Monthly Archives: April 2004

Where's My Homeowner's Exemption Packet?

Cook County (unlike every other county) insists on requiring homeowners to apply every year for the homeowner’s exemption on their real estate taxes. This reduces the real estate taxes by about $450.00. For years, the assessor mailed a postcard around February and had to be signed and returned. Then, just to further confuse everyone, they switched to a large 8.5 x 11 packet a few years ago.

The exemption packets have NOT been mailed yet (for the 2003 tax year) as of 4/16/04. According to the Palatine Township Assessor they should be mailed by May 1, 2004. The assessor’s website has a helpful apply online feature, but it doesn’t work until the packets are mailed.

So hang in there a few more weeks and then either download the form from the assessor’s website or fill out the form online. You have not missed the almighty exemption (yet).

Trusts and tax fraud

Several Chicago-area people were indicted on tax fraud charges (right before 4/15 tax day) for selling expensive domestic and off-shore trusts to avoid income tax. Aegis Co. sold trusts at $10,000 to $75,000 per package. Clients funneled money through a series of trusts with the promise that the funds would be tax-free on returning to the client. They also deducted personal expenses as business expenses. Homes were written off as “world headquarters” of the business (thereby deducting as an expense everything related to the house including utilities, vacations and kids’ tuition).

For a good summary of why you should ALWAYS avoid any trust that claims to free you from income tax try the quatloos site that does a great job at summarizing tax scams.

Savings Bonds in Living Trust

Savings Bonds many times are missed in the living trust “funding” process. Clients forget about them or they think it’s too much of a hassle to transfer the bonds to their trust. If title to the bonds is not properly transferred to the client’s new living trust, and the bonds exceed $50,000 in value at death, a probate will be necessary.

It’s really pretty easy to transfer savings bonds to a living trust. Here’s what you do:

1. Round up all your original bonds;
2. Fill out form 1851 from the Dept. of Treasury;
3. Send the bonds and form by federal express to the Dept. of Treasury.

In about three weeks they will return your bonds registered in the name of your living trust.

Note: Many times the bonds are so old they are not paying interest. You can check the value of the bonds using the online savings bond calculator.

The Next Bucktown?

First the boom areas in Chicago were Bucktown and Wicker Park, then Logan Square and Humboldt Park (which is now considered pricey)…now the big, new areas are Englewood and Garfield Park. The Tribune, in an excellent story, reports how these poor areas increasingly are home to 20 and 30 year old real estate bargain hunters. At the same time poorer, longtime residents are being hurt by increasing real estate taxes.

I’m not trying to rain on the parade, but the Chicago Reporter at the beginning of 2003 said that the Harrison, Austin and Marquette police districts on the West Side (that encompass these neghborhoods) represesented less than 1/5 of the city’s population but had 40% of Chicago’s murders.

The Reporter story says jobs and education will change these areas, not extra police (or, for that matter, Costco-trained suburbanites seeking condo bargains).

Internet Loans: Front Row Seat on the Titanic

I caution Buyers NOT to obtain a mortgage loan to buy their house over the internet. It may be okay to get an internet loan if you are refinancing, but even then I would be wary.

An internet loan is like a front row seat on the Titanic. I represent a Seller now and his Buyer got (tried to get, is more like it) an internet loan from a broker in New York. The closing has been set and cancelled three times, because the internet lender can’t get it together and doesn’t understand our closing system here in Illinois. Don’t get me wrong, I love the internet, but it doesn’t work in a mortgage loan setting. You need a reputable local mortgage broker for mortgage. Someone that you can talk to and who knows how the system works here.