A modest transfer tax proposal

There was a story in the N&O recently concerning the NC Association of Realtors fight against allowing County Commissioners the authority to impose a transfer tax on real estate.

The Realtors claim it is a tax on the American Dream. They've spent hundreds of thousands of dollars convincing state legislators that the people just won't stand for a tax that increases the costs for homebuyers.

They fail to point out that this bill only allows County Commissioners the authority. It does not pass a tax.

The Realtors argue that a 1% tax on real estate transfers is a tax on equity. They also, somewhat inconsistently, claim it will increase the cost of homes by 1%. (Either it taxes equity or it taxes the purchaser, which is it?)

The argument is disingenuous, yes. Ingenious? Also yes.

So here's an idea to cut them off at the knees. Amend the bill. Cap the potential transfer tax at 1%. Counties cannot go any higher. In return, include a provision that caps the percentage of a sale price which can be taken by a real estate professional at 5%.

Couties get their tax, with no net effect on the bottom line of the either the homeseller's equity or the amount the homebuyer has to spend to buy the American Dream.

Call their bluff. If they are truly concerned about our equity or housing affordability, they won't have any objection to this. If they are more concerned about their own bottom line, the truth will be revealed.

Comments

whaddya think?

Even if it would never pass, it would be a hell of a PR shot, wouldn't it?

"85% of Republicans are Democrats who don't know what's going on." -Robert Kennedy, Jr.

"Man is free at the moment he wishes to be." -Voltaire

count me in.

As soon as I read the title of your piece in Track Changes I thought "He's going to suggest capping their fee at 5%". If we can think of this, why can't our legislators?

John Edwards is great!
- Sam Spencer, BlueNC, 7/3/07

Jesus Swept ticked me off. Too short. I loved the characters and then POOF it was over.
-me

Ha!

Our legislators know who has the money to bury them! If you think the Real Estate people are pressuring the Lege now, just imagine what would happen if they made that proposal? You do realize we'd be asking the realtors to cut their gross income by 16%, and their expenses would still be the same - imagine the effect on their bottom line!

But I love the idea, too.

I'm in

If they are truly concerned about our equity or housing affordability . . .

Maybe in some other universe.

Damn...works for me

We just (keep your fingers crossed until the 16th) sold our home and after putting in new carpet, paying $3000 closing costs for buyer - almost a given in this price range, RE fees (earned every penny), etc......we are barely making anything. Our agent says that's common in this price range. One more tax/fee and we would have had to decline this offer until we found someone who didn't need so much in closing costs.

I'm also for a combination of impact fees/transfer taxes that takes pressure off sale of existing homes and puts the burden on new development. I just don't know enough about how all that works to speak intelligently about it, so have kinda stayed quiet on this.

I do wish folks would stop saying Realtors make 6% because they don't. The buying and selling realtors/brokers split that commission and still have to share with their agency and have usually acquired quite a few expenses themselves in the process. I would hate to see my realtor get less than her 3% b/c I know she earned it on this sale. I just think that part of this argument has been a bit misleading...to say the least. (That's not directed at you DFL....just came out in this comment.....)

Robin Hayes lied. Nobody died, but thousands of folks lost their jobs.



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Vote Democratic! The ass you save may be your own.

From what I gather

the reason Impact fees are less desirable to local governments are twofold:

1) they're not dependable and therefore not bondable. I.e., if the commissioners see the need to sell bonds for some big project, they're still limited to the amount their property tax revenues will allow.

2) Because it's a fee, not a tax, any impact fee has to be the same for everybody. In practical terms if the fee is set to say the median home price, then the retirement buyer who wants a smaller newer care-free home in a nice new neighborhood will pay the same fee as the two professor couple who build a million dollar home on their 5 acre mini-farm.

Chatham actually has an impact fee and it's not working for them. They want to give it up and get a transfer tax. Someone there would be an excellent resource to ask about the ins and outs of the two revenue streams.

"They took all the trees and put them in a tree museum Then they charged the people a dollar 'n a half just to see 'em. Don't it always seem to go that you don't know what you've got till it's gone? They paved paradise and put up a parking lot."

Good summary of the issues

The tax vs. fee thing is a big deal . . . fees are fundamentally regressive.

My only problem is that many homes in starter neighborhoods

don't see much appreciation. If the value of the home is taxed vs the appreciation in value, then folks in our situation would be screwed. We probably would either still be sitting in our home or be put in a situation where we couldn't sell until we'd saved a lot more money. We've been saving for 10 years to make this move and we're still barely walking away from this house with any cash from the sale.

Who does the tax hurt? Lower income/first-time home buyers because those of us selling existing homes to them won't be able to afford to help pay closing costs, etc. A house is only going to be worth what it appraises for - epecially to the bank making the loan. It doesn't matter how many taxes/fees you have to pay out of the proceeds. Appraisers aren't going to boost the value for you just so you can pass those along to the buyer.

Robin Hayes lied. Nobody died, but thousands of folks lost their jobs.



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Vote Democratic! The ass you save may be your own.

Maybe there could be a floor on the tax

No tax on homes under X dollars . . . or something like that?

There would need to be some type of relief

It will be more of a burden to lower income homeowners/buyers/sellers than you can imagine. I wish I knew the answer, but I will repeat what I said on another thread.....the RE Association and other loud opponents/proponents could stand to reduce the rhetoric so real solutions can be found. Both sides seem to be all or nothing and after what we've just gone through I lean to the nothing side of the spectrum if that's going to be the case.

Maybe there could be some type of sliding scale where the first $150,000 was taxed at one rate and the next $200,000 was taxed at another and so on. It would be more difficult to administer I guess, but would be more fair to everyone.

Robin Hayes lied. Nobody died, but thousands of folks lost their jobs.



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Vote Democratic! The ass you save may be your own.

Random musings

I think a homestead exemption is a reasonable way to mitigate these effects and it has been mentioned by legislators in discussions.

Affordability has a lot to do with a balance between jobs with good income versus job growth pushing up prices. (Or the reverse). Affordability can be addressed by a variety of factors. I don't believe that suppressing the closing costs of a home is a guarantee of affordability. The sub-prime debacle has demonstrated that. I think each community needs to figure out for itself what constitutes affordability and fair taxation. Property tax, to me, is slow bleed that can be unfair to some people.

Also, the real estate market is not rational. Starter homes go for a lot less than the average sale price of single family homes of $225,725 (and try getting a Realtor interested in selling your $225,725 home). In my neighborhood builders are buying $250,000+ homes simply to demolish them for $750,000+ homes. I drove out by Umstead Park last weekend by subdivision signs proclaiming "Homes from $800,000 up". Issues of affordability are not even on the table.

The fact that we are discussing home costs is a testament to the success of the NC Association of Realtors in framing the property transfer tax as a "home tax". Dare County hasn't fallen into the water because it has a transfer tax.

Stop the NC Association of RealtorsPolluting our State Legislature with money.

Well...not really

the reason I'm discussing homes is because we just sold/bought and I could see the bottom line a transfer tax would impact. We are talking about a transfer tax on the sale of real property, which for most of us means our personal residence. If it were a transfer tax on automobiles, then I guess we'd be discussing cars.

Robin Hayes lied. Nobody died, but thousands of folks lost their jobs.



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Vote Democratic! The ass you save may be your own.

I like that idea.

The first $150,000 is exempt from the tax.

Unless it is a second home (meaning - you're purchasing a vacation home, not the second home you own.)

A couple of questions about impact fees

Are you saying the impact fee has to be the same amount for every house? It can't vary based on price, or size in square feet, or number of bedrooms? It doesn't seem fair to charge the same impact fee for a 2-bedroom retirement home or a 5 bedroom mcmansion.

I thought the idea of impact fees was to make growth pay for itself. I like the idea of an impact fee on new construction. Those existing homes already had somebody living in them, so changing the people who live there, on average, is not going to require additional infrastructure. But looking at the new homes, the new residents in the 2-bedroom retirement home are not going to create as much demand for new infrastructure as the new residents in the 5-bedroom house, on average.

So it just seems more fair, to me, to have an impact fee applied to new construction, that bears some relationship to the size of the home. Is there a legal impediment to that?

I wish I could answer your questions

I imagine an impact fee could be structured a number of ways. It depends on how the law is written, but one city - if I understood what I was reading - used and estimate/total number of homes/bedrooms in calculating the impact fee. I was trying to find what rule/law required the developer to then portion the fee out equally to each home type.

Another city excluded low income housing, so I imagine that exclusions could also be up to those writing the law. I'll see if Mom can give me any insight later.

Robin Hayes lied. Nobody died, but thousands of folks lost their jobs.



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Vote Democratic! The ass you save may be your own.

That's correct.

An impact fee is a fee. By law it has to be applied equally to everyone. Don't ask me why.

Just the facts, ma'am.

So if you're going to set the fee to try and bring in about as much as a 1% transfer tax would, you'd logically set it at 1% of the current average (not median) new home price. Good luck figuring out what that is. The median cost, county wide, for all home sales is around $110k. Here in Clayton new homes start at around ~$150k. I'm gonna pull a figure out of my arse ... how about $250k?

So, the new town home buyer pays 2,500 bucks impact fees and the new McMansion-on-the-Green buyer pays 2,500 bucks impact fees.

If you're a more progressive county and you don't want to do that, then you set the impact fee lower, ~$1,250, so it impacts the lower price home buyer less. Then you don't get the benefit you expected and your grand plan to build what you need for your county and not raise property taxes flops. See Chatham, NC.

No. There is no sliding scale for impact fees. Why? I don't know. It's the fee word... something about the legal definitions of the words. A fee is a fee - flat. A tax is a percentage. ??Is this the result of too many English majors in the Lege??

Unfortunately, Sam is right. VERY unfortunately ... more people prefer an impact fee to the transfer tax, not because they understand what each is, but because fee sounds better than tax. That's like choosing your president based on who you'd rather go out and have a beer with. Which is like choosing your brain surgeon based on who you'd rather go bowling with.

"They took all the trees and put them in a tree museum Then they charged the people a dollar 'n a half just to see 'em. Don't it always seem to go that you don't know what you've got till it's gone? They paved paradise and put up a parking lot."

Then let's change it to....hmmm....

contribution......that's a nice word. :)

Robin Hayes lied. Nobody died, but thousands of folks lost their jobs.



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Vote Democratic! The ass you save may be your own.

Oh, I liiiiike that!

Contribution. That is a nice word.

The North Carolina Contribution Fund for Great Communities.

It has a very nice ring to it ... you're a genius, Betsy! :)

"They took all the trees and put them in a tree museum Then they charged the people a dollar 'n a half just to see 'em. Don't it always seem to go that you don't know what you've got till it's gone? They paved paradise and put up a parking lot."

Yup.

Betsy Muse for Queen of Wordsmithing.

Honestly?

I don't know. Seems like a sliding scale would be the ideal solution and I don't know why it isn't done or hasn't been done but I've just been told it can't be done that way. It's possible I was told wrong, I don't know.

I think the homestead exemption that gregflynn mentioned would be nice, though, and I know that's possible ... where the first $50 or $100k of a home purchase is exempt from the TT. That's a semi-sliding scale of sorts. :)

"They took all the trees and put them in a tree museum Then they charged the people a dollar 'n a half just to see 'em. Don't it always seem to go that you don't know what you've got till it's gone? They paved paradise and put up a parking lot."

I found some really good resources

and then I checked the dates and they were all written in the 80s and 90s it seemed. I saved the link, though.

You were probably told right, but the real question is can we change the law.

What if the impact fee was small so that low income/fixed income folks weren't unfairly burdened. Then, on top of that there was a transfer tax using a sliding scale. You could exempt the first $50,000 - $100,000 and then implement a sliding scale and tax the hell out of the McMansions. :)

Robin Hayes lied. Nobody died, but thousands of folks lost their jobs.



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Vote Democratic! The ass you save may be your own.

So with that, new development

would get impact fee charges (~$500 -1000?) + a transfer tax assessed on costs over ~$100k. Which about works out to equal what a 1% TT would assess.

BUT existing home sales would only have the TT assessed on the amount over $100k. So, TT on an existing $150k home would be $500 and TT on an existing $250k home would be $1,500. That sounds very reasonable. I like it.

AAAnnnnnnd a new McMansion sold for $500k would have both an impact fee and a transfer tax assessed ... Which would be $1k + ... ummm ... $4k ... ummm = $5k; peanuts for them, great revenue for county planners.

I wonder ... if counties really wanted to get fancy and encourage development closer to existing services and discourage sprawl, could they exempt new homes built within city limits from the impact fee?

"They took all the trees and put them in a tree museum Then they charged the people a dollar 'n a half just to see 'em. Don't it always seem to go that you don't know what you've got till it's gone? They paved paradise and put up a parking lot."

That would work well for some areas.

It should be up to the individual county to determine how the growth should be managed in their area.

If I was a county commissioner

with the ability to impose this, I would put a 1% tax/fee/whateverfancyword on the sale of any real estate or building of new dwellings on existing owners land in the county. New or used home. The minimum I would charge is what ever the tax assessor deemed the property was worth at the time of the sale but the sale price would drive this. This to stop people from trying to sell houses for $1.

If the final sale of the house and property was $450,000, the county would get $4,500 for that house. If the undeveloped property sold for $3,400 the county would get $34. If the person later put a $100,000 home on the house, then the county gets $1000. This would be in addition to any other tax already on the books, if any.

I would not care about bathrooms, bedrooms etc. The price of the property drives this.

This would come from the total amount of money that passed hands on the sale of this property. The lawyer who is doing this transfer is given a sum of money, and he then writes checks to all the parties in this transactions. A check is written to the lawyer(s), county, real estate companies and finally the seller gets what ever is left. This is a norm even if people do sale by owners this process happens. Just not as many checks are passed around.

Correct me if I'm wrong,

but isn't one of the main functions of a county commission to manage revenues from real estate? If they push too high on the property tax percent, they risk slowing growth.

I would think they would be better equipped to judge the overall needs of the county itself. That won't move revenues from rich counties to the poorer ones, but allowing the counties to decide pretty much takes the air out of the lost "American Dream" argument.

I hope what your saying...

is that the state government needs to keep their hands off county business. If the bill passes, it enacts NOTHING, correct? It is up to the counties.
I know there is also a bill out there to allow counties the option of adding on a fee for vehicle registrations to do road work. Having not been brought up here, and only having lived here for a decade, I find it hard to believe that this state gives so much control to the legislature and so little to the counties. Odd.
Like the local laws the legislature spends so much time on, why can't Gaston County decide what taxes they want to levy for schools without the legislature?

John Edwards is great!
- Sam Spencer, BlueNC, 7/3/07

Jesus Swept ticked me off. Too short. I loved the characters and then POOF it was over.
-me

Exactly!

That's a point that keeps getting missed, or swept under the rug. The legislation does not impose a tax, it gives County Commissioners the right to put a referendum item before the voters and let the voters of the county decide whether they want to impose a transfer tax. Who can argue against allowing people to decide for themselves?

To a certain degree, this

the state government needs to keep their hands off county business

is exactly what I'm saying.

But the reason I added the part about this not redistributing wealth, is because a tax like this does nothing to rescue economically depressed rural counties, so it can't replace other state revenues that may end up helping these needy areas.

Who actually pays the tax?

The Realtors are trying to spin it both ways - it's a tax on the "equity" in your home - even though it has absolutely nothing to do with the equity in a home, it's based on the selling price, not the equity - and it's going to price young families out of the housing market. One can make arguments, based on rational economic theory, about who will actually "pay" the tax, but I have not seen any of that. They are just using fear tactics.

What are the Realtors afraid of? I think they understand that any transfer tax or impact fee will increase the cost of purchasing a home, thereby decreasing the total number of home sales each year on which they can earn a commission. A 1% transfer tax will have a very small impact on the number of home sales each year, but the real estate market is already highly competitive, and I don't doubt some real estate agents are already barely getting by.

I agree with Betsy, I also would rather see an impact fee in combination with a smaller transfer tax, but what we have now before the legislature is at least a step in the right direction. Why do I think it's the right direction? When a county is adding thousands of new residents each year, that county will need to provide additional school capacity, additional water and sewer capacity, and all the other infrastructure the new residents, as well as existing residents, want and expect. How will they pay for that? The property tax is the only source of revenue county commissioners can raise to pay for all that. Yes, growth does add to the tax base, but does it add enough to pay for itself? I do not believe even the John Locke Foundation could make the case that it does, if they use honest data.

I think people are willing to pay for what they get, if they understand what's going on. If you have a choice to buy a house in a county with excellent schools, or a neighboring county with mediocre schools, which would you choose? Let's say the county with excellent schools imposes a transfer tax, and the other county does not. How does that impact your decision? That depends on whether you have kids in school, or expect to have kids in school while you own that house, doesn't it?

I don't know if it depends on that or not

If I want to be cared for by well-educated people if I need to use emergency services in that county, I might want to buy a house in a county with excellent schools. If I want to run a business and be able to hire a well educated workforce, I might want to buy a house in a county with excellent schools.

It runs a lot deeper than whether or not you have school-aged children, I think.

Good points.

I know it depends on a lot of things. I was trying, rather clumsily, to make the point that a transfer tax is not going to stop you from buying in that county if you have other reasons to do so. The transfer tax may impact a buyer's decision, but it is not likely to be the deciding factor.

Exactly.

I don't think 1% is that much, really.

I am not currently a homeowner - but in the next couple of years, I will be. I will choose to be a homeowner right here in Moore County, despite the redness of the politics, whether or not there is a transfer tax. My son will have finished school, so that's not an issue - but I like it here.

Then again - as I've said before - I don't mind taxes. I think they're good, and we should be glad to pay them, if we get good services for them. In Moore County - despite the redness of the politics - we get good services.

Hello C-dog!

long time no read!

hello!

Hey, Parmea!

How's everything down your way?

Doing fine

in the land of farms, geese, swans, ducks and quite.

We moving forward.

Love it when I see a farm tractor working a field or better yet going from one field to the next and slowing down traffic. This is what my county needs. Love to see and hear geese and ducks flying and hearing them talking to each other. Growth at our pace.

Local Newspaper Editorial

in favor of transfer taxes. On June 21, The editors of The Pilot noted that a Moore County Summit, which the Pilot helped facilitate

...the county and most of the municipalities have proposed a 1 percent tax on the total value of most real estate transfers. If that had been in effect last year, it would have brought in an eye-popping $8 million in extra revenues. That amount can cover a lot of bonded indebtedness.

Our local representatives to the State Legislature, Sen. Harris Blake, and Rep. Joe Boylan, did not attend the summit, and have been unresponsive and thus, unsupportive of the idea of a transfer tax. However, the Pilot points out:

State Sen. Harris Blake and State Rep. Joe Boylan, both Republicans, have been missing in action from that process -- despite several invitations to join the discussion. Their opposition centers on their general dislike of new taxes. What's ironic is that the all-Republican Board of County Commissioners has pushed this initiative the hardest. The commissioners note that five other North Carolina counties already have the tax and that the measure requires a local referendum before it can go into effect.

So - where were our commissioners to turn? Hmmm.

Since Blake and Boylan wouldn't engage with the commissioners, they went to N.C. House Speaker Joe Hackney, a Democrat who represents a couple of Moore County precincts, to get the measure introduced.

:)

There have been letters to the editor for and against transfer taxes since this editorial appeared, and The Pilot actually had an online poll. All of the letters against a transfer tax have been from Realtors. The poll - which of course was not scientific (I was able to vote 4 times in one day from different computers). was not well publicized. It was 80% against transfer taxes. I had visions of Realtors sitting in their offices logging out, clearing cookies and going back to vote again. Then I took off my tinfoil hat.

This is a big question for the Lt. Gov. candidates

How are you going to help empower local governments?

I think land transfer may be dead. I would have tried impact fees, which have much more support in the state. Also, fee is a better word than tax.

1 Thessalonians 5:21: But examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good.

I always wanted to be the avenging cowboy hero—that lone voice in the wilderness, fighting corruption and evil wherever I found it, and standing for freedom, truth and justice. - Bill Hicks

this 1% thinggie

is not going to make or break a buyer or sellers position.

When the buyers and sellers are negotiating, they will settle upon a price. Normally the seller will want XXX total, while the buyer wants to pay a monthly xxx.

The buyer will tell their real estate person this is all I want to pay for this house, and then it is up to the real estate agent to make it work. That is how I have bought my 3 houses.

The real estate agents ALWAYS work for the seller, never the buyer. The buyer brings nothing to the table, the seller brings the item the buyer wants and the potential money making item.

This 1% whatever will go to the county commissioners to utilize as they deem necessary. The county commissioners ARE empowered to pretty much do what they feel they have the gonads to get away with. And that is a lot, if they so wish.

The only people that this 1% whatever effects is the real estate agent as the buyers and sellers will accept a lower price for the house to accomidate this 1% thing.

So if you want to see a lobbying entity screwing things up, here is a classic example of one. The only group that is getting hurt is the real estate group. The buyer and sellers will agree upon a price and the 1% will be included in the total. The 6% that is divided between the posting agent and the selling agent will be reduced by this 1%. The county gets 1% of this transaction to support the county.

The real estate gang will receive their 6% of the total of the sale of the house minus the 1%....I dont have a problem with that in the slightest. This is greed on the part of the real estate gang and nothing else.

Our schools infrastructure etc will need upgrading and expanding constantly regardless of this 1% thinggie. Letting the new folks who wish to join our communities can help pay this. Regardless of collecting this 1% thinggie, our infrastructure will require money to fix. Which means, dare I say it, an increase in taxes. If I can reduce the total increase of my taxes by anything, I am all for it.

If your community and county commissioners are doing the job and promoting growth, expansion, etc, then you should be in favor of this 1%. If you truely feel that staying status quo, then shut down the borders of your county, stop growth, stop population growth, and live with the tax increases that MAY be needed.

I did not wish to get into a symantics discussion on tax, fee vs all the other names for this thinggie. I want the 1% thinggie. It will not stop growth in my community. It will actually help it in the long run so long as the county commissioners spend the money on infrastructure upgrades vice other stupid programs. Reviewing your counties budget each year and commenting on it will help them stay focused.

The negotiation that happens between the buyer and seller is the key to this. The smart buyer will include this 1% in their total pricing discussion, the buyer who will receive a life lesson will not include this 1%. The real estate agents are hoping you dont include this 1% in your negotiations.

1% of $300,000 = $3,000. When your dealing with a $300,000 home, to squable over $3000 is silly. What is actually going to happen is the house is going to go for $300,000, the 1% is going to be taken out, leaving $297,000. 6% will then go to the real estate bubbas or $17,820 vice $18,000 or a delta of $180. So if you listen to our real estate agents, they wish to keep $3000 out of our county for infrastructure upgrades so they can net out $180 on a 300,000 home.

Every person who is buying and selling a home will do this math and figure out what is acceptable and then adjust the price of the house accordingly based on the sellers overall need. The real estate agents are the ones who are painting this gloom and doom scenario.

If someone really really wants that house and the seller really really wants to sell it, they will negotiate a price that both will accept that includes this 1% thinggie. This 1% will not stop any sell of any house. The house will stop this because it is not worth what the buyer is willing to pay for it with or without the 1%.

I Just Have to Point This Out

people just won't stand for a tax that increases the costs for homebuyers.

Home.

Buyers.

People who do not yet own homes here - but the rest of us?
The people who are already here?

They are called HOME OWNERS. And it's okay for their taxes to go up but God forbid some new person in town has to pay more for the privilege of moving to NC.

When I listen to the bloviating from the Realtors Ass.
Well, I'd rather date a used car salesman.

Sorry, lovex. Yourself not included. ;)

I gotta learn

to write simpler!

Screw numbers!

When I listen to the bloviating from the Realtors Ass.
Well, I'd rather date a used car salesman.

This nails it so vividly.

Where do traveling salesmen fall into your list? above or below these bloviating realator ass's?

And what is on the bottom of this list?

Tryin to figure out the most dispised profession most people come in contact with...probably phone solicitor for me.

AH!

The payday loan man?
The repo man?
The collections caller?

"They took all the trees and put them in a tree museum Then they charged the people a dollar 'n a half just to see 'em. Don't it always seem to go that you don't know what you've got till it's gone? They paved paradise and put up a parking lot."

Geez, Leslie

I thought they were at the bottom of the list.

Now I have a 3-way tie. Let me ponder it, Parmea.

hmmm...

1)Realtors Ass.oc / Repo man -
2)Collections caller
3)Used car salesman

dang. They ARE at the bottom of the list.

Mine would be...

The S.S. Death Squad
George W. Bush
Dick Cheney

John Edwards is great!
- Sam Spencer, BlueNC, 7/3/07

Jesus Swept ticked me off. Too short. I loved the characters and then POOF it was over.
-me

A League of Their Own

Those three are in a League of Their Own.

(pardon the film reference)

Agree

these folks are bad!

Glad noone said county code enforcement officer

or junk car man. I had that job, quit it and stayed in a gutter till I got my dignity back.