Daily Archives: February 3, 2006

Estate Taxes
The New York Times ran an interesting article recently on Qualified Personal Resident Trusts, or “QPRTS”. Basically, they work like this: when your spouse dies, you, assuming you hold the property in joint tenancy, get the house at a stepped up basis – that is, not what you originally paid for the house but its value at the time of your spouse’s death. Place the house in a ten year (or longer) QPERT, and keep living. At the end of ten years, title to the house passes to your children but you can continue to live there, paying rent, if you wish to pass more income downstream, or not. Your children benefit because their gift is valued at the present value of the house at the time you placed it in trust. The present value of a $2,000,000 house is far less than $2,000,000 (the IRS does the math so I don’t have to). When you die, your kids pay capital gains tax (15%) instead of inheritance tax (46%) if they sell – the Times reporter points out that for vacation homes, selling is probably not desired anyway. Best of all, everyone escapes paying taxes on the appreciation over the past ten years. I am certainly not an estate lawyer but, with the federal government and now Connecticut chomping at the bit to get at your assets, it seems sensible to consult such a lawyer and see if QPRT makes sense for you.

Synthetic Roofing
Have you seen the new “slate roofing” that’s made from recycled rubber tires? I have, but didn’t realize it until it was pointed out to me. I saw the product discussed a few years ago when “This Old House” used it for one of their projects and now I’ve done some research on the web to check it out. Pretty neat. Antique slate is used to make molds for the rubber ones which emerge looking exactly like their parents (up to seven different molds are employed so that, when randomly installed, the appearance of genuine slate is maintained). The manufacturers price the stuff at close to the price of real slate (which, according to a 2005 article I read, was $500 per square – 100 square feet- in Massachusetts). Asphalt shingles are less $200 per square. But, the synthetics look better than asphalt, come with a fifty year guarantee (and a hundred year life expectancy) and weigh about a quarter of what real slate does, so your builder doesn’t have to add extra reinforcement. Because they are so light, can be cut with a razor knife and installed with a pneumatic gun, This Old House estimates that, installed, the synthetic slate would run between $700 and $900 a square while real slate will cost $1,300 to $1,500. The same people are now making roof shingles that look like wood – same fifty year guarantee vs. ten to fifteen years for wood. I like the idea of keeping tires and old plastic hose out of landfills and, if the product serves as well or better than what it replaces, and costs half the price, how can you lose?

18 Old Wagon Road
Here’s a bargain, I think. This new construction by a really good local builder (and listed by Ellen Roth) is asking $2,195,000. A similar house by the same builder using exactly the same high-level finishes recently sold on Winthrop for around $3,100,000. Obviously, Winthrop is not Havemeyer, but then, not everyone can afford a $3,000,000 house. This one has all the luxuries you’d expect in new construction: huge eat-in-kitchen with top of the line appliances, master suite, beautiful (and expensive) trim, finished basement and so on. I like it a lot and I think it’s a good value right now. As prices in Havemeyer continue to climb, this house will look like a really good buy in retrospect.

15 Shoal Lane
Ann Simpson’s new listing on Shoal Point Lane is right on my favorite body of water, Ole’s Creek. The creek forms a “creek neighborhood” on both sides – Riverside and Old Greenwich. We fish off each other’s docks, chat up each other from kayaks and canoes and the kids swarm from yard to yard. It’s a short row or paddle to Long Island Sound, as long as you do such rowing within a couple hours of high tide. Visitors might be appalled that the water disappears twice a day but we residents know that that’s when blue herons, egrets and all sorts of other wading birds appear; I find low tide to be at least as interesting as high. Ann’s listing is in the heart of that neighborhood and if you’d like to join us here on the water, you know who to call.

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