Fayetteville Arkansas, University of Arkansas--Old Main Overview

Fayetteville Arkansas, University of Arkansas--Old Main Overview
Overview of Fayetteville, AR

Friday, October 14, 2011

Craft Fair Weekend in NW Arkansas

It's a little late--I forgot all about it. But this weekend is one of those weekends that you either want to get out to all of the craft fairs or stay home to avoid the traffic.

It used to just be War Eagle, but now there are many venues. Here are some of them:

Bella Vista Arts & Crafts Festival
8-5 Friday and Saturday, 1991 Forest Hills Blvd in Bella Vista
Info: 479-855-2064 or www.BellaVistaFestival.org

Spanker Creek Farm Arts & Crafts Show
8-5 Friday and Saturday, 9-4 Sunday, 8464 W. McNelly Rd, Approximately 1/2 mile east of Walgreens and Lowe's in Bentonville
Info: 479-685-5655 or www.spankercreekfarm.com

War Eagle Mill Arts & Crafts Fair
8-5:30 Friday and Saturday, 8-4:30 Sunday, 11045 War Eagle Road near Rogers
Info: 866-492-7324 or www.wareaglemill.com

War Eagle Fair
8-5 Friday and Saturday, 8-4 Sunday, War Eagle Mills Farm near Rogers
Info: www.wareaglefair.com

Sharp's Show of War Eagle
8-5 Friday and Saturday, 8-4 Sunday, Adjacent to War Eagle Mill near Rogers
Info: 479-789-5683

Frisco Station Mall Arts & Crafts Festival
10-9 Friday and Saturday, 11-4 Sunday, Frisco Station Mall in Rogers
Info: 479-631-0006

Northwest Medical Auxiliary Arts & Crafts Fair
9-6 Friday and Saturday, The Jones Center in Springdale
Info: 479-756-8090 or www. thejonescenter.org

Ozark Regional Arts and Crafts Festivals
9-9 Friday and Saturday, NW Arkansas Convention Center in Springdale at 1500 S. 48th St. and the Embassy Suite Convention Center in Rogers at 3303 Pinnacle Hills Parkway
Info: 479-756-6954

Fall Craft Extravaganza
7-2 Saturday, 9-2 Sunday, Fayetteville Square
Info: 479-236-2910 or www.fayettevillefarmersmarket.org

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Now is the Perfect Time to Buy a Home in NW Arkansas

Here’s a very brief look at the current housing scene in NW Arkansas…

If you are a buyer, the opportunities are phenomenal right now. Mortgage rates are at historic lows and by historic I don’t mean the past 10 or 20 years. I mean interest rates have never, ever been this low, at least since they’ve been keeping track.

Even a couple of years ago, no one ever thought possible such rates as 3.5% on at 15-year fixed-rate mortgage or 4.25% for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage. This is simply fantastic for anyone looking to purchase a home and those rates are available right here in NW Arkansas.

The other truly bright spot is the average cost per square foot continues to drop. In fact, prices are back to 2004 levels. I realize this is terrible news for sellers but what a fantastic opportunity for buyers.

Even when home prices were this low in 2004 or thereabouts, interest rates were much higher.

So right now, you could say this is a “perfect storm” situation for buyers.

Apparently many people are taking note of this. Sales of homes in NW Arkansas rose approximately 20% compared to this time last year.

As a Certified Residential Specialist, I am ready, willing and able to help you take advantage of this great buyer’s market. Call me at 479-966-0435.

For more information:

Ozarks Unbound Blog
Arkansas Business-1
Arkansas Business-2
Arvest Bank

Friday, September 23, 2011

Bikes, Blues & BBQ Rally is Bigger Than Ever

Get ready for an even bigger and better Bikes, Blues and Barbecue Rally in NW Arkansas this year. Each year since inception in 2000, the rally has added more of everything. The growth has been phenomenal in just a few short years.

The fun begins next week--Wednesday, September 28 and doesn’t slow down until midnight October 1.

Hundreds of thousands of people flock each year to a number of venues in Fayetteville. This year the Rally will expand to include two days of events at Parsons Arena in Springdale.

There will be motocross, professional and amateur racing, Harley-Davidson Village, Parade of Power on Saturday, music, food, plenty of vendors, BBQ competition, Miss BBQ competition and way more.

The best parts of all are it’s good family fun and all proceeds go to local charities such as Big Brothers Big Sisters, Meals on Wheels, Horses for Healing, CASA, Peace at Home Shelter, and many others.

More than $600,000 has been donated so far.

Let’s all go have fun for a good cause.

For more information, check the BBBQ website.

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Here We Go Again – Another “Best Places” Award for Fayetteville

Another honor for Fayetteville, this time by Southern Living Magazine. This time for being one of the best college towns in the nation.

Fayetteville has been recognized repeatedly by Kiplinger Magazine, U.S. News & World Report, Sperling’s Best Places, Forbes and others.

Southern Living took a different perspective for their rankings. Their report focused on best college towns. They excluded towns with populations over 200,000 because they were looking for towns where the colleges/universities provided a very strong impact on the town’ standard of living and economies.

Thus it is no surprise to see Fayetteville ranked #17 overall. Our city offers a lively social scene with support of the arts, affordable and attractive restaurants, and many independent shops with everything students want.

Other factors Southern Living found positive about Fayetteville are a dedicated and active alumni base and good old-fashioned Southern charm.

I’m always happy to see prestigious organizations recognize the many positive aspects of living in NW Arkansas.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Crystal Bridges Museum to be Free To All – Forever

What a wonderful gift! The Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville promises to be a premier destination for people from all walks of life and now, thanks to an endowment from Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., it will be free to all visitors.

Northwest Arkansas is a remarkable place to live, but most of the cultural events have been centered in Fayetteville with concerts and other events associated with the University and the Walton Arts Center. Then Alice Walton, only daughter of Wal-Mart founder Sam Walton, announced plans to build a major art museum in Bentonville, Arkansas.

The grounds and exterior of the buildings are extraordinary. I’ve seen the plans and 3-D models and I look forward to seeing them come to life. Many of the acquisitions of American art made so far are formidable, and the collection continues to grow.

For some people, seeing the exterior is perhaps all they could afford. With that in mind, Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., has announced a $20 million endowment to the museum, which will allow free admission to all visitors in perpetuity. Indeed, Wal-Mart’s $20 million gift is a gift to us all.

In addition to Ms. Walton’s personal backing, the Walton Family Foundation recently pledged an $800 million endowment for acquisitions, operations, and future capital improvements. That gift is probably one of the largest ever to an American museum.

So mark your calendars. The grand opening is scheduled for 11-11-11 (November 11, 2011.) I wouldn’t necessarily recommend trying to visit on opening day, but do plan to go at your convenience. It will be worth your time.

In an era where the arts nationwide have repeatedly hit the budget chopping block, a gift like this assures a continuing contribution to the quality of life of NW Arkansas. The museum will expand cultural and economic development not only in Bentonville but also throughout the area. What an opportunity for us all.

For more information about the endowment, click here. The Crystal Bridges website has more information about the building, grounds, collection and programs.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Savings for Everyone August 6-7—Sales Tax Holiday

Everyone enjoys a nice holiday. The word holiday evokes family gatherings, perhaps a paid day off from work, or a trip to see grandma (or the grand kids).

How about a holiday from sales taxes on everyday items? This is a holiday unlike all others. It’s a real break for families.

For 48 hours, beginning 12:01 a.m. August 6th and ending at 12:00 p.m. August 7th, state and local taxes will not be collected on a long list of items families normally buy, especially for school. For example, all clothing costing less than $100 per item will be exempt from any sales tax. Accessories and equipment costing less than $50 per item will also be exempt. I would venture a guess that not many families are planning to buy articles of clothing costing more than $100 each.

The Arkansas Legislature passed this law in 2011 as a way to keep shoppers from going to neighboring states to take advantage of sales tax holidays there, especially at get-ready-for-back-to-school shopping.

I think this break was long overdue. Families can now do their shopping at Arkansas merchants and save gasoline at the same time.

The list of items exempt from sales tax on August 6-7 is quite generous. It includes most every normal school need you can think of: books, binders, book bags, pens, calculators, notebooks, lunchboxes, and even certain art supplies. Of course, textbooks, maps and reference materials are also included.

Many items not usually associated with back to school needs are also exempt from sales taxes on the holiday. I’ve previously mentioned items of clothing less than $100 each. The tax-exempt items include accessories such as cosmetics, wigs, wallets and purses, jewelry and watches, belts, umbrellas, and more. Accessories are limited to items costing less that $50 each.

The sales tax holiday is such a boon for average people. Between state and local taxes, most of us in NW Arkansas pay 9.25% sales tax on every item listed above. The easiest way to comprehend the savings is to round the tax to 10%. If you spend $100 on the holiday weekend, you save $10 in tax. If your local store were offering a 10% discount, people would be lining up to take advantage of the sale.

It’s interesting to note the list of tax-exempt items includes things most of us would probably overlook when getting ready for back-to-school shopping. I would not have thought about diapers, receiving blankets, swimsuits, uniforms and neckties.

So mark your calendars now for big savings August 6-7. It’s the only weekend all year where you can have a tax-free holiday.

For more information, click here.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Help the Bride and Groom Buy a House: FHA Bridal Registry

It’s too late for the June weddings, but maybe for those getting married in July and August and beyond this would be a possibility. I just found out about a really nifty way to help those about to be married purchase a home—establish a Bridal Registry account for their down-payment.

This novel idea has been around since the ‘90s but has received little publicity. A part of the FHA Bridal Registry Gift Funds program, all approved FHA lenders are automatically eligible to participate .

Here’s what the Bride and Groom need to do:

• Open a savings account named "Bridal Registry Account” at your bank prior to the wedding.
• Give the account information to friends and family who make deposits on your behalf.
• The entire gift funds can go towards the FHA required 3.5% down payment.
• If someone gives you a monetary gift directly, you can deposit the funds in the account.

More good news:

• You do not have to married prior to closing date.
• You do not have to provide FHA with any documentation other than proof of the "Bridal Registry Account.”
• This does not have to be your first home purchase.
• If you decide to not buy a home, you may withdraw the funds to use as you like with no penalty.

Without a "Bridal Registry Account,” the FHA normally requires a gift letter and certification of the source of funds for your down payment. With the account, your documentation is greatly simplified.

This program can be such a boon to couples as they start out in life. In addition to helping them acquire the funds to buy a home, it eliminates the consequences of receiving duplicate or unwanted gifts.

If you know folks who are planning to marry, pass this information along to them. Now we just have to find a lender who is knowledgeable about the program and who can help set up accounts. 

For more information, click here:

Friday, July 01, 2011

Housing Shortage -- Are You Kidding Me?

Can you wrap your mind around a possible housing shortage in the next decade? For the most part all we hear are statements of doom and gloom. You know what I mean: “Foreclosure rate remains high,” or “Another builder has gone bankrupt,” or “Home prices slip again.”

Indeed, the real estate market in general has taken a beating since the economy began to tank a few years ago. When unemployment began to climb, people were forced to change their living arrangements. Many young people continued to live with their parents instead of buying starter homes. Many older folks stayed in homes that no longer had mortgages. Still another group whose homes had been foreclosed were forced into rentals.

With housing inventories at all time highs, many builders stopped building new homes.

Now that the economic picture is getting brighter and interest rates on mortgages are very, very low, the cycle is beginning to turn.

A recent study from Harvard University indicates demand will call for 16 million new homes during the next 10 years. The demand will be fueled by increases in population and immigration, young folks looking for their first home, baby boomers wanting to downsize, and demand for second homes.

Rent prices have increased and if that trend continues, as seems likely, more renters will return to home ownership.

So, the demand for so many homes does seem possible, maybe not right away, but don't discount the possibility.

Click here for more information.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Extreme Weather and the Housing Market

The awful weather throughout southern U.S. has affected so many lives with devastating results--tornadoes, extremely heavy rains, flooding, hail and associated miseries of all kinds. Just a week ago the tornado in Joplin, Missouri caused at least 135 deaths. And other tornados affected communities in central Arkansas.

Such extreme weather also causes indirect damage to the housing market. It is next to impossible to show homes in such threatening conditions. If any good can be found at all, it’s that heavy rain clearly illustrates which properties are subject to flooding.

The latest reports shows sales of homes in Arkansas down 23% in April compared to April 2010.

In Benton County, sales were down 18% with 303 homes sold vs. 371 in April last year.

Washington County results were similar: sales down 19% with 205 homes sold vs. 254 last year.

Results do vary by town, however. Although Benton County as a whole experienced fewer sales, in Bentonville itself, sales were up in April compared to last year: 72 compared to 67 last year, according to the NW Arkansas MLS. Similarly Rogers had the same number of sales both years in April—98.

For Fayetteville, 108 homes were sold last year in April compared to only 82 this year. And Springdale was also down significantly, 115 homes sold last year in April compared to 98 this year.

But we must remember that due to government tax credits for home purchases in the early months of 2010, April had more home closings that any other month last year.

The housing market in NW Arkansas does exhibit seasonal characteristics—more sales in the spring and summer, fewer in the winter. And although the lower sales in April this year have not all been weather-driven, it is often a factor. I am hoping for some calm, comfortable weather soon. So far, 2011 has been breaking the weather records.

Click for More information

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Housing Sector Still Struggles, But Some Bright Spots Appear

On Friday I went to the Quarterly Business Analysis Breakfast sponsored by the U of A Center for Business and Economic Research. I like to go to these events because usually Kathy Deck, the director of the Center, gives incisive and informative economic data about Arkansas as a whole and NW Arkansas in particular. This usually confirms and explains what I see on a day-to-day basis as a real estate agent in the trenches.

Her presentation on Friday was basically positive, compared with previous meetings. The economy is getting better, according to the indicators she talked about--measures like GDP growth, Consumer Sentiment, Inflation, Unemployment, Job Growth, and the like.

The key to the real estate market in NW Arkansas is employment, and it appears that we're ahead of the curve compared to the rest of the state and to the US as a whole. If we don't have jobs, people will not want to move here. And if we don't have jobs, even people already here won't be able to buy a house. Increased employment will bring more home sales in the short term, as will seasonal factors.

But the construction sector will not lead economic growth in the near future according to Deck, rather it will follow it. And the tax credit of last year is long-since past. In addition, there is a large inventory of homes on the market, not to mention a full pipeline of foreclosures. These will continue to put downward pressure on prices.

The housing situation may be a bit brighter for some. It depends largely on an individual’s financial status, goals, and whether he is buying or selling. Home affordability in NW Arkansas, as well as nationwide is higher than it has been for a long time. And interest rates remain very low.

Nationwide the glut of unsold houses on the market is shrinking and absorption is occurring. No matter who you are, that is good news. But the glut (including foreclosures) has to be sold off before prices can stabilize. Prices will not begin to rise again until that glut is substantially gone.

Unfortunately, foreclosures are still occurring at a fairly high rate and for a time may even increase once mortgage holders work through the investigations into their sloppy foreclosure practices of the past.

Recent national statistical measures indicate sales are increasing when compared month over preceding month. However, year over year sales are down because sales in the early months of 2010 were artificially higher due to the homebuyer’s credit, which expired last June.

In some markets, prices seem to be at or near the bottom and investors are snapping up homes to rent out while they wait for the inevitable price increases.

Meanwhile, renters are feeling the impact from many sides. Owners who lost their homes through foreclosures were forced into the rental market. Builders stopped building new apartments when the economy turned sour. Some older apartment buildings have been torn down while other apartment complexes were turned into condos. More people wanting to rent fewer apartments means higher rents. The sad part is many lower income families are paying as much as 50% of their income on rent and utilities.

The March 2011 interest rate on a 30-year fixed rate mortgage was 4.84% - an excellent rate. But banks and mortgage companies are requiring higher credit ratings and higher ratio of income to monthly mortgage payment. I’m sure this is their response to the ridiculously low standards they used in the past – the standards that caused the whole housing debacle in the first place.

If lenders would return to the ratios that were in place for years before the debacle, more credit worthy borrowers would qualify to buy a home.

As the economy continues to improve, buyers will become more confident about the positive aspects of home ownership. There are already more buyers out looking, and as the spring progresses and the economy continues to improve, this will increase.

The housing sector will probably continue to struggle for awhile yet, but there are bright spots and I am seeing glimpses of more to come.

For more information:

Arkansas Business Journal
National Association of Realtors
Washington Post 1
Washington Post 2

Friday, April 22, 2011

Taxes – A Fact of Life in NW Arkansas as Elsewhere

Just as the deadline for filing income taxes passed, counties started mailing out property tax bills for real estate and personal property. Individuals as well as businesses are subject to property tax.

There are a few changes this year – designed to make paying taxes a bit easier. The deadline has been October 10th for several years. The state legislature decided that changing the deadline to October 15th would help people remember it better. We all have April 15th imprinted on our brains so I guess now we can add another permanent mark there for October 15th.

The other change allows owners to pay their taxes in installments. People can pay any or all tax due at any time between the first business day in March and October 15th. There is no limit to the number of payments that can be made. This is helpful for people who would rather pay as they go, perhaps monthly, than to be hit with the whole amount due at one time.

Arkansas has a couple of quirks in its tax code and these sometimes cause problems for new residents and even some large businesses with home offices elsewhere.

For example, property owners must call or visit the appropriate county assessor each year between January 2 and May 31. At that time, they “assess” their property – meaning to make it known to the assessor that they own or lease items subject to tax. A wide range of items is considered taxable – cars, trucks, boats, office equipment and furniture, warehouse and manufacturing equipment, and most everything else a business uses. Individuals will soon discover they cannot register their car until it has been assessed.

But there are also quirks that prove highly beneficial to property owners who own the house they live in. Owner/occupiers receive a credit each year of up to the first $350 of property tax.

The other big benefit freezes appraised values of residences where at least one owner is either disabled or over age of 65. Completion of a simple form through the assessor’s office is all that’s required. The freeze results in a property tax that cannot increase due to a higher assessed valuation. The tax can increase only if improvements are made to the property or the millage rate increases.

Disabled veterans can sometimes qualify for no property tax on their residence. This depends on the degree of disability as certified by the Veterans Administration.

And, one more date to remember. July is the usual time of year that people can file protests to their tax bills. Just check with the appropriate county assessor to find out the procedure.

Monday, April 18, 2011

NW Arkansas’ Unemployment Rate Going Down--Again

I’ve been hearing lately that unemployment figures are going down in NW Arkansas and the country as a whole. Nationwide, the rate for February 2011 was 9.5%.

Northwest Arkansas has had the good fortune all along to have considerably lower unemployment rates and it’s good to know that trend is continuing. Our rate for February 2011 was 6.7%.

The U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, breaks unemployment rates into 372 Metropolitan Statistical Areas. Our MSA, which includes Fayetteville, Springdale, Rogers, and Bentonville, is ranked #43 out of the 372 areas. This is concrete proof that the economy in NW Arkansas is far better than the majority of the country.

Companies are hiring, especially in construction/trade, transportation and utilities sectors. Service sectors, i.e., professional, business, leisure, and hospitality services, also have shrinking unemployment rates. Government services is another area showing recovery.

Rising employment is exactly what’s needed to get the housing market moving again. People will soon rediscover the many good points about living in NW Arkansas.

Perhaps you have family and friends who would appreciate knowing what’s happening here.

Saturday, April 02, 2011

Fayetteville Square Has Free Wi-Fi Access for the First Day of Farmer’s Market

Today’s the day. Free Wi-Fi Internet access for Fayetteville Square. Cox Communications volunteered to install the transmitters necessary for the interconnected network. Plans were to have everything ready to coincide with the first day of Farmer’s Market today, Saturday, April 2.

I think this is terrific. Many other cities now have publicly sponsored hot spots. It’s nice to think of our quaint downtown Fayetteville Square keeping up with the technology that so many people rely on these days. It wasn’t too many years ago when something like this would have been laughed at as science fiction. Now Fayetteville can offer speedy connections to everyone: vacationers, students, and business people alike.

Just adds to the quality of life in Fayetteville.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

University of Arkansas-Fayetteville Receives More First-Class Recognition

The U of A has just been recognized as being among the top public law schools in the country according to the U.S. News and World Report 2012 edition of America’s Best Graduate Schools. In ranking the School of Law, U. S. News methodology included a peer assessment score as well as assessments by lawyers and judges. Other factors included student/faculty ratio, post-graduation employment rates, and bar exam passage rates.

And the recognition was not limited to the law school. The full-time Master of Business Administration program in the Walton College at U of A was also ranked high, as was the part-time MBA program. Both full-time and part-time programs are listed in the top tier of their categories nationally: full-time program ranked 51st and the part-time program ranked 50th among both private and public institutions.

U.S. News went on to rank U of A’s rehabilitation counseling program in the College of Education and Health Professions as among the top 22 nationally. Specifically, it ranked as #14 among public universities and #16 when private universities are included in the tally.

The industrial engineering graduate program of College of Engineering was also ranked high - 25th among all graduate programs in the country. When compared only with other public universities, its ranking moves up to #18.

All this means that, again, U of A is recognized as top-notch. It’s heartening to see the high quality faculty and students recognized for their hard work and that work translates to meeting the economic, social and education needs of Arkansas at the highest level.

For more information: U of A Newswire

Sunday, February 27, 2011

University of Arkansas Earns Highest Ranking from Carnegie Foundation

Good News! U of A has just announced that the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching has upgraded the university’s status to the highest possible rating for research. Prior to the latest announcement, U of A was ranked in the next-highest classification.

For many years, Carnegie Foundation’s rankings have been broadly recognized as the standard categorization of accredited U.S. universities and colleges. Thus, this ranking further enhances U of A’s status and reputation throughout our state, our country and beyond.

The Carnegie Foundation based the classification on data from 2008-2010 in such areas as research expenditures and results, staffing, and doctoral conferrals. After examining 4,633 institutes of higher learning, Carnegie placed U of A in the top group which includes only 108 universities. Within the 108, the Foundation does not rank any one school as better than any other.

A ranking such as this helps in numerous ways – directly and indirectly. It will provide an important boost to recruitment of more top-notch researchers and superior students. As the quantity and quality of U of A’s research projects become increasingly recognized, more research grants will be received. And that means big benefits to NW Arkansas’ economy. Higher salaries equates to greater spending power in all categories from housing to restaurants, to shopping malls and groceries, houses of worship, ad infinitum.

It’s just a circle of good no matter how one looks at it.

I’ve known for some time that U of A programs and courses of study are top notch. I have a master’s in political science from U of A and I’m now taking classes in the Journalism department. The locals have known all along about U of A’s status. It’s a pleasure for me to help spread the good news. At last—it’s not a matter of “thank goodness for Mississippi” any more.

For more information, check the U of A announcement.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Census Results for Northwest Arkansas

The results are in and it’s good news for Northwest Arkansas.

Fayetteville now has 73,580 people, a growth of 26.8% since the 2000 Census.

Springdale grew to 69,797 residents, an increase of 52.4%.

Bentonville’s growth of 78.9% topped all the cities in Arkansas. Its population is now 35,301.

Rogers experienced a 44.1% increase to bring its population to 55,964.

Little Bella Vista isn’t so little any more. It now boasts 26,461 people, an increase of 59.6%.

These are huge increases in a short ten-year span. To put them in perspective, total population in all of Arkansas increased by 9.1%. Little Rock, the state capitol located in Pulaski County, increased 5.7 percent, from 183,133 in 2000 to 193,524 in 2010.

Pulaski County itself grew 5.9%.

Benton County, which includes Bentonville and Rogers, is now home to 221,339 people. That’s a 44.3% increase.

Washington County, which includes Fayetteville and Springdale, now has 203,065 people, a growth rate of 28.8%.

It would appear Benton and Washington Counties are the driving force for growth in Arkansas.

As required by law, legislative districts must be redrawn after each ten-year census. The state must ensure that population in each of the districts is equal within 1% variation.

The result is that the geographical area of Congressional District #3 will shrink. It now includes Benton, Boone, Carroll, Crawford, Franklin, Johnson, Madison, Marion, Newton, Pope, Sebastian, and Washington Counties.

Arkansas has usually kept counties intact when drawing districts. Looks like that practice will have to be replaced with some counties being split for the first time.

So, change happens. All in all, the growth is good news for NW Arkansas. As our population grows, so does our influence and clout.

Let’s face it. No one wants to move to a declining area.

For more information: Census Bureau Website

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

What’s Happening to the Mortgage Interest Deduction for Homeowners?

The Obama administration is trying, once again, to limit the amount of interest taxpayers can deduct when itemizing deductions on their federal income tax returns. One option would exclude citizens from deducting interest payments on second residences, home equity loans or mortgages over $500,000.

Similar proposals have been made in the past two years but Congress did not approve the cuts.

Home ownership has been the American dream since long before I was born. The income tax deduction for mortgage interest is what makes ownership possible for many people.

Perhaps not in Arkansas as much as, let’s say, California or several other states, a $500,000 home is not a mansion. Indeed, it is more the norm for average families.

Everyone knows our country is deeply in debt. We must find sensible ways to cut spending and increase income. I just don’t believe homing in on average people trying to live a decent life in America is the way to do it.

Our government spent billions of dollars in “bailout” funds to big businesses, large banks, and other large firms which were deemed “too important to fail.” It continues to spend billions on unpopular wars. Does that somehow equate to letting American families fail?

Usually I prefer to not get too political here in my blog, but I must speak out. Yes, the current proposal to limit interest deductions is for mostly high-income people with high dollar homes, but where will it stop? It is one of the few deductions that “normal” middle class people have. The deduction has been around since 1913. That’s 98 years of helping families to stop paying endless rent and instead own their own homes.

The National Association of Realtors has indicated that the interest deduction is one factor bringing stability to the housing market. Limiting it at this time will create serious problems for consumers and worsen the entire real estate market. The trickle-down effect could be catastrophic.

For more information:

Realty Times
Fox News

Friday, January 28, 2011

NW Arkansas Bike Trails

Joining bike trails from Fayetteville to Bella Vista is closer to reality due to a grant from the Department of Transportation. $15 million will be provided through the “Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery Program.”

Fayetteville, Bentonville and other NW Arkansas towns have already created many existing bicycle trails. But the idea now is to join them all. Read More.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Walmart Jumps on the Healthy Food Bandwagon

Walmart bashing is fashionable in some circles, but credit and recognition should be given when earned. They have made some excellent decisions in recent years, such as promoting sustainability and introducing “green” features in their stores.

Now Walmart has jumped on Michelle Obama’s healthy eating bandwagon. This bodes well in the fight to reduce childhood obesity and put healthier food on family dinner tables across the nation.

Our giant neighbor in Bentonville sells more groceries by far than any other retailer. Sheer size alone gives Walmart tremendous clout. It frequently pulls the strings that cause entire industries to shift priorities, such as recent labeling changes on their Great Value label and encouragement of other products to do the same.

Here’s a summary of what Walmart plans to accomplish by 2015:

*Reformulate packaged food to reduce salt by 25% and sugar by 10%.
*Remove all trans fats and hydrogenated oils from processed foods.
*Reduce prices on fresh fruits and vegetables.
*Lower prices on healthy-choice items such as whole-wheat pasta and low-sodium canned goods.
*Build stores in poor areas that don’t have grocery stores.
*Develop a logo for healthier items to make them easy to identify.

That’s quite an agenda for the next four years. Making food healthier while keeping the taste Americans have come to love will take a tremendous effort.

On the other hand, rarely does Walmart do anything that won’t make them more money in the long run. But this time the public good and their healthy food initiative may have common goals. The only other necessary ingredient is the average American--who also needs to jump on the bandwagon.

For more information:

Arkansas Business

Bloomberg News


Washington Post