having an outdoor BBQ.

Palmer Park itself is quite the destination, for visitors and locals alike. In 2017, Elevation Outdoors Magazine named it the “best urban park.” There are various types of geological formations, including steep cliffs and tall rock spires. There are also plenty of beautiful open fields. From atop the cliffs or spires, you get a great view of Pikes Peak, Colorado Springs and the rugged Colorado Wilderness.

Downtown Colorado Springs, CO

Downtown Colorado Springs, CO

  • Median 1-BR rent: $1,915
  • Median 2-BR rent: $2,495
  • Walk Score: 61/100

Downtown Colorado Springs is a great neighborhood if you’re looking for urban amenities. Yes, you still get access to the natural beauty of the area, but you’re also close to sophisticated, contemporary bars, cafes and restaurants. Choices are abundant, too. You can go to a bakery, eat Mexican cuisine, get a hearty steak or get a delectable vegan dinner.

This neighborhood isn’t just great for young professionals, either. It’s good for families, as well. The school system in Colorado Springs is one of the best, so you can ensure your child is getting the very best education and that they’re ready for college when the time comes.

Speaking of colleges, the University of Colorado and the University of Northern Colorado have campuses in Colorado Springs, making this one of the best neighborhoods in Colorado Springs for college students.

  • Median 1-BR rent: N/A
  • Median 2-BR rent: N/A
  • Walk Score: 35/100

Northgate is a newer community that’s still growing. It has great mountain views, easy access to Interstate 25 and a golf course. If you’re looking for a community that’s on the luxurious side, Northgate has several Master-planned communities that will fit your every need.

One thing that draws renters and homeowners alike to this area is that the homes are spaciously placed, so you don’t have to feel like you’re packed like sardines with your neighbors or that you have to vie for a great view.

And since you’re living in Colorado Springs, you’re surrounded by majestic mountains, beautiful preserves and the best parks and hiking trails in the state.

  • Median 1-BR rent: $1,272
  • Median 2-BR rent: $1,490
  • Walk Score: 42/100

If affordability is your main priority, you’ll definitely want to check out the apartments for rent in Northeast Colorado Springs.

This neighborhood has a good mix of residential properties, as well as commercial properties, including offices, retail shops and restaurants.

The neighborhood offers easy access to amenities, making it one of the more convenient neighborhoods. Affordability and convenience don’t always go hand in hand, but they do in Northeast Colorado Springs.

  • Median 1-BR rent: $1,116
  • Median 2-BR rent: $1,308
  • Walk Score: 45/100

In the southern part of the city, you get a mix of urban amenities, as well as affordable housing options, making this one of the best neighborhoods in Colorado Springs.

Southeast Colorado Springs is close to Peterson Air Force Base and the Colorado Springs Airport, two installations that helped this part of the city thrive.

Homes in this neighborhood are below the national and state average and there’s a wide array of rental options. Nearly any apartment you choose in the area will be close to restaurants and shops, including Big Box stores, as well as smaller boutiques and Mom and Pop-type stores.

Cheyenne Mountain, Colorado Springs, CO

Cheyenne Mountain, Colorado Springs, CO

  • Median 1-BR rent: $1,045
  • Median 2-BR rent: $1,235
  • Walk Score: 59/100

Country living is great for some people. But, if you’re someone who needs to have stores, restaurants and other amenities nearby, then you need to find an apartment in a neighborhood like Stratton Meadows. It’s just south of Downtown Colorado Springs.

Many of the homes and rental properties date back to the 1980s to ’90s and styles run the gambit, unlike some communities where a Master designer chooses the style of every home.

Stratton Meadows is near Cheyenne Mountain State Park (about 10 minutes away), where you can go hiking, camping and mountain biking or hit up the archery range.

  • Median 1-BR rent: $1,006
  • Median 2-BR rent: $1,164
  • Walk Score: 66/100

Knob Hill is northeast of downtown Colorado Springs. One thing that makes this one of the best neighborhoods in Colorado Springs is that it’s a melting pot of sorts. According to NeighborhoodScout.com, the neighborhood isn’t just made up of generations of people from Colorado. Rather, it’s made up of new residents from other areas of the country and world — more so than 97.6 percent of American neighborhoods.

Residents here say their neighbors are “amazing” and “kind-hearted.” The community is pet- and kid-friendly and there are plenty of outdoor activities, including going to the lake, hiking and camping.

The best neighborhoods in Colorado Springs – can you choose just one?

With so many amazing neighborhoods on our list of the best neighborhoods in Colorado Springs, you might have a hard time choosing just one! If that’s the case for you, you should check out our apartment guide. You can use the filter to narrow down your search to find apartments for rent in Colorado Springs that suit your needs. Not only will that make your search easier, but it will show you which neighborhoods suit you the best.

The rent information included in this article is based on a median calculation of multifamily rental property inventory on Apartment Guide and Rent.com as of November 2021 and is for illustrative purposes only. This information does not constitute a pricing guarantee or financial advice related to the rental market.

Source: rent.com

11 Super-Simple Ways to Build Wealth in 2022

A wealthy couple
Jacob Lund / Shutterstock.com

To paraphrase William Shakespeare, some people are born wealthy and others achieve wealth. If you weren’t lucky enough to be in the first group, then it’s time to get going on your self-made fortune.

Think that can’t happen? You’re wrong. Pathways to wealth are everywhere. Why shouldn’t you take them?

Some of these smart choices will save you money upfront. Next, use that money to make more money through strategies like fractional investing and online wealth management.

Want to put yourself on the road to riches? These tactics can help.

1. Used Chevy or new Mercedes?

Save $100 a month, earn 1% on it and after 20 years you’ll have $26,545. Enough for a used Chevy.

Boost that percentage to 15%, and you’ll end up with $124,569 after 20 years. That’s nearly $100,000 more: enough for a new Mercedes.

Of course, earning 15% isn’t easy (the stock market’s average return is about 10%) and never guaranteed, but here’s something that is guaranteed: You won’t be earning big returns at the bank.

If you want to super-charge your savings, you’ve got to invest.

Plenty of people grow up thinking that “investing” is something only rich people do. Not so! You can start your investing journey with as little as $1, without paying a dime in fees, thanks to an investing app called Public.

With the Public app, you take part in “fractional investing,” which means buying little slivers of companies, funds or crypto assets. Take your choice from among thousands of exchange-traded funds (ETFs) and stocks.

Start by signing up and telling the app what investing experience (if any) you have and what your investing goals are. According to Public, 90% of users are in it for the long haul.

There’s no charge to join, although you’re allowed to leave tips on transactions. And again: You can start with as little as $1. What else can you get for a buck these days? Even dollar stores are raising their prices!

Download the app now, and take the first step toward getting rich instead of just getting by.

2. Chop your car insurance bill by $700 a year

Auto insurance is a must. You know what isn’t a must? Paying too much for coverage.

People who switch to Progressive for their auto insurance can save up to $700 – not just initially, but every year. Imagine what you could do with an extra $700 in your budget.

Emergency fund? Extra payment against your mortgage? Retirement planning? It’s your call. Point is, those are dollars that are now working for you instead of for someone else.

Incidentally, a cheaper premium doesn’t mean you’re cheaping out on protection. Progressive is known for its strong coverage. Request your free quote now and see how much you can save this year, and every year.

3. Let mortgage savings put your kids through college

If you’re currently paying about 4% on your mortgage, refinancing could lower your rate to as low as 2.376%.

Not much of a difference, right?

Well, if your mortgage is $300,000, that lower rate would mean paying about $94,000 less in interest over the life of the loan. That’s enough to put your kids through college, start your own business or retire earlier.

Maybe you know the savings would be significant, but haven’t refinanced yet because it seems so complicated. It isn’t. A direct lender called Better will make it child’s play.

The simplifying starts with a near-instant rate quote, and continues through the refinancing process. Better doesn’t charge origination fees or lender fees, and you can get a mortgage interest rate lock if you like.

Millions of homeowners around the country are saving every month because they refinanced. But the experts are saying these low rates won’t last. It’s do-it-or-lose-it time.

Get your new, personalized rate today, and make strides toward a better tomorrow.

4. Stop worrying about expensive household breakdowns

For most of us, our home is our most valuable asset. We put a lot of money down to buy it and pay a lot of money each month to keep it. Sometimes we’re stretched pretty thin financially, so when things break down it can be tough to cover the fixes.

The heating/cooling system grinds to a halt. A major appliance gives up the ghost. And why are the lights flickering — could it be the electrical panel?

What you need is a full-time maintenance person.

The next best thing? A home warranty from America’s 1st Choice Home Club. You can choose from among several coverage plans that cover issues with appliances, plumbing, heating, electrical systems and more. You can use your own technician or let America’s 1st Choice send someone over.

A breakdown happens in the middle of the night? Doesn’t matter. The in-house service team is available 24/7.

All this starting for as little as $390 a year.

Homeownership is great. But when things go wrong — and they will! — we can no longer call the landlord. We are the landlord, and we might go into debt just to keep things running smoothly.

Stop worrying about household breakdowns, and the high costs that come with them. Get a free quote in 30 seconds.

5. Get paid to watch videos and take surveys

Think of all the time you spend waiting somewhere. Waiting for the spin cycle in the laundromat. Waiting at the auto shop until the mechanic can give you an estimate. Waiting for your kid’s sports practice to be over. Waiting in an exam room for the doctor, who’s running 20 minutes late.

You could spend that time watching funny cat videos — or you could use that time to make some money. Our friends at InboxDollars can help you with the latter.

InboxDollars is a rewards site that pays you actual cash to watch videos and take surveys. Seriously: Why not use your downtime to make money?

Those aren’t the only ways to earn money with InboxDollars, however. You can also do some online shopping, click on daily emails, scan your grocery receipts into the “Magic Receipts” function, complete special offers (especially those for things you’d planned to buy anyway), play games and even help others by making donations to various causes.

From now on, get paid for waiting. It takes seconds to sign up, and you’ll get a $5 welcome bonus just for joining.

6. Find cheaper homeowners insurance in 60 seconds

Again, our homes are usually our most valuable asset. It’s essential to make sure they’re protected in the event of an emergency. But how do you know whether you’re overpaying for homeowners insurance?

Simple: You ask Lemonade for an estimate. It takes only a few seconds to find out whether you could be keeping more of your hard-earned money each month. Lemonade’s coverage starts from just $25 a month.

Homeowners insurance isn’t just about fixing things up after a fire, though. The dog bit the mailman? Lemonade can help with legal and medical payments.

A thief steals your stuff? Lemonade has your back, even if the theft happened away from home.

Your home rendered unlivable due to that fire? A homeowners insurance policy through Lemonade will cover expenses until you can get back into your home sweet home.

Why overpay with your current carrier? Find cheaper home insurance in seconds.

7. Add $1.7 million extra to your retirement

A recent Vanguard study indicated that a self-managed $500,000 investment would grow into $1.69 million in 25 years, on average. Sounds pretty good, huh?

However, with professional help, that same $500,000 would have turned into $3.4 million. In other words, a quality financial adviser could double your retirement nest egg!

At least talk to a pro, especially when finding one is free and easy. SmartAsset is a free service that will match you with a qualified money manager who can help you put your money where it will do you the most good.

Bank interest rates don’t beat inflation, so the value of your savings erodes over time. Stocks and other investments have historically beaten inflation, but a lack of knowledge and experience leaves you vulnerable to dodgy advice or financial scams.

SmartAsset will put you in touch with up to three local, experienced professionals, all of whom are fiduciaries, meaning they’re required to put your best interests over their own. They can give you a clear picture of where you are now, and help you develop the right plan for the long term.

Since the first appointment is often free, what have you got to lose? If you’re ready to at least consider a local adviser, check it out.

8. Protect your wealth with a gold IRA

Not everyone is comfortable with traditional retirement investments. Some people are opting for a “gold IRA,” which is just what it sounds like: gold, gold and more gold. This can be bullion (coins or bars) only, or also include gold stocks, ETFs and mutual funds. Gold is one of the few commodities that the Internal Revenue Service approves as an IRA investment. It’s a finite resource, rather than one that can be controlled by governments or banks.

Sound intriguing? Time to educate yourself, with help from American Hartford Gold.

This family-owned company can help you set up a gold IRA that meets all IRS standards. Chief among them: The gold must be kept at an approved depository. (No, you can’t bury it in your backyard.)

There may be less than 20 years’ worth of mineable gold remaining in the ground. As the saying goes about real estate, they ain’t making any more of it. Demand for gold is rising all over the world, especially in the electronics industry, so your IRA has a great chance to increase its value until you’re ready to retire.

American Hartford Gold has an A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau, and a 5-star rating with TrustPilot. Get your free investors kit now.

9. Diversify your portfolio with art collected by billionaires

Billionaires didn’t become billionaires by making bad investment choices. And billionaires have been collecting art for generations; for example, the Rockefellers amassed a collection that sold for an eye-popping $835 million in 2017.

But it isn’t just the ultra-rich who can invest in art by Banksy, Warhol and Picasso. With a new investing app called Masterworks, you can invest in iconic artworks as well – right alongside deep-pocketed folks like Bill Gates, Oprah Winfrey and Jeff Bezos.

Blue-chip art outpaced the S&P 500 from 1995-2021, which is impressive considering that historic bull run we’re now witnessing. The Wall Street Journal recently reported that art is “among the hottest markets on Earth.”

Art also has one of the lowest correlations to stocks that you can find. In other words, art’s value doesn’t have anything to do with the stock market’s wild swings, which makes it a good hedge.

Masterworks is an invitation-only art investment platform. So if you want to invest like a billionaire, request your invitation to join here.

10. Borrow $50,000 to erase your debt

Ever feel like you’ll never get out from under your credit card debt? Consumer debt is way too easy to get into, yet sometimes feels impossible to escape. You pay as much as you can each month, but the high interest rate just keeps piling on the dollars.

AmOne is a free service that matches people like you with loan providers. When you fill out one simple form online, AmOne finds lenders who want to fund your loan of up to $50,000.

Once you’ve been approved and agree on the terms, it can take as little as 24 hours to get the cash. Use the money to erase all your debt at once, then pay back the personal loan at a lower interest rate than those credit cards were charging you.

The service does only a “soft” credit pull, rather than have you going directly to lenders and getting “hard” credit pulls that affect your credit score. And speaking of your credit score: You don’t need an “excellent” rating to be considered, since AmOne’s lending partners are willing to work with people of varying credit ratings.

AmOne has a 4.7-star rating (out of 5) on TrustPilot. It’s free to check your rate online, and it literally takes just one minute.

11. Pay no interest until 2023 with a better card

Another way to deal with high credit card balances? Get another credit card. Specifically, get a 0% APR card, transfer those balances and get charged no interest while you’re paying down the debt.

There’s another good reason to get a 0% APR card: to get free financing on a big-ticket item.

Suppose your HVAC system goes out or your car needs a few thousand bucks’ worth of repairs. Rather than deplete your emergency fund, pay with that new 0% APR card to give yourself some breathing room while you pay it off.

How much breathing room? Anywhere from 15 to 21 months, depending on the card you choose.

You’ll need a plan to go along with that new card: no more using the other cards with unnecessary splurges while you pay off the 0% APR card. It doesn’t make sense to run up more debt while you’re paying off old debt.

But with a 0% card, you’ll pay no interest. Think of all the interest you’d been paying, and what those dollars could have done for your long-term financial security. With a 0% APR card, you won’t have to waste any more of your hard-earned dollars on interest.

Compare these top cards and discover the best one for you.

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.

Source: moneytalksnews.com

The Fair Housing Act: Anti-Discrimination Laws for Renters and Buyers

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In June 2020, Florida homeowners Abena and Alex Horton decided to take advantage of low interest rates due to the pandemic and refinance their mortgage. So their lender sent a professional appraiser to their home in a predominantly white area of Jacksonville.

Homes in the Hortons’ well-to-do neighborhood typically sell for $350,000 to $550,000. They expected theirs to appraise for about $450,000, a comfortable midpoint. But that’s not what happened. And it all came down to race.

Why We Need Fair Housing Laws 

In the Hortons’ case, the appraiser pegged the value at just $330,000, well under the going market price for comparable homes nearby.

To its credit, the lender agreed the appraisal was too low and ordered another. It came in at $465,000, in line with the homeowners’ expectations.

The Hortons didn’t undertake any last-minute home improvement projects or even take steps to improve the home’s curb appeal in the interim. They made only one change: removing any evidence that a Black person lived in the house. 

Before the appraiser arrived, Abena Horton, who’s Black, took her son shopping. She replaced mantel photos of herself and her son with images of Alex Horton, who’s white, and his white family members. She removed holiday cards from Black families. She even took books by prominent Black authors like Toni Morrison off the shelves.

The ordeal was humiliating but not surprising.

“I [knew] what the issue was,” Abena Horton told The New York Times. “And I knew what we needed to do to fix it, because in the Black community, it’s just common knowledge that you take your pictures down when you’re selling the house. But I didn’t think I had to worry about that with an appraisal.”

The Hortons’ low appraisal was neither a fluke nor the work of a rogue, racist appraiser. The family’s experience plays out in countless households of color across America more than a half-century after the passage of the federal Fair Housing Act. 

That law’s goal was to protect minority homeowners from discrimination. It was a vital component of a larger package of legislation — the Civil Rights Act of 1968 — meant to build upon the Civil Rights Act of 1964. 

The Fair Housing Act explicitly prohibits certain types of discrimination in the sale and rental of housing and mortgage lending against members of certain protected classes.

Subsequent legislation and court decisions have strengthened and expanded the act in meaningful ways.

Unfortunately, the Hortons’ experience shows that the Fair Housing Act did not usher in a world free from housing discrimination. 

Indeed, the National Fair Housing Alliance’s 2019 Fair Housing Trends Report recorded more than 31,000 housing discrimination complaints in 2018, an 8% increase from 2017 and the highest figure since the National Fair Housing Alliance began tracking housing complaints in 1995.

About three-quarters of these complaints were filed with nonprofit housing organizations compared with just under 6% filed with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Many involve more egregious infractions than the Hortons’ lowball appraisal.

Some would-be homeowners or tenants dealt with outright denial of rental housing. Others experienced discriminatory mortgage lending practices that increased foreclosure risk and cost affected borrowers tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars over the life of a loan.

It’s true that not all Americans experience housing discrimination. But all Americans participate in the country’s housing market, even the housing-insecure. And any unequal treatment distorts that market, no matter how localized. That makes discrimination a collective problem, even when it doesn’t directly affect us as individuals.


Key Fair Housing Act Protections for Renters & Buyers

The Fair Housing Act protects most homebuyers, mortgage applicants, and renters from discrimination based membership in a protected class, including race and sex. The act prevents property owners, sellers, selling agents, and housing lenders from taking specific actions defined as discriminatory against members of its protected classes.

Certain identities not explicitly mentioned in the act, notably gender identity and sexual orientation, can be covered by explicit protections of the act, such as sex and disability status (which covers chronic health conditions like AIDS and the virus that causes it). Coverage for these identities is subject to judicial interpretation per the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Bostock v. Clayton County.

Likewise, many states have enacted laws that expand and complement provisions of the federal law. However, the Fair Housing Act does have important exemptions that limit its applicability in certain situations, such as owner-occupied or unmarketed small-scale rental housing.


Protected Classes Defined by the Fair Housing Act

The Fair Housing Act’s protections extend to members of the protected classes or identities outlined in the law. These protections cover both explicit and indirect or implicit discrimination.

Race or Color

This protection applies to official Census-recognized racial categories: 

  • White American
  • Asian American
  • Black or African American
  • Native American and Alaska Native
  • Native Hawaiian and other Pacific Islander
  • Hispanic or Latino of any race
  • People of two or more races 

It also applies to informal racial or ethnic categories and perceived categories, such as assumptions based on a person’s dialect or accent. An offender need not definitively know the race of a buyer or renter to discriminate against them based on it.

Religion

The Fair Housing Act requires equal treatment of members of all religious groups, including nonbelievers. For example, in most cases, an apartment community or municipality can’t advertise itself using religious labels like “Christian” or “Jewish.”

National Origin

The Fair Housing Act prohibits activities that favor or disfavor buyers, renters, or borrowers based on national origin. For example, while it’s not illegal under federal law for property owners and other housing providers to ask applicants for proof of United States citizenship or legal residency, it is unlawful to do so only for certain applicants.

Familial Status

This protection prohibits discrimination based on family organization, marital status, and age in most cases. For example, a property owner who prefers not to rent to college students can’t simply deny housing to all applicants under age 23. 

Though the Fair Housing Act does not explicitly protect LGBTQ Americans from discrimination, the familial status class does include same-sex couples.

Sex

Any unequal treatment based on sex is prohibited under the Fair Housing Act. That includes restrictive policies enacted in the name of safety, such as refusing to rent first-floor walkout apartments to single women. It also covers any form of sexual harassment or coercion during the rental or sale process.

Disability

This protection covers individuals with significant documented disabilities, whether physical or cognitive. That includes those with chronic addiction disorders, such as alcoholism or substance abuse disorder, provided they’re engaged in treatment or recovery programs. 

Those engaged in the sale or rental of housing can’t ask about perceived disabilities or deny housing to those with disabilities. That’s true even when the offender’s intentions are pure, such as preemptively asking a person in a wheelchair if they require a first-floor apartment. 

Also, in rental housing, disabled tenants must be permitted to make reasonable improvements at their expense, and public areas and entryways must be accessible.


Explicit Prohibitions of the Fair Housing Act

The Fair Housing Act explicitly prohibits dozens of specific actions taken against members of any protected class by property owners, sellers, real estate agents and brokers, mortgage lenders, leasing agents, public officials, civil service, and insurance professionals. 

Some of these prohibitions pertain specifically to the sale or rental of housing, while others apply in the narrower mortgage lending context.

Actions Prohibited in the Sale or Rental of Housing

These actions include egregious violations, such as posting a sign restricting applications to a particular race, gender, or sexual orientation. But they also include more subtle offenses, such as steering nonwhite buyers away from predominantly white neighborhoods.

Some actions, such as eviction, may be legal when the intent or result is not discriminatory. For example, if local regulations allow, a property owner is within their rights to evict a tenant who’s seriously behind on rent as long as they treat all such tenants equally regardless of protected status.

Prohibited actions are:

  • Outright refusal to rent or sell housing
  • Refusing to negotiate the sale or rental of housing
  • Refusing to confirm housing is available for sale or rent
  • Discouraging the sale or rental of housing
  • Segregating housing (for example, grouping tenants of the same ethnic or racial group on a specific floor or building or in a specific neighborhood)
  • Extending favorable terms or unique incentives (for instance, charging opposite-sex couples lower rent than same-sex couples)
  • Making mention of any prohibited preference (for example, “families preferred”) in housing advertisements
  • Using different applications, screening or qualification criteria, or qualification processes (such as running credit checks for nonwhite applicants only)
  • Harassing applicants, tenants, or occupants or conditioning approval of a housing application on the applicant’s response to harassment
  • Evicting tenants or guests
  • Delaying or declining to make necessary repairs or maintenance
  • Offering property insurance on unequal terms (for example, asking higher premiums from members of certain protected classes, though underwriters may use indirect methods like credit scoring to account for higher perceived risk from certain occupants)
  • Profiting or attempting to profit by persuading homeowners to sell because members of a particular protected class are moving nearby
  • Denying real estate agents or brokers access to local agent organizations or multiple listing services

Actions Prohibited in Mortgage Lending

These actions also include a mix of egregious and subtle violations. However, all involve lenders’ or loan servicing companies’ refusal to treat mortgage applicants or borrowers equally based on their identities.

  • Refusing to provide information about loan opportunities
  • Refusing to originate mortgage loans to otherwise qualified applicants
  • Refusing to provide other financial assistance to otherwise qualified applicants
  • Offering unequal terms or conditions — such as higher rates, fees, or points — on mortgage loans
  • Discriminating during the appraisal process
  • A secondary lender or loan servicing company refusing to purchase a home loan
  • Conditioning issuance of a loan on the applicant’s response to harassment or coercion

HUD’s fair lending guide details mortgage applicants’ fair housing rights and mortgage lenders’ obligations under the law.

These actions are prohibited in all housing-related contexts:

  • Threatening, intimidating, or otherwise interfering with anyone attempting to exercise their rights under the Fair Housing Act or assist others in doing so
  • Retaliating against anyone who has filed a fair housing complaint or assisted with a fair housing investigation

State & Federal Housing Protections for LGBTQ Individuals

The Fair Housing Act does not explicitly forbid housing discrimination based on sexual orientation, sexuality, or gender identity. However, HUD requires lenders insured by the Federal Housing Administration (a HUD agency) to observe its Equal Access Rule. That rule prohibits certain acts of lending discrimination based on sexual orientation.

Additionally, the Fair Housing Act effectively forbids discrimination against LGBTQ individuals or families in circumstances covered by other class protections. And many state laws explicitly prohibit housing discrimination against members of the LGBTQ community.

Common Examples of Anti-LQBTQ Housing Discrimination Covered by the Fair Housing Act

The Texas Access to Justice Foundation-funded TexasLawHelp.org highlights common examples of circumstances in which explicit Fair Housing Act protections extend to LGBTQ individuals:

  • Sex Discrimination. A rental housing operator asks a transgender woman not to dress in women’s clothing in her building’s common areas; a property manager refuses to rent to a gender-nonconforming applicant.
  • Disability Discrimination. A property owner evicts a gay man whose HIV or AIDS status qualifies as a disability under the Fair Housing Act.
  • Equal Access Rule. A mortgage lender denies a loan to two same-gender co-applicants presumed to be a couple.

State Laws Protecting LGBTQ Individuals From Housing Discrimination

HUD maintains a list of states with laws prohibiting housing discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, or both. Jurisdictions that forbid housing discrimination on both grounds include:

  • California
  • Connecticut
  • Colorado
  • Delaware
  • Hawaii
  • Illinois
  • Iowa
  • Maine
  • Maryland
  • Massachusetts
  • Minnesota
  • Nevada
  • New Jersey
  • New Mexico
  • New York
  • Oregon
  • Rhode Island
  • Utah
  • Vermont
  • Washington, D.C.
  • Washington state

New Hampshire and Wisconsin prohibit housing discrimination based on sexual orientation but not gender identity or expression.


Noteworthy Fair Housing Act Exemptions

The Fair Housing Act covers most housing types and the vast majority of housing units available for sale or rent in the U.S. However, it does have important exemptions and carve-outs for certain housing types:

  • Small-Scale Rental Housing. Owner-occupied rental properties with four or fewer units (such as duplexes and quadplexes) and single-family rental housing that is not marketed or rented with help from a real estate broker. In the latter case, the exemption does not apply when the property’s owner owns more than three qualifying properties.
  • Housing Operated by Exempt Organizations. This category includes housing operated by legally recognized religious organizations or private clubs that limit eligibility to their own members.
  • Senior Housing. Multifamily communities that meet one of two criteria may legally deny housing to younger applicants: a) every resident is 62 or older or b) at least 80% of occupied units have at least one resident age 55 or older.

Why the Fair Housing Act Matters Today

It’s clear from the massive (and growing) volume of fair housing complaints tabulated by the National Fair Housing Alliance that the Fair Housing Act remains necessary and relevant to modern renters and homebuyers. And many acts of housing discrimination go unreported.

Though egregious examples of overt housing discrimination still occur, modern examples tend to be subtle, even covert. Modern housing discrimination often occurs without victims’ knowledge and sometimes without agency or intent on the perpetrator’s part. 

The Hortons’ first appraiser might not have acted on conscious animosity toward people of color or an explicit directive from their employer. They might well have acted on unconscious bias — an internalized, unquestioned notion that Black-owned homes are less desirable than white-owned homes.

Even if you believe you’ve never experienced housing discrimination and aren’t at risk from it in the future, you need to understand what housing discrimination looks like in practice. You also need to know how to recognize the financial, economic, and social consequences it can wreak. 

These consequences can and do affect all Americans’ personal finances and overall well-being. The effects can be direct financial issues for victims of discrimination or indirect harm to local economies and a fraying social fabric. 

For example, the subprime mortgage crisis of the late 2000s was fueled partly by discriminatory lending practices that resulted in higher default rates by borrowers of color. It resulted in millions of job losses, including those of many Americans who didn’t apply for a mortgage before or during the crisis.


Real-World Examples of Housing Discrimination

Theoretical examples from HUD and nonprofit fair housing organizations like the National Fair Housing Alliance provide a basis for public understanding of the various forms of housing discrimination.

Sadly, these theoretical examples have far too many real-world analogs. Many happened (or continued) during the 2010s. Another was a widespread historic ill that profoundly influenced America’s urban geography.

Disability-Based Discrimination in Dozens of Multifamily Housing Communities

In 2019, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) reached a civil settlement with multistate apartment community operator Miller-Valentine Operations Inc. and Affiliates. According to the DOJ, the company stood accused of violating disability protections enshrined in the Fair Housing Act and the Americans With Disabilities Act. 

Under the terms of the settlement, the DOJ required the operator to “take extensive corrective actions” to improve accessibility at more than 80 properties in more than a dozen states and establish a $400,000 fund to compensate disabled individuals affected by its violations.

Illegal Lending in Sacramento & Philadelphia

Banking giant Wells Fargo has been accused of discriminatory lending practices by federal, state, and local authorities since at least the 2000s. 

The bank agreed to pay more than $230 million in 2012 to settle a DOJ civil action alleging a “pattern and practice” of lending discrimination against Black and Latino borrowers from 2004 to 2009. 

In 2017, the city of Philadelphia sued Wells Fargo over similar claims. The bank settled for $10 million in 2019, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer. A similar lawsuit filed by the city of Sacramento, California, in 2018 (per CNN) remains pending.

Racially Discriminatory Housing Ordinance & Enforcement

In 2019, the DOJ sued the city of Hesperia, California, and the San Bernardino Sheriff’s Department alleging that a city ordinance and its enforcement constituted discrimination against Black and Latino renters, according to U.S. News. 

A HUD investigation found that enforcement of the ordinance resulted in more than 140 evictions over alleged criminal conduct in 2016. In some cases, entire families were evicted over allegations leveled at a single tenant or guest. 

Enforcement disproportionately targeted minority neighborhoods, with Black tenants four times more likely to face eviction than white tenants.

Refusal to Rent to a Same-Sex Couple

In 2017, a federal court ruled that the denial of rental housing to a same-sex Boulder, Colorado, couple constituted prohibited discrimination under the Fair Housing Act and applicable state law. According to Lambda Legal, the property owner refused to rent to the couple over concerns that doing so would harm her standing in the community.

Racially Restrictive Covenants

Restrictive covenants are clauses in housing deeds that restrict future homeowners’ activities and are not in and of themselves illegal. 

However, one particular type of restrictive covenant has long been rendered unenforceable by state and federal law: racially restrictive covenants that forbade homeowners from selling to buyers of certain races or nationalities — often simply anyone who was not white. 

Racially restrictive covenants were common in the first half of the 20th century in cities like Minneapolis, Chicago, Seattle, and the Kansas City metropolitan area. Where widespread, they contributed to profound housing segregation. They were often used in conjunction with redlining, a common lending practice that diverted nonwhite borrowers into specific neighborhoods. 

These practices helped create majority-minority neighborhoods that subsequently experienced ills including disinvestment, neglect, and civil unrest.


Potential Consequences of Housing Discrimination

Real-world housing discrimination has real-world consequences for homeowners, renters, and their communities. 

Some are direct, such as harmful effects on victims’ long-term wealth-building capacity. Others, while indirect, can be more devastating at scale. Generations on, many cities continue to grapple with the far-reaching consequences of early- to mid-20th century redlining and restrictive covenants.

But all are incredibly harmful, both to the individuals who experience them and others. 

Greater Exposure to Environmental Health Risks

High-profile calamities like the lead drinking-water crises in Flint, Michigan, and Newark, New Jersey, underscore the disproportionate environmental health risks low-income communities face. These risks are particularly prevalent in low-income communities of color, like Flint and Newark. 

That isn’t merely a media narrative. A 2018 Environmental Protection Agency study found that people of color are more likely to live near sources of air pollution and breathe polluted air, often due to historical settlement patterns influenced by redlining and restrictive covenants. 

And a 2016 study published in the journal Environment International found that long-term exposure to particulate matter correlates directly with housing segregation. That is, residents of highly segregated areas inhale more particulate matter than those in less segregated areas.

Lead Exposure in Older Housing Stock

Affordable housing tends to be older. Subsidized housing available through programs like the Section 8 voucher scheme does as well. 

Unfortunately, many older homes still contain lead paint or water service lines. Lead exposure can cause a host of serious health and developmental problems in both children and adults. (Lead water service lines are typically benign but can cause problems when drinking water is not properly treated, as occurred in Flint). 

Inadequate Nutrition

The market opportunity is greater in moderate- to high-income areas. As such, full-service grocery stores with well-stocked produce sections tend to favor these places over low-income neighborhoods. 

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s food access atlas shows regions that qualify as “food deserts” with limited nutritional resources. These places often occur in low-income urban neighborhoods and small rural towns served primarily by corner stores and dollar stores with little if any fresh produce.

Higher Incidences of Gun Violence & Other Serious Crime

According to a 2019 study published in PLOS Medicine, gun violence incidence closely correlates with higher rates of poverty and income inequality, low rates of social mobility, and low levels of trust in public institutions.

The legacy of residential segregation exacerbates these ills. For example, a 2018 mapping project by The Trace found that two low-income neighborhoods in highly segregated Cincinnati accounted for a disproportionate share of that city’s shootings.

Unequal Access to Quality Schools

NPR reports that a 2016 study by EdBuild found a $23 billion funding gap between predominantly white and predominantly nonwhite school districts. The gap is caused in part by two government-imposed phenomena. 

Districts rely heavily on local taxes, which generate more revenue in wealthier, predominantly white districts. Then there’s the principle of “local control,” which limits the equitable distribution of state education funds to poorer districts. 

This gap contributes to unequal educational outcomes, reinforcing the very racial wealth disparities responsible for it.

Impact of Discriminatory Lending on the Broader Economy

A 2010 study published in the American Sociological Review cited a “highly racialized process” of “differentially market[ing] risky subprime loans” to borrowers of color as a cause of the late-2000s subprime mortgage crisis that precipitated the Great Recession. 

It’s a stark example of the potential for discriminatory lending to impact the broader economy negatively. 

On a more granular level, Federal Financial Institutions Examination Council data cited by the Center for American Progress found that home prices in predominantly Black neighborhoods decreased by 6% between 2006 and 2017. During the same period, home prices in majority-white neighborhoods increased by 3%. 

This divergence disadvantages all homeowners in affected neighborhoods, not just members of the area’s ethnic or racial minority.

Increasing Racial & Cultural Tension

In a 2019 Pew study conducted before widespread protests over police violence in 2020, 58% of all Americans and 71% of Black Americans said race relations were bad in the U.S. 

Meanwhile, 65% of all Americans said it had “become more common for people to express racist or racially insensitive views” since Donald Trump was elected president. And 45% said it had “become more acceptable” to do so. 

While it might give comfort to characterize this as an aberration attributable solely to a particular political leader or party, that’s not the entire story. These alarming figures spotlight a fraying of the American social fabric caused in part by decades of residential segregation.

Despite incremental integration since 2000, a Washington Post visualization shows that most Americans continue to live in “majority” neighborhoods where one racial or ethnic group predominates. For example, a 2017 Harvard University study found that roughly 69% of the U.S. population lived in majority-white neighborhoods between 2011 and 2015.

Political Polarization & Increased Mistrust of Institutions

Residential segregation also exacerbates political polarization and public mistrust of institutions. 

Writing for Bloomberg CityLab shortly before the 2016 U.S. presidential election, urban studies professor Richard Florida noted that geography was increasingly predictive of political affiliation. 

Democratic voters cluster in cities and inner suburbs, while Republican voters favor lower-density geographies. This self-sorting creates bubbles of relative ideological homogeneity. That often manifests in antagonistic relations between local and state leaders, which came to a head during the COVID-19 pandemic in states including Texas and Wisconsin. 

It also leads to dysfunction in state and federal governments and coarsening public discourse. A 2016 study by researchers at the University of Mississippi and Stony Brook University, SUNY, found that the percentage of positive political ads declined from 90% during the 1960 U.S. presidential campaign to less than 15% during the 2012 presidential campaign.


Final Word

Selecting the “best” neighborhood is a fundamental part of finding new housing. Every prospective renter or homebuyer gives some thought to the characteristics of the communities they consider moving to and ranks them based on priorities like access to quality schools, open space, or urban amenities.

Few prospective renters and homebuyers think much about why certain communities have characteristics that make them desirable. They also never wonder why those same communities are often less accessible to those the Fair Housing Act exists to protect, from persons with disabilities to historically marginalized racial and ethnic groups. 

That’s understandable. The exercise is a discomfiting one, but it’s also necessary. 

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Brian Martucci writes about credit cards, banking, insurance, travel, and more. When he’s not investigating time- and money-saving strategies for Money Crashers readers, you can find him exploring his favorite trails or sampling a new cuisine. Reach him on Twitter @Brian_Martucci.

Source: moneycrashers.com