Commercial market may see some relief

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Last week the president signed the $30 billion "Small Business Jobs Act" to aid small and medium businesses by providing funds for loans. Another portion of the measure provides tax relief to encourage job creation. The funds will be made available to community banks through the Small Business Administration (SBA) and provide guarantees to banks at 90 percent of the borrowed amount.

The Bill, HR 5297 extends the existing 504 loan program and the 7(a) program that provides working capital for businesses. The 504 program covers capital expenditures and allows businesses to invest in real estate for business purposes provided they occupy at least 51 percent of the space. The program also offers provisions for other assets such as equipment and machinery or improvements of existing real estate like remodeling or other improvements including exterior projects like parking or landscaping.

The bill was not well received by all however. Many business owners are reluctant to add more credit in an unpredictable economy. 91 percent of small business owners responding to a survey by the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) said their credit needs were already met, with just 4 percent citing business funding as their top problem.

With revenues down, particularly in building related industries, more credit is not an attractive option to many. Survival is. The NFIB survey found businesses don't intend to borrow money until they have more customers. That means getting people back to work.

Although the stated intent of this measure is to get people back to work by offering funding to businesses, there is some argument as to which component is the cart and which is the horse. Business wants cash flow before hiring and the government is offering credit in hopes of prompting businesses to hire.

Locally, we have seen some movement in commercial real estate, but much of that has been at reduced prices, similar to the declines in housing. Many of the successfully brokered transactions this year have been seller financed due to the difficulty encountered when buyers try to qualify for credit. Nothing in this bill seems to alleviate that stumbling block.

Perhaps the best portions of the bill are the estimated $12 billion in tax breaks for business related expenses deductions. There is a deduction for cell phones and for health care premiums paid for by the self-employed. Small businesses will be allowed to write off up to $500,000 in capital expenditures in tax years 2010 and 2011. Under current law, the maximum deduction for tax years beginning in 2010 is $250,000. Another portion of the bill provides a 100 percent exclusion of capital gains tax on small business investments made this year and an increase in the maximum deduction, from $5,000 to $10,000, for start up expenditures.

The one sector that is sure to benefit from this bill is accounting. Any change in tax laws means more work for accountants, but what the measure will do for business and the commercial real estate market remains to be seen.

For a safe trip home, call a Realtor. Call your Realtor or visit www.cdarealtors.com to search properties on the Multiple Listing Service or to find a Realtor member who will represent your best interests.

Kim Cooper is a real estate broker and the spokesman for the Coeur d'Alene Association of Realtors. Kim and the association invite your feedback and input for this column. You may contact them by writing to the Coeur d'Alene Association of Realtors, 409 W. Neider, Coeur d'Alene, ID 83815 or by calling (208) 667-0664 with your questions or commentary.

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