Just like it was yesterday…..

A lot has happened over the past twelve years.  I have met survivors of the September 11 attacks, and I have met those that lost family and friends that day.  Everyone I meet has a story about September 11, 2001.

I remember it just like it was yesterday and still cannot believe that  twelve years ago today, Osama Bin Laden & company perpetrated the single largest attack ever on American soil.  They targeted the heart of our financial centers, and the heart of our military command.   Their plan was to bankrupt America and watch us tear ourselves apart from within.  (Note: Their plan is still in place)

Everyone remembers what they were doing that morning.  I was having a cup of coffee when the news broke out on the TV.  Then my phone rang.  It was by Broker/Sales Manager/Mentor, Sandi Sharpe.

Over the years, Sandi acquired many friends through working with international college students.  She was their family away from home.  She was “Mom” to many.   One family, from Uzbekistan, bought a new Ole South home and became extended family to all of us.

The grandmother of this family had spent the summer in Nashville to help her grandchildren get properly settled in their new home.  She knew no English whatsoever, but was very easy to communicate with.  After all, a smile means the same thing in every language.  All of us loved her, and her family, dearly.

She was returning home to Uzbekistan on September 11th on the first flight to New York from Nashville.  She was armed with basic signs that Sandi made to hold up when she arrived in NYC.  With her smile, and those signs, she would never be lost…. well, as long as the plane landed in NYC.

But it didn’t.  The flight was routed to Raleigh, NC.  She did not understand any of the announcements, and only had her signs, which were useless in Raleigh.  The airline personnel at the gate calmed her and checked her in a nearby hotel, but none of us knew that yet.  Sandi was on the phone many hours before we knew the situation and that she was safe.  In the meantime, she is in a strange location, in a hotel room, knowing only what pictures were shown on TV.

The grandson was loading up for a drive to Raleigh, which probably was not the safest thing for an olive-skin immigrant, with a name too long to pronounce, to be doing that day.  Rumors of fuel shortages and curfews abound.  There was nothing else to do but go with him to Raleigh.

Long story short, I will never forget the look on the grandmother’s face when she opened the hotel door and saw us standing there.  She was in tears pointing at the TV.  She had been terrified not knowing where she was, or why she was there.  That fear turned to joy and relief as we loaded her things into the car and headed back to Nashville!

That day, America pulled together.  Democrats and Republicans joined together without unnecessary drama and rallied around our President.  America would prevail.

At least for a while.  Then we would eventually forget.

Remember, the intention of Osama Bin Bastard and Company was to bankrupt our country and watch us destroy ourselves from within.  They did not have a specific time frame in mind.   Even with Osama dead, his movement and ambitions seem to be alive and well.

Fast-Forward to today and look around.  What do you see?  Democrats and Republicans constantly battling each other.  America debating involvement in yet another foreign conflict.  We are slowly emerging from a recession that did not discriminate.  Everyone has been affected, financially and otherwise.

The United States has always served in the role of “world police” for humanity?  We have always ended up being the “protector” of human rights in world conflicts.  If not us, who will be?  Russia is hardly qualified to sincerely step up to the role.  Maybe it is their turn now?  That’s a question I cannot answer but I do know that world peace is a very complicated objective with many moving parts.

Where would the world be if Saddam Hussein had been allowed to remain in power?  Where would the world be if Osama Bin Laden was still alive?  Great questions to ponder.   I can say that if Adolph Hitler had been taken out when he invaded Poland, World War II would have been averted.

Regardless of your political preference, now is the time to encourage elected officials to put politics aside and pull this country together.   This country has the resolve to fix our problems and its not supposed to be about ”who will get the credit or blame.”   We don’t elect people to find blame, we elect people to find solutions… or at least that is supposed to be the plan.

It is our obligation not to forget what happened to our country on September 11th.  It is also our obligation to remember the sacrifices of countless people, that day, and every day since.  If we choose not to remember, Osama Bin Bastard & Company wins.  We will be bankrupt and will have destroyed our country from within.

You know, we are still having tough times in this country but until you see people wading off of Miami Beach preparing to swim to Cuba, there’s still time to get it right.

Trey Lewis is a licensed Real Estate Broker in the State of Tennessee with Ole South Realty, 615.896.0019  direct 615.593.6340 and VP Sales for Tennessee’s largest home builder, OleSouth.com, specializing in new homes in the Greater Nashville area to include Nashville, Murfreesboro, Smyrna, Gallatin, Clarksville, and Spring Hill, Tennessee

The Fiscal Cliff….. 1 – 2 – 3 …… Jump!

Last week, it was to be the end of the World, according to the Mayan calendar.  Did anyone stop long enough to think that there might be another page stashed somewhere?

If we just have our 2012 calendar hanging on the wall, and weren’t fortunate enough to get a 2013 calendar for Christmas, does this mean the world ends on December 31?

Now the news media and Congress jump on the band wagon and relate the looming fiscal cliff to the end of our financial world.  Taxes will go up overnight and spending cuts, however those are defined these days, will go into effect.  The end of the world?  Hardly.

The fiscal cliff scenario may actually be a well-orchestrated plan.  Democrats have been drooling for higher taxes for years while Republicans continuously demand spending cuts.  Does anyone in their right mind think the budget compromise that created the “fiscal cliff” measures was thought to never become a reality?

Both political parties get what they want, and they get to blame the other party for whatever happens.  That my friends is “win-win, Washington style.”

In the meantime, what can we do?

If you are waiting for the window of opportunity for home ownership to open wider, you need not wait any longer.  At some point in the future, the Fed will stop buying mortgage bonds and begin selling.  When the free market enters, interest rates will go up.  They cannot  conceivably go any lower.

Plus, mortgage interest and real estate taxes remain tax deductible.   If you are worried about your future employment, your home is much safer owning than renting.  Landlords have a tendency to evict quicker than banks will foreclose!

Make your plans now to watch the fiscal cliff debacle unfold from your own new home, if you are able.

The fiscal cliff needs to happen.  Current well-meaning government programs provide incentives for people to continue their dependence on them.  They actually should deter.  Enacting the fiscal cliff measures would be the first financially responsible thing Congress has done to take our financial future seriously.

Let’s watch them mess this up too!

“Questionable Spending” – from Capitol Hill to Rocky Top

There are always two sides to every story, and both sides rarely receive equal consideration when the story is told, most especially the way the story is told.

Such is the case with NewsChannel 5 Investigative Reporter Phil Williams’ relentless pursuit of one of the most efficient agency models in state government, the Tennessee Housing & Development Agency, or THDA for short.

The investigative reporter even suggests their motto “Leading Tennessee Home” should unofficially be the song “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun,” a humourous twist that got viewers and lawmakers’ attention, but certainly not the true picture of the agency, its employees, and accomplishments.

Former THDA Director Ted Fellman arrived at THDA in November 2005.  His leadership transformed the agency from a beaurocratic behemoth to a well-oiled machine.  I have been in Real Estate since 2000 and have observed the agency evolve first-hand.

What used to take weeks to process now is accomplished in 24 hours or less.  The THDA staff gets the job done rather than “pass the buck” to someone else in another area, which we have all experienced in dealing with government agencies.

THDA employees take their job seriously and enjoy it.  You will see them speaking at Rotary Clubs at 7:00 am as well as Realtor and other functions late in the evening.  They believe in their organization.  They believe in their mission.  They produce results.

I know this not only from past experience, but from proudly serving on THDA’s Realtor Advisory Board.  The agency is constantly reaching out to the public sector for input and ideas on how their organization can make an even larger difference in the lives of Tennesseans.  In THDA offices, you can feel a spirit of cooperation and teamwork among everyone there.

Ted Fellman brought a culture to THDA that produced results.  Experts agree that incorporating FUN into the workplace dramatically increases productivity.

CLICK HERE FOR DETAILS http://www.robinthompson.com/makingworkfun.htm

Instead of public ridicule from a TV station, Ted Fellman and the Staff of THDA deserve a sincere THANK YOU for becoming a nationwide model for effective housing finance agencies.  If the rest of the country recognizes this, why can’t we?  That’s the side of the story that needs to be told.

SEE MORE ABOUT RECENT THDA AWARD HERE  http://tn-tennesseehda.civicplus.com/archives/41/NCSHA%20Awards.pdf

Moving forward,  THDA Director Ralph Perrey needs everyone’s support.  The agency has accomplished so much for Tennessee and its productiveness need not be hampered in any way from outside sources.

Even though THDA does not spend taxpayer dollars and derives its revenue from other sources, Phil Williams did bring attention to the fact that those dollars were public dollars, which is a very valid point.

The public dollars that were spent by THDA on team-building exercises and employee rewards actually increased productivity.

That said, let’s go to Knoxville and investigate the spending habits of the University of Tennessee, where the spending of public dollars has not increased productivity.

One doesn’t have to go far….a severance package of $5 million for a football coach, who knows how much severance for Assistant Coaches, etc.  What about the salaries for the replacements?  And what do they do for fun?

They will say they are not spending taxpayer dollars, but revenue generated from the “program.”

Just like THDA does, except no one is going to question a thing….ever.  Not even Phil.

In response to allegations, THDA Director Ralph Perrey says the agency is only going to spend money on what make sense for its mission and eliminate anything questionable that lawmakers would not understand.

It would be much easier to eliminate what they do understand.  Enough said.

Trey Lewis is a licensed Real Estate Broker in the State of Tennessee with Ole South Realty, 615.896.0019  direct 615.593.6340.  Specializing in new home sales in the Greater Nashville area to include Nashville, Murfreesboro, Smyrna, Gallatin, Clarksville, and Spring Hill, Tennessee.

Election 2012: Its all about the trough.

The current political state of our country sickens me.  Everyone just has to blame somebody.  Thank goodness for George Bush.  Without him, Democrats and Republicans alike would have no one to blame.

And they all say “after this election things will be different.”  Everybody that runs for anything says it, and has been saying it for years.  Now days, they simply make up facts as they go to substantiate their position.  Why tell the truth when a good lie will do?

And we, the American Electorate, don’t seem to care.  If we really did, things might change.

It is all about the trough.

Even the most sincere elected officials are corrupted by the trough.  They arrive on the scene with the best of intentions.  Then they see the trough.  “If another state, or special interest group, is grazing at the trough..then mine should too.”

So, the candidate you should vote for is the one that will get the trough money to the one that will do YOU the most good.  But first, think about a few key issues:

1)     The MEGA-RICH people that actually have the ability to do whatever they want without consequence, will NOT pay any tax they do not want to pay.  They have the ability to take their marbles and go home.  They can shut down their factories and they can hoard their money.  They don’t have to invest if they don’t want to.  They can hunker down and ride out any storm without missing any cocktail parties.

2)     The “rich” actually make affordable housing a reality for many families that would otherwise be homeless.  Ever heard of the “Low Income Housing Tax Credit?”  LIHTC for short.  Read about it here.

3)     The “rich” are also the ones that fund tax-free bonds that finance the homes that many families live in.  In Tennessee, a family of 3+ with household income less than 92,680 can purchase a $275,000 home under down-payment assistance programs that these tax-free bonds make possible.

A QUESTION…..

Do we really want to close all of the tax loopholes that benefit the rich?

Most of us probably consider our employers “rich.”  Do we really want government taking more from them, leaving less for them to invest in us?

I for one take great comfort knowing that my employer has more money than I do.  If that weren’t the case, I would be very uncomfortable.  Therefore, I am not for anything that would lessen his financial abilities.

One thing for certain, nothing substantial in government will ever change until we hide the trough, or quit refilling it!

Is the Gallon of Gas a Republican or Democrat?

The 2012 Election is going to be an interesting one for sure.

For one thing, the Republican Party is failing to put forth a candidate that can unite and energize that party.  It is almost as if their plan has always been to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.  Who knows, deep down they really may not want to win.  Who could really blame them?  It really is more fun to bitch than it is to actually do something.

The Democratic Party is faring no better.  Either they don’t want to win again, or they really don’t get it.  I’m not sure which.

Along comes the gallon of gas.  Crude prices are again falling, yet the price per gallon continues to rise.  What was spent for the tummy now goes to the tank.  I’ve heard people say that $5.00 per gallon gas is the best candidate the Republicans have.  After all, Americans always vote their pockets…..right?

MOST of the time, but this time could be different.

Higher gas prices have helped our flegling automobile industry.  Newer cars are more efficient and they are selling.  Idled factories are coming back to life.  I actually saw a Chevy Volt in real life this week and was impressed.  Not enough to buy one just yet though.

I am sure many rushed to the local dealer before filing their taxes, just to take advantage of the $7500 credit.  Others that might be upside down with their home mortgage also followed as well, not just for the tax credit, but with the hopes the car might catch on fire and burn their house down.

High gas prices have also helped many urban area real estate markets – the only place the “Live-Work-Play” concept has ever stood a chance.  Today’s higher gas prices are forcing people to live closer to where they work.  The “Live-Work-Play” concept just may work after all… as long as employers can stay in business.

Which brings me to the economy.  It seems the Democrats really don’t want to be in control either.  Whenever things start to improve, they rush to botch it up.    As the fear of higher interest rates spur home buying activity, they issue statements that the Fed rate will remain unchanged for years.  As home sales still continue to improve, they hurry to increase the cost of Mortgage Insurance.  As employment numbers rise, lets add more costs to employers.  Yeah, that’ll work.

If I had the ability to print money, I could have already solved our economic problems.  Why is it taking so long?

The reality is the economy would fix itself in time anyway.  The lions share of the new printed money went to the wrong people.  Thats nothing new.  Neither party has yet to corner the market on greed.

In the meantime, get ready for drama.  One side will attempt to convince us just how bad things are.  The other side will counter with how bad things could be.  They will collect all the money they can to further their cause.  And when Election 2012 is over, they will all go back to their dressing rooms, break bread, have some laughs and begin preparing for the next round.

In the meantime, there will be one clear winner either way….the gallon of gas.

Election 2012: NO MAS! (at least for a little while)

That’s right, NO MORE blog posts about politics…. at least not for a little while!   Well, maybe just one more thing…..

I am really sick of hearing about how bad Warren Buffett feels about not paying enough taxes.  If he really wants to pay more, he should.  He does everything else that he wants to do.

What makes me madder is the comparison projected to world that his secretary pays a higher percentage of her income in taxes than he does.  I am sure without a doubt that is the truth.

I also am sure of something else.  If she wanted to open her own business and risk her own capital, she too could pay a lesser percentage.  Considering the braintrust she is surrounded by, I am certain she has many opportunities to take chances.

She makes the choice to pay more percentage in taxes.  Don’t feel sorry for her.  By the way, everyone has that opportunity as well!

OK, I’m done now.

For the next week, I’ll be in southern Honduras with other Middle Tennessee Rotarians from District 6760 on our annual “mission” trip.  This year, in addition to bringing electricity to remote villages, we will be helping families build back homes that were lost in last year’s hurricane season.

This will be my sixth year to participate in the project.  This year, eight of us will be going on behalf of the Rotary Club of Spring Hill.  Two of us are representing Ole South Properties also.  We’ll even get to watch the Super Bowl broadcasted in Spanish again.  Oh joy!

To read of last year’s trip, CLICK HERE 

Several have criticized me for posting a blog about being out of town and leaving Beth vulnerable.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  She has a gun, and this year, a vicious dog.  “Ain’t nothin gonna happen!”

P.S.  I hope it is cold and snows while we are gone.   :0)

Election 2012: The Ground Hog – what does he think?

First off, please forgive me.  The main purpose of this blog is to give an informative, yet humorous look at life in Nashville, the new homes that are built around it, and just how fun and easy it is to purchase one.   But lately, I’ve drifted into other topics, with one being someplace I should know better going…politics!

Ground Hog Day has always made me laugh.  Its just another “Hallmark” moment to commercialize something, in this case a small town in Pennsylvania.  I’ve never been there and I’m sure Ol’ Phil brings lots of revenue to them each year.  Seriously folks, who really cares whether he sees his shadow or not?  Odds are 50/50 and we all know that Spring will evenutally arrive anyway!

Why can’t we use the ground hog for predicting things other than the weather?  After all, he’s only right 39% of the time.  Even though that is a slightly better percentage than the modern-day weather-people, it’s certainly not enough to bet the farm.  Why can’t we use the ground hog just once every four years?  If nothing else, just for fun!

If the ground hog sees his shadow, he goes back in his hole.  That means we will have four more years of President Barack Obama.

And if the ground hog doesn’t see his shadow, we will elect another President in November.

Then, for more fun, let’s take our own “Groundhog Day Presidential Poll” and compare it with the ground hog prediction in November.   There are already election polls conducted for every imaginable reason, so why not?  And just like the weather, we do know that some body will get elected, except we already know WHEN it will be.  We just don’t know WHO!

Thanks for participating!  You can rest assured that no one, including me, can tell who you voted for…I promise!

By the way, you can CLICK HERE for the history of Ground Hog Day.