Fayetteville Arkansas, University of Arkansas--Old Main Overview

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

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.