published Monday, February 21st, 2011

Sharrocks settling in to life after 'Extreme Makeover'


by Andy Johns
  • photo
    Staff photo by John Rawlston/Chattanooga Times Free Press - Michael and Cindy Sharrock laugh at a joke told by their their son, Patrick Sharrock, as they participate in a news conference Sunday morning outside their home in Rossville. The family received a new house built in a week on the site of their old house through the ABC television program "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition."

Before the Sharrock family was chosen for the "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" build last week, they faced an uncertain financial future and had begun cutting services, such as their home phone line and Internet.

Now, thanks to the new house and gifts from the community, their monetary foundation is as solid as the one under their stone-front Irish cottage.

"Everything that I worried about when I woke up every morning is gone," said Michael Sharrock, speaking to the media Sunday morning for the first time since seeing his new home Saturday. "That's the most beautiful house I've ever seen."

Michael and Cindy Sharrock talked about the trip to Disney World and the house before receiving a parade of gifts.

But as usual, 9-year-old Patrick stole the show.

"What do you get when you mix holy water and castor oil?" Patrick asked the crowd after commandeering the microphone from his dad. "A religious movement."

Patrick said the emotions that come with the new house are "hard to put into words."

Cindy Sharrock, who teared up a few times during the presentations, said the response from the community has been overwhelming.

"I'm already thinking about how I'm going to pay it forward," she said.

The gifts include a new wheelchair-accessible van, 10 years of shoes and $5,200 in Walmart gift cards. The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga contributed scholarships for Michael to finish his biology degree and for Patrick to enroll in a few years. Fundraisers and donations brought in enough money to pay off the Sharrocks' mortgage and cover construction overages.

Michael called the UTC scholarship a "dream come true." He said the outpouring of love from area residents has shifted his perception from guarding Patrick against crowds to embracing the community.

"It makes me have to reset the way we think," he said.

Costs ahead

BUT WAIT, THERE'S MORE

Gifts given to the Sharrock family:

* UTC scholarships for Michael and Patrick

* New Ford van with wheelchair lift

* Fiber-optic Internet service for one year

* Home and car insurance for one year

* An iPad, school supplies, wooden spoons and scented candles

* A pair of shoes for each family member every year for 10 years

* Free haircuts for a year

* A build scrap book

* One meal per week at Applebee's for a year

* $100 per week in Walmart gift cards for one year

* New lawn mower

* Joke books

* A free house cleaning

* Gift baskets from Chick-fil-A, UTC

* Lifetime membership to the Chattanooga Zoo

* Special hearing aids for Cindy

* Makeover and spa treatment for Cindy

* Free year of financial planning

* 12 months of hospital and respite care

* Six months of free physical therapy

* Free termite prevention system

But moving from their 1,100-square-foot, 51-year-old house with its uneven floors into the luxurious 3,000-square-foot home will not be totally free.

The Sharrocks may have to pay more than $2,000 extra a year in property taxes because of enhancements to the property.

Their old home was appraised at $55,574 and had had a yearly property tax bill of $453, according to the Catoosa County Tax Commissioner's Office.

Tax appraisers have not set a value for the new house, but some involved in the build estimate it may be worth as much as $300,000. If that's so, the Sharrocks' yearly tax bill could swell to $2,644, tax records indicate.

Still, the monthly tax bill for the full $300,000 appraisal would be only about $220 at the current millage rate in Catoosa County. That's less than the Sharrocks paid for taxes and mortgage on their old house, which they bought for $60,000 in 2001.

Julie Brown, a fundraising coordinator for the build, said organizers have worked to avoid putting the Sharrocks in a financial bind.

"We don't want this family to lose this house," she said. "We want them to be OK after the bus is gone, after the Hollywood set is gone."

Possible pitfalls

More than 150 homes have been rebuilt and given to participants since "Extreme Makeover" began in 2003, and only a few families haven't been able to hang on.

A Lake City, Ga., family, Milton and Patricia Harper, used their "Extreme Makeover" home in 2005 as collateral for a $450,000 loan for a construction business that failed. JPMorgan Chase Bank foreclosed in 2008, according to Clayton County mortgage records.

In Hastings, Fla., a 4,000-square-foot "Makeover" home built in 2005 was foreclosed upon a year ago. First Coast News reported that the Harvey family, who had moved from a singlewide trailer, owed $128,753 on the house mortgage and were struggling to pay higher taxes and utility costs.

The biggest bill for the Sharrocks' new home could come if the Internal Revenue Service were to rule that they owe income on its value.

Previous home recipients have avoided such taxes by taking advantage of rules that allow tenants to enhance their property value without owing taxes, according to news accounts of previous shows.

Kimberly A. Lawrence, a certified public accountant for Joseph Decosimo & Co., said the IRS allows taxpayers who rent out the property used as their home for fewer than 15 days to be exempt from including rent as income.

And improvements made by a tenant aren't taxed as income to the homeowner/landlord under federal laws, Lawrence said.

Still, she said, tax rules for a donated home are "a complex tax issue and a conundrum for IRS."

"Is the 'Extreme Makeover' a 'prize?'" she asked. "Is the use of the property a 'for-profit' transaction or a 'charitable' activity?"

In a 2006 "Extreme Makeover," the IRS issued an 'information letter' disputing the application of these two tax law provisions and stating that houses are prizes similar to lottery winnings and other game show awards.

The issue has not been resolved by a tax court, and Lawrence said the costs for the IRS to try to pursue the tax could be greater than the tax payments it would generate.

More: Wiedmer: A week of man's best and worst

about Andy Johns...

Andy began working at the Times Free Press in July 2008 as a general assignment reporter before focusing on Northwest Georgia and Georgia politics in May of 2009. Before coming to the Times Free Press, Andy worked for the Anniston Star, the Rome News Tribune and the Campus Carrier at Berry College, where he graduated with a communications degree in 2006. He is pursuing a master’s degree in business administration at the University of Tennessee ...

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Thank God they won't be in a financial bind. Patrick is such a precious little boy.

February 21, 2011 at 2:31 p.m.
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