News In Brief
Ever dropped your phone? A device that can break its fall has been unveiled. The ADcase (Active Damping case) protects your display by deploying springy legs when it detects the handset is falling. The award-winning device is the brainchild of Philip Frenzel, 25, who created it as the thesis for his mechatronics master's at Germany's Aalen University. The 4.9 mm case can be added onto later iPhone models (6 and up) and is equipped with sensors that detect when the phone has been dropped. Once triggered, the curled metal-spring legs pop out from each corner of the case and cushion the impact. Philip and Aalen economics graduate Peter Mayer have now founded a startup to bring the innovation to market and say a Kickstarter campaign is planned.
King County Metro has been named the best large transit system in North America by the nation's foremost transit association. The American Public Transportation Association, which represents more than 300 transit agencies in the United States and Canada, ranked King County Metro as No. 1 based on its achievements in ridership, safety, innovation, equity, and sustainability over the past three years. Specifically, the association said Metro significantly increased ridership, launched the nation's leading reduced-fare program for passengers who earn a lower income, improved passenger and operator safety and accelerated the industry's transition to zero-emission bus fleets. King County Executive Dow Constantine and Metro General Manager Rob Gannon will receive the Outstanding Public Transportation System of the Year award at the association's national conference in Nashville on Sept. 25. King County Metro provided an all-time high of 122 million trips in 2017 on more than 200 bus routes. It also provided nearly 1 million trips on its Access paratransit service for people who have limited mobility. The agency's long-range vision, Metro Connects, outlines a plan to double ridership by 2040. The transportation association previously named King County Metro the best large transit agency in North America in 1983 and 1992.
The IRS recently published proposed rules on the 20 percent business income deduction that was created as part of last year's tax reform law. The rules are a win for real estate because they make clear that broad limitations included in the law will not apply to real estate professionals. Under the new law, individual owners of sole proprietorships, including independent contractors and owners of S corporations, LLCs, or partnerships, can take the 20 percent deduction on their net qualified (non-investment) business income. The calculation will depend on income thresholds, what type of business you own, and how you meet certain wage and qualified property tests. But the basic structure is very favorable to you as a small business or independent contractor.
REALTORS® were integral to the favorable interpretation in the proposed rules. The National Association of REALTORS® made a forceful case-both in a detailed letter sent on June 19 and in a face-to-face meeting with IRS officials in early August-that certain limitations on specified service businesses were not intended by Congress to apply to real estate professionals. And that's the interpretation the IRS has ended up taking. NAR "met with [the Office of Management and Budget] and Treasury Department officials to discuss proposed rules outlining computation of the new write-off for pass-throughs," Bloomberg News reported Tuesday. The new deduction is available for tax years beginning after Dec. 31, 2017. You'll be able to claim it for the first time on the 2018 federal income tax return you file next year. Look for detailed NAR guidance by mid-September. It's a complicated provision, and how it works for you will depend on many factors unique to your business structure and your income. Consult with your accountant or tax attorney on how this deduction should be applied in your situation.
PSRC recently shared new population numbers, which show the four-county region (King, Snohomish, Pierce, Kitsap) added 67,860 people in the past year, the third highest single-year increase in the past two decades, trailing only 2016 and 2017 when the region added more than 80,000 people each year. Other trends: there are 2.8 new people for every new housing unit added; over 380,000 jobs have been added to the region since 2010; almost 300,000 new people have been added to the region in the last four years.
More builders are outfitting newly constructed homes with smart-home technology, and many buyers say they'll pay extra for it, according to research from John Burns Real Estate Consulting. Sixty percent of home shoppers say they'd spend more on a home with a smart thermostat, the consulting firm's survey of more than 23,000 shows. Slightly more-67 percent-say they'd pay extra for an oversized kitchen. More than 60 percent of new-home buyers also say they'd pay more for an exterior security camera and smart locks. In a separate John Burns survey of more than 300 home builders, 53 percent say they incorporate smart-home technology into new construction. Even so, 42 percent of buyers say they would purchase additional technology. John Burns Real Estate Consulting found some differences among certain segments of buyers regarding which smart-home tech they find most attractive, including:
Washington is the best state in the nation for workers, according to a new report released Thursday. The study, by Oxfam America, based its findings on wages, worker protections and workers' rights in all 50 states and the nation's capital - and only Washington, D.C., had a higher overall score than Washington state. Oxfam, an unapologetically left-leaning organization originally formed in 1942 to end poverty and its causes, also gave high marks to Washington state for not having a so-called right-to-work law similar to those that have weakened unions in other states. The study also noted that Washington has rules to ensure equal pay, accommodations for pregnant workers, and sexual harassment protections, as well as laws that prohibit pay secrecy in the workplace.