Thursday, March 22, 2012
This is one quick example relative to Central Ohio.
Whether renting is better than buying depends on many factors, particularly how fast prices and rents rise and how long you stay in your home. Compare the costs of buying and renting a home in the calculator below.
From the Columbus Board of Realtors:
Home sale prices strengthen in Central Ohio
(Mar. 21, 2012) Sale prices for homes sold in central Ohio last month showed a healthy increase over the previous year. The average sale price of $151,072 was 7.3 percent higher than in February of 2011, and 5.7 percent higher than the previous month according to the Columbus Board of REALTORS®.
“Buyer activity has been up while seller activity has dipped slightly,” said Jim Coridan, President of the Columbus Board of REALTORS®. “Given the market conditions over the past couple years, sellers have been a bit reluctant to engage. But that could soon change as we head into the stronger spring selling season and the shifting landscape begins to register with well-informed homeowners looking to move.”
Central Ohio housing sales were up in February for the second month in a row. The 1,215 sales showed an 8.0 percent increase over the previous month and a 5.0 percent increase over February of 2011.
In addition, contracts for residential homes and condos jumped 21.7 percent over the previous month and were 57.4 percent higher than the same time last year.
Click here to read the full report.
Tuesday, March 20, 2012
Lawyer's trial on IRS charges under way
By Kathy Lynn Gray
The Columbus Dispatch Tuesday March 20, 2012 8:29 PM
Waving a single slice of bread, defense attorney Dennis A. Lieberman said the government’s case against his client is that thin.
Pulling out the rest of the bread, he urged a federal jury to concentrate on the whole loaf as it considers the fate of Worthington attorney Aristotle “Rick” R. Matsa.
His trial began in front of U.S. District Judge Edmund A. Sargus Jr. in Columbus on Monday and is expected to last as long as five weeks.
Legal wrangling has repeatedly postponed the trial. Seven years ago, the Internal Revenue Service began investigating Matsa in connection with his Short North law practice, his architectural firm and other businesses he ran.
A federal grand jury indicted him in 2009 and 2010 on charges of obstructing justice and IRS laws, witness tampering, tax fraud and conspiracy. The IRS has not released a total tax-loss amount for the case.
Today, tax preparer Joseph Merrelli testified that Matsa paid no taxes during most of the more than 20 years that Merrelli prepared his returns. Merrelli said Matsa provided his income, deductions and other tax information over the phone during all but one year and did not provide documentation for the information.
He said Matsa used losses from his businesses and rental properties to offset declared income. Merrelli said he dropped Matsa as a client in 2002 because he believed he was lying about his finances.
Matsa’s first wife, Stephanie Brooks, also testified. During the nearly two years they were married in 1984 and 1985, her husband did not allow her to have bank accounts in her name and was secretive about the couple’s finances, she said.
“The only way I could have any money was to ask Rick for some,” Brooks said. She said before they married he had her sign a prenuptial agreement and “about 10” documents she didn’t read that contained numerous blank sections.
“He said, ‘If you love me, you’ll sign them,’” she testified.
Federal charges say that Matsa changed names on bank accounts to disguise income and assets and thus avoid paying income taxes for all but one year from 1993 to 2002.
Matsa also is accused of setting up trusts and paying trust interest to individuals or accounts outside the country to avoid paying U.S. income tax.
Investigators said that he withheld records from the grand jury, lied to the grand jury and to investigators, and convinced other grand-jury witnesses to lie.
If convicted, Matsa, of Park Overlook Drive, could be sentenced to 90 years in prison, ordered to pay back taxes and fined $5 million.
Matsa’s mother, Loula Z. Matsa of Worthington, was indicted and charged in 2010 with one count of conspiracy to obstruct justice. She’s being tried jointly with her son.
Matsa’s former law-firm colleague, George Z. Pappas of Urbana in Champaign County, pleaded guilty in 2010 to making a false statement to the government. Pappas admitted during a hearing that he had lied to the grand jury about Matsa and Matsa’s law firm.
Maria Galloway, who runs a Short North art gallery, pleaded guilty in December to lying to government investigators and a federal grand jury about dealings with Matsa.
Galloway has rented space at 726 N. High St. from Matsa since she opened the gallery in 1980. Matsa’s law offices were in the same building.
Investigators said that Galloway and Matsa agreed in 2006 to lie to IRS agents and to the grand jury about who owned the building and Matsa’s law firm and about tax returns and other documents Galloway signed.
Thursday, March 15, 2012
Upset about defects in your brand-new house?
You now have more ammunition to sue the homebuilder, if it comes to that.
The Ohio Supreme Court ruled yesterday that builders must construct “workmanlike” houses, regardless of whether buyers sign contracts limiting what problems the builders have to fix.
The 7-0 decision means two Canal Winchester couples can press ahead with claims that houses they bought in 2004 were magnetized — likely during construction — causing problems with their TVs, cordless phones and computer hard drives.
A Franklin County judge and the Franklin County Court of Appeals ruled in favor of Centex Homes in recent years, saying warranties signed by the couples did not include magnetization of the houses’ steel framing among a list of problems to be repaired if needed.
But the high court reversed and, without addressing the merits of the magnetic-field allegations, said the couples should have a chance to make their case to a jury.
Builders have a baseline obligation to construct houses in a “workmanlike manner using ordinary care,” Justice Paul E. Pfeifer wrote.
“The duty does not require builders to be perfect, but it does establish a standard of care below which builders may not fall without being subject to liability, even if a contract with the home buyer purports to relieve the builder of that duty.”
In 2004, couples Paul Jones and Latosha Sanders and Eric and Ginger Estep each paid around $145,000 for new houses built by Centex in Canal Winchester.
After they moved into the homes, they said they discovered that their TV screens were distorted. Cordless phones ran into interference. Computer hard drives were corrupted.
No one is saying exactly how the alleged magnetic fields occurred. Two ways to create a magnet are hammering metal in a north-south direction or passing an electrical current through it.
The ruling — while involving an odd, apparently rare issue — will have implications statewide and shift some power to buyers of brand-new houses.
“Every other purchaser of a new home in Ohio can be assured of protection they didn’t have before,” said Steve Edwards, attorney for the couples.
Centex’s attorney, Michael Long, had no comment, and a message seeking comment was left with the Ohio Home Builders Association, which filed a friend-of-the-court brief along with the National Association of Home Builders.
The groups had argued that warranties give builders certainty when pricing their houses. Without predictability in sales contracts, they said, newly built houses would become more expensive.
Messages seeking comment were left with the couples.
Edwards said the couples were able to resolve their TV-signal problems by buying flat-screen TVs. He said he did not know if they had found ways around the phone and computer issues.
“They’re left with houses I don’t think anyone would buy,” Edwards said.
Centex, now a part of Pulte Homes, one of the country’s largest homebuilders, once was active in central Ohio but exited the market in 2007.
Wednesday, March 14, 2012
Sunday, March 11, 2012
Schools push up property values
Hoping to raise more tax revenue, districts appeal low appraisalsBy Lucas Sullivan
The Columbus Dispatch Sunday March 11, 2012 5:48 AM
Through February, school districts had filed more than double the number of complaints contesting property values set by the Franklin County auditor’s office than they filed in all of last year.
The districts want the property values raised so they can collect more tax dollars. To show that property is undervalued, they hire lawyers who seek out commercial and industrial properties that were sold at a price higher than the value set by Auditor Clarence Mingo.
School districts had filed 447 complaints through February, compared with 262 complaints last year. April 2 is the deadline for complaining about current property values.
The Columbus school district has paid attorney Jeff Rich about $1 million in the past five years to chase down about $10 million in taxes through complaints filed in tax years 2007 through 2011, according to the school district’s data. That revenue is expected to grow by at least a few million as outstanding complaints are settled.
A dozen other area school districts that also retain Rich — including Bexley, Dublin, Gahanna, Groveport, Hilliard and Olentangy — have recouped a total of $30 million during that same period.
“This is about educating our children, and we make sure everyone pays their fair share,” Rich said. “Someone needs to keep them accountable and honest, and that’s why we’re here.”
The method he and other lawyers use is simple: They gather records of recent so-called arm’s-length property sales — meaning no special deals were involved — and compare them with the auditor’s appraised value. If the discrepancy is large enough, they file a complaint with the county Board of Revision on behalf of the school district.
The board increases the values in almost all cases because Ohio Supreme Court rulings have upheld that arm’s-length transactions set the value of a property.
Rich said his work benefits taxpayers because it can reduce the amount of levy funding school districts need. He said it’s rare for a district to go after a residential property, but it does happen.
His contract with Columbus schools also requires Rich to contest appeals filed by people seeking to lower their property values. State law requires auditor’s offices to notify school districts when a property owner asks to lower a value by $50,000 or more.
Little can be done to combat the school districts’ efforts, said Chuck Bluestone, a lawyer who has represented property owners in complaints. “The one thing I can do is analyze the sale of the property and see if it included the sale of personal property, like beds in a hotel, which should not be considered part of the purchase price when considering taxable value.”
Bluestone thinks school districts are going after properties they wouldn’t have pursued in past years, where the sale price was “minimally higher than that of the auditor’s value,” he said.
Some of the complaints Rich has filed ask for a $5,000 to $10,000 increase in the taxable value of the property, while others ask for increases of $400,000 to $700,000, according to documents provided by Mingo’s office.
Rich said his threshold for filing a complaint has not changed.
Mingo said school districts are just exercising their right to challenge property values.
“They are following the process that is in place, and I can assure the public every case is carefully examined by the Board of Revision and all the necessary factors are considered,” he said.
The increase in complaints does not mean the properties are valued too low, Mingo said, adding that it likely mirrors rising sale prices as the economy improves.
“You have to remember that a complaint filed this year is from a value set as of January 2011, so the market can change,” Mingo said.
It’s also not uncommon for property owners to win an appeal for a lower value through the Board of Revision and then sell the property for a significantly higher amount, triggering a complaint from school districts.
Mingo said the Board of Revision is not to blame for that, because the three-person panel bases its ruling on information available at the time.
“All we are doing here is minding the store,” Rich said. “I think Mingo’s office is doing a fine job, but he can’t catch everything.”
Friday, March 2, 2012
Top 10 Reasons to come to Gallery Hop this Saturday, March 3rd...
24th Annual Arnold Sports Festival - Columbus Convention Center
Join us in the Short North Arts District during Gallery Hop for some one-of-a-kind people watching as the Arnold Sports Festival takes over the Convention Center.
Click here for Arnold Sports Festival info including what's new in 2012.
Tomorrow's Antiques Grand Opening -
15 E 2nd Avenue
Come check out the newest business to hit the Short North! Tomorrow's Antiques celebrates their Grand Opening event from 4-10pm during Gallery Hop. Experience the latest pieces from this unique retail workshop. They'll be firing up the Victrola, player piano, vintage radios, and will also have live music. Drinks available!
Brothers Drake 1 year Anniversary - 26 E Fifth Ave
This Saturday marks ONE YEAR since Brothers Drake Meadery opened their doors in the Short North - WOW!
Thanks to Columbus and all you beautiful mead drinkers!
Join the crew for music, complimentary snacks, the new art for the month:
3pm-6pm Heather Beers and Stan Smith - Casual Classical
9pm-1am Playhouse - Electronica / House / Jazz
See who's coming!
Short North Stage - 1187 N High St
The amazingly popular Short North Stage show The Marvelous Wonderettes celebrates their finale this weekend. Don't miss your chance to see this captivating performance!
Studios on High Gallery - 686 N High St
"A Celebration of Color!"
Richly colored fabrics from exotic locations and brightly colored glass and ceramic pieces are the materials of artists JacQui Bledsoe (handbag designer) and Joan Selle Zeller (sculptor).
Both artists are energized by the hues they use and create works that celebrate color. We look forward to seeing you Saturday at Gallery Hop!
Image Optical Art Show - 846 N High St
Image Optical hosts Kate Sweeney's 365 show this Saturday during Gallery Hop from 6-10pm. Snacks & drinks provided, stop in to see this unique photography.
Rivet Gallery-15th Annual CCAD Art of Illustration 1200 N High St
Columbus College of Art and Design annually hosts a school-wide art competition called the Art of Illustration. The AOI competition is held in January and juried thereafter by a panel of professional local illustrators.
The exhibition of chosen works will be on display at Rivet during the month of March beginning on Gallery Hop Saturday from 7-10pm
Marcella's Ristorante - 615 N High St
Head to Marcella's during your Gallery Hopping for a drink and a bite to eat this Saturday. With over 50 wines to choose from and the best Italian food in town be sure to make this one of your stops. Marcella's welcomes Arnold Sports fans with extended hours all weekend long!
ROY G BIV Gallery - 997 N High St
Angie Zielinski & Christopher Greathouse
Opening Saturday during Gallery Hop at 7pm. This Exhibition supported in part by Idaho Commission on the Arts. See all the details on facebook.
Bodega - 1044 N High St
Fun, casual atmosphere with a patio! Diverse menu & diverse selection of beer on tap. Stop in during your Gallery Hop stroll for a Yuengling Traditional Lager pint for $3.50!