Ruined art. Tricky leases. Gay meccas. Stephanie Barnow of the Swan Team at Keller Williams Compass Realty is your cookie baking girl-next-door realtor with a not so sweet dose of reality for your property woes and wild real estate scenarios. Combined with my zany imagination this makes her the not-so-perfect expert for this week’s grilling. 

Kevin Assam: I went to an open house where I accidentally leaned on a Chagall and damaged it. I immediately left. Should I tell the realtor?

Stephanie Barnow: My mother said if you make a mistake, own up to it. Your realtor will contact the seller’s agent and explain. Together they will devise a resolution. On a piece of that importance they may have insurance. Always do what you’d want someone to do for you.

I made a deposit on an apartment lease based on financial projections from a job offering. That offer is now no more. Is there any way to get out of the lease and get my money back?

All lease terms are different. Read the fine print. Ask nicely. You may even want legal advice. Try the polite approach first and if you know of a tenant to replace your application for the same apartment you may have some leverage. 

I can only afford to pay my mortgage by having my property rented while I live in a smaller apartment. Is this bad business?

Actually, this is called an investment property. It is done all the time. Ensure that you save your pennies and pay your mortgage promptly so that one day you can own it outright! That is the way to build equity and have a rent-free life. Snuggle up in your cute  –  cheaper  –   little apartment until then!

Provincetown. Key West. Palm Springs. I cannot buy in these expensive gay meccas. What are some affordable up and coming “gayborhoods”?

Realtors get asked questions like this all the time. It should be illegal for me to answer that but since “sexuality” is not a protected group like age or nationality, I will answer it carefully. It is my hope that in the future this will be as illegal a question as asking where the Mexican neighborhood is. Here is my answer: Do the twirl. My broker taught me that. Pick a neighborhood that you like the looks of real estate wise. Walk it in the morning. Walk it in the evening. See who’s around. Decide if you’d like to live there based upon that. If it’s not gay enough for you, invite all of your friends to buy up the other houses on the block. And if you do that, call me.

My apartment neighbor complains that I have too many packages delivered to the building. I operate out of a home office. Do they have grounds to file anything formal?

Renting can be rough. Communal spaces are a crowded game of “I was here first.” Unless your packages are blocking walkways, spoiling and creating hazardous living conditions, the only thing they can file is a complaint. The landlord may reprimand you to appease the cranky neighbor, but you’re not doing anything illegal. Curiosity is a heady drug that can drive people mad. More than likely they’re just jealous you get the presents.

My partner and I are recently separated. He thinks us purchasing and rebuilding a tear down will strengthen our relationship. Will it?

Nothing brings out the crazy like a wedding, a divorce, or real estate rehab. I’m not sure if it will strengthen your relationship, but you will see the true level of unabashed crazy in your other half and if that doesn’t tell you if you are meant to be together, nothing will.

I’m redesigning my office space for a more contemporary look. Are glass walls still on trend and conducive to a healthy and communal work environment? I don’t have a commercial background, but I can tell you this. Natural light is always a plus, frosted glass is kind of sexy, and cubicles need all of the sexy they can get.

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