Still money to be made in real estate -- by confusing the wealthy

A plethora of tax benefits exist for the affluent homebuyer.I live in Nashville, Tenn., where the slowdown of the real estate market doesn't feel as great as in other cities of comparable size. Sure, there are a few houses out there with ancient-looking FOR SALE signs in their front yards, but it's not as if my Realtor friends are tightening their belts.

Then, while driving around town, I saw a billboard for something called The first couple of times I ignored it, assuming it was a protest site where one could electronically sign a petition voting against one of President Bush's proposed tax cuts. But today, the billboard sparked my curiosity. (I guess that's what billboards are meant to do.)It turns out that is for people who are interested in investing a few million in residential real estate but, for whatever reason, just aren't up to doing the research. Boasting a team of experts "with nearly two years of research in the Nashville market," is a luxury real estate matchmaker, bringing "a unique and firsthand perspective to the complex needs of the affluent." Imagine. Two entire years!

The videos on the website feature a man and, presumably, his wife, heavily engaged in the kind of talk meant to impress people who don't know what they're talking about. "We are not a mortgage company," says founder Shawn Blake. "We are not a real estate office. We are a liaison group that has a pairing system based upon our clients' economic and geographic and demographic fingerprints." Hah?

So why would anyone with a few million lying around be interested in getting a mortgage? Why not just carry around a briefcase full of hundred-dollar bills for that next home buying spree? Well, the tax benefits, of course.

"There's certainly a misnomer out there that the government, some time ago, took away the benefit of carrying a mortgage for the affluent," he says. "That is very untrue. There's a complete financial strategy out there that has 10 to 12 spokes on the wheel. We firmly believe that most people are probably only using one or two of those spokes."

No idea what this means, either. I'm assuming that anyone with half a mil or up to invest in real estate at the moment probably (hopefully) has a better grasp of what such a deal entails and might bypass such business propositions as offer. But if not, then certainly it's a match made in heaven, and proof that fools and their money are still soon to part.
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