Sibcy Cline Employee Spotlight: Michelle McNeal

  • Title: Supervisor, DMM 
  • Hometown: Taylorsville, OH (near Hillsboro) 
  • Current home: Eastgate area 
  • Proudest life accomplishment: My kids, of course; but also being a “Nana” to 4 wonderful grandkids. 
  • Favorite local hangouts: Padrino’s, Scene 75 

Sometimes life presents you with moments when you have a unique opportunity to do something of extreme importance in service to someone else. That opportunity presented itself to Michelle McNeal and her family on Sunday, June 14, 2020.   

Returning home from a lake vacation, the McNeal family pulled into their subdivision and saw the police standing at the door of their neighbor’s house. Soon they found out there had been a horrific domestic violence incident resulting in the death of both parents. The three kids now had no mother or father and no family in the area, since they had moved to the U.S. from Cameroon, Africa nearly sixteen years ago.  

“I couldn’t help but think, ‘If that was my children, who would be there to help them?’” Michelle said. They offered to take the kids in and within two weeks had legal custody.   

It was this act of generosity during that moment of extreme need that earned Michelle the Pamela D. Sibcy Community Service Award for 2021. Michelle was presented the award on September 10 at Sibcy Cline’s annual “Celebrate” awards event.   

Michelle, who is the supervisor for direct mail marketing and has been with Sibcy Cline for 20 years this year, credits the flexibility of being able to work from home during COVID as one of the things that has made the transition to her new family life go smoothly. In addition, she values her co-workers who help create a supportive work environment that “overall, feels like my family.”   

The feeling of family is something that Michelle knows well—and has a gift for creating, not just at work but in her own home. Within a few months, the counselors the family worked with reported the kids were very comfortable at the McNeal home and had adjusted well to the change. “They are all happy to be under one roof together…they call it ‘home’,” Michelle said.   

In the video below, Michelle shares her story:  

“Michelle is so very deserving of this award. She has changed the lives for three young people! After working closely with her for many years, her kindness and generosity are very evident. I was honored to have the Community Service Award given to her in my name,” said Pam Sibcy.

This is the first year the community service award has been named for Pam Sibcy. Over her 40-year career with Sibcy Cline, Pam has been involved with numerous charitable organizations including the American Red Cross, American Diabetes Association, Kidney Foundation, Good Samaritan Hospital, Summit Country Day School, Cincinnati Zoo (Zoofari), Cincinnati Bicentennial Salute to Our Stars, Aronoff Center’s grand opening, Dress for Success, The Children’s Home of Cincinnati, and many others. Pam (and Rob Sibcy) endowed the Sibcy House at The Lindner Center of HOPE as well as co-chaired the capital campaign. 

Pam is the VP of Marketing for Sibcy Cline, married to Chairman of the Board Rob Sibcy, and is the mother of the company’s president, Robin Sheakley. She places a high value on giving back to the community and initiated the Sibcy Cline community service award many years ago to recognize agents and employees who are doing outstanding work to serve others. 

“Pam is the most compassionate and caring person and she makes working with her feel like family,” Michelle said.  “I’m incredibly honored to be recognized for this award, but the fact that Pam is so respected in the community for her commitment to service makes it even more special.” 

Michelle McNeal and Pam Sibcy pose together onstage after Michelle was awarded the Pamela D. Sibcy Community Service Award at September’s annual “Celebrate” event.
Pam Sibcy, Michelle McNeal, and her husband Jeff McNeal talk at the “Celebrate” awards event, held at Waypoint Aviation in Cincinnati.

Sibcy Cline Employee Spotlight: Jason Kitzmiller

  • Title: Relocation Coordinator
  • Hometown: Cincinnati (East Side!)
  • Current home: Anderson Township
  • Proudest life accomplishment: Becoming a father
  • Favorite local hang-outs: Madtree Taproom and Mt. Carmel Brewery

At the heart of real estate are the ideas of home, family, and community, so when Jason Kitzmller says “real estate runs in my blood,” it’s no surprise that people are the motivating force behind everything he does. As a relocation coordinator, Jason assists clients with “one of the most important moves of their lives,” and he’s serious about making it the best possible experience for them. His goal is to “set the bar high and exceed expectations.”  

Holding to a standard and taking pride in his work is something that Jason learned from his father and grandfather, who both worked in real estate development. “My dad used to say ‘approach your work with an ownership mentality,’” he says. Having worked closely with his father for several years, Jason made the transition to the residential side of real estate after his dad scaled back his business a few years ago. “I admired watching my dad’s projects come to life, knowing he was part of improving the community, especially our hometown of Anderson.”  

When it came time for his dad to step back from his business and for Jason to move on to something else, it was the Sibcy Cline brand that initially interested him in the job listing for a relocation coordinator. “I had absolutely no idea what a relocation coordinator was, or much at all about the relocation business, but I was familiar with the brand. Sibcy Cline has a large presence in Anderson, so I decided to take a chance and apply for the job.”  

It wasn’t just the prominence of the brand that attracted Jason, but the fact that it was family-owned. Because he worked for his dad’s business for many years, it was “something I held near and dear to my heart,” he says. “Seeing Rob Sibcy in the office every day, and his wife Pam very involved, and watching him pass the torch to Robin [Sheakley]….that meant a lot to me because a family business was what I knew and loved.”  

Valuing family is something that Jason continues to bring to his work every day. He works with clients who are moving out of the area because of a job transfer, so that transition period often involves the client’s family, who is also affected by the move. He appreciates the opportunity to learn about each client and their family throughout the process of relocation. “I try to connect with each customer to understand their own set of circumstances. It’s interesting to hear each customer’s story and background. I learn something new with each transaction.”  

As a people-person, one of the things Jason finds most rewarding is “realizing their excitement when they close on their home and begin a new chapter in their career.” Along the way, Jason feels that a lot of trust is placed in both him and the agent to get things done and make that transition happen for their client and their family. Providing the best possible experience and outcome is what motivates him daily.  

In addition to his work, Jason has a new daily motivator in his life—his newborn son, Jett. Jason and his wife Lydia welcomed Jett to the world on August 11, 2021. Jason is already planning to share the things he enjoys with his son—hiking, camping, playing basketball, and golf. But he’s most excited to share his favorite hobby: spending time boating at his family home on Lake Lorelei. “I’m a third-generation captain in our family and I’m looking forward to teaching my son how to captain the boat and continue the Kitzmiller tradition!”  

7 Smart Reasons to Use Your Home Equity

Homeownership has cemented its role as part of the American Dream, providing families with a place that is their own and an avenue for building wealth over time. This ‘wealth’ is built, in large part, through the creation of equity…Building equity through your monthly principal payments and appreciation is a critical part of homeownership that can help you create financial stability.”

-Freddie Mac

The past year may have had its challenges, but there have been some silver linings. Home values, for example, have risen rapidly resulting in huge equity gains for homeowners. Why is this? Sibcy Cline Senior Loan Officer Damon DiBari explains how the market is balancing itself: “The housing market crisis in 2007 and uncertainty in the market in the 2010’s have kept market growth very low until 2019.  If you bought your home in 2019 or earlier, your equity has increased significantly due to this ‘catch up’ in price.”

This catch up in price has resulted in home values increasing rapidly. The average amount of equity that homeowners have gained in the last year is over $33,000 and the average homeowner has over $216,000 in equity (Source: CoreLogic).

These gains in equity are great news for homeowners. According to Jay Buten, VP of Production for Sibcy Cline Mortgage Services, “Now is a great time for homeowners to take advantage of the increased values and utilize the equity to improve their overall financial picture.”

There are many ways that homeowners can choose to use their equity to give themselves a leg up financially, from debt consolidation to college expenses. “It’s a great time for homeowners to evaluate their personal finances and look for opportunities to benefit from the increased equity they have gained.” said Buten.

Think you might be able to use your equity? Here are 7 smart ways to consider:

1. Move Up to Your Dream Home

One of the most common ways that homeowners use their equity is to sell their home in order to buy or build something more suitable to their needs. Sellers can use the cash they make at closing for their next down payment OR take out a bridge loan that allows them to borrow that cash before they close to make their down payment on a new home. 

2. Home Improvements

Improving your home can further increase its value and your equity, depending on the type of improvements you choose to do. 

3. College Costs

This can make sense when the interest rates are lower than other sources for borrowing money for education. 

4. Debt Consolidation

Homeowners can save money by using equity to pay off high-interest debt. 

5. Long-Term Investments

Some long-term investments, such as a second home or rental property, can be worth drawing on your equity. 

6. Wedding

Rather than using credit cards or other high-interest sources to fund a wedding, consider drawing on your home equity to celebrate this long-term commitment.

7. Start a business

Starting a business or investing in a current one can bring a huge return on the investment of your equity.

Ready to get started on buying or refinancing? Reach out to one of our Sibcy Cline loan officers!

Sibcy Cline Employee Spotlight: Linda Damato

  • Title: Home Services Coordinator
  • Hometown: Chicago 
  • Current home: Glendale 
  • Favorite local hang-outs: Bluebird Bakery and Piccolo Wine Room in Glendale  

As a home services coordinator with Sibcy Cline, Linda Damato is part matchmaker, part problem solver. When homeowners call Linda with a need—a renovation or repair—she knows exactly the right vendor to connect them with. And with 17 years of experience in matching homeowners to vendors, she has more success stories than she can count.  

“We look at the service needed and the time frame, along with other factors, and provide a match with a vendor. Then we follow up to make sure the client is pleased,” Linda said, explaining the process of coordinating services for Sibcy Cline clients. The goal is to gain “clients for life” by giving buyers and sellers of homes support through every stage of their homeownership journey.  

Sometimes that support can come in the smallest of ways, like recently when Linda assisted a seller whose home was vacant and being prepared for showings.  “The basement light was out and the agent called us,“ She said, “And I knew a handyman who was painting in a home near there who could run over and fix it quickly. Within an hour, the basement light was working. That’s the beauty of it—we knew who was nearby and could help.”  

Another success that Linda enjoys is seeing clients who remain with Sibcy Cline for years, even when their original agent is no longer with the brokerage. “They stay with us because they love the brand. That makes me so happy.”  

Although Linda admits that she didn’t know what a “home services coordinator” was when she applied for the job, she now loves what she does. “The very best part of my job is helping buyers and sellers through their adventure. I love the excitement of a first-time buyer telling me their ideas for making this house their home. It’s rewarding to be a small part of making the client feel comfortable with their choices.”  

Being involved with helping buyers and sellers is something that isn’t new to Linda—she was a REALTOR for 8 years in Chicago (her hometown) before moving to Cincinnati with her husband Joe for a job transfer. “It was between St. Louis and Cincinnati,” she said, “and we chose here.”  

Linda now lives in Glendale in a 100-year-old home. “I’ve done a lot in the last year—painted every room, [renovated] the bathroom—and used Sibcy Cline vendor partners for all of it,” she says. “I was like most people during COVID, who were home all the time, looking around, thinking: what can I do to make my home better?”  

One of Linda’s favorite “hangouts” is in her garden. “Whether pulling pesky weeds or making lovely flower arrangements for friends, I find it therapeutic,” she said. She also enjoys cooking for family and friends, a pursuit she once channeled into teaching cooking classes at the Glendale Lyceum and owning a deli/wine bar business called Taste of Tuscany. “It was everything I love—cooking, eating, wine—but it wasn’t the same as doing it for friends and family.” 

With her strong appreciation for making a house a home, Linda is not surprised that there has been such high demand for home renovations in the past year. “When your home looks good to you and feels comfortable, it just makes you feel better,” she said.  

If you are looking for help in renovating your home, you can reach out to Linda or any of our coordinators through our Home Services website.

Sibcy Cline Employee Spotlight: Courtney Bruser

 Title: Graphic Designer & Marketing Advisor 

Hometown: The West Side of Cincinnati, OH 

Current home: Northside, Cincinnati, OH 

Proudest career accomplishment: Designed a winning campaign for LeadingRE- Interactive Media in 2020 

 Favorite local hangouts: Northside Yacht Club, Flamingo Haven Antique Mall 

As part of the creative engine that fuels the Sibcy Cline brand, Courtney Bruser brings a fierce dedication to finding creative ways to express the brand through her graphic design work.  But it’s not just the opportunity to express creativity that inspires Courtney in her work—her competitive spirit gets fired up as well.  She made the move to Sibcy Cline in 2019 from a competing brokerage because, “the truth is, I wanted something bigger and better than my previous company offered.” 

 Courtney found the fit she was looking for in the Creative Services department of Sibcy Cline, the team that provides full-service marketing to our licensed agents—a differentiator that attracts many agents to the brokerage because they feel it gives them a jump ahead of agents from other brokerages. And it’s not just agents that benefit. As an employee, Courtney feels that the move she made to a well-recognized brand like Sibcy Cline has given her a competitive edge in her graphic design career. Courtney graduated from UC’s competitive College of Design, Art, Architecture, and Planning (DAAP) in 2014 and joined Sibcy Cline in October of 2019. So far, she feels satisfied that she has found a space where she can use and grow her skillset while forwarding the brand—and her career at the same time.  

Because marketing innovation is and has always been a primary driver of business goals for Sibcy Cline, working as part of the Creative Services team gives Courtney the opportunity to feed her desire to “stand out from the competition” by trying new ideas that pull from all types of media and trends. “What’s amazing about the real estate industry is how diverse the audience is,” she said, adding that this is also a challenge because “you can’t serve the same message to everyone.”  

Another challenge that Courtney willingly accepts about the real estate industry is the impact that social and economic events have. “Fair housing rules are important. I’m a big advocate for this because I’m pro-social activism. [In designing marketing pieces], it’s not what you say, but how you say it.” COVID was another big influencer on marketing in real estate, pushing the shift to digital and increasing the need to focus on tech solutions to increase efficiency. For Courtney, this is a huge positive change because it frees up time to get creative while looking at the big picture.  

The big picture in Courtney’s role at Sibcy Cline involves seeing branding come to life across multiple channels, both digital and print, which she finds to be the most rewarding part of her job. “I love when we get the chance to make a mark together,” she said, citing two recent projects where she felt her design work and collaboration with others worked successfully.  

One such successful project was creating the branding concept for 3CDC’s project at Academy Lofts, a condo development that involved renovating the old Art Academy dorms. “Who would have known that I’d spend some of my college years in the dorms and then work on selling them as condos in the future? It was serendipity,” said Courtney.   

Another project that Courtney counts as her proudest career accomplishment is designing a campaign of social media graphics for Sibcy Cline’s Relocation division which won first place from LeadingRE for interactive media. The campaign was in competition with other independent brokerages around the world—in a category that Sibcy Cline falls at the lower end of the size category. That means that Courtney’s work was judged against brokerages with marketing teams much larger than Sibcy Cline—and won. “I’ve been involved in marketing entries to their competition for 6 years and finally won something. It’s a global prize!” she said.  

When it comes to designing social media graphics, Courtney feels like she’s in her zone. “I’m comfortable with it because I grew up on the internet. Now, scrolling on a phone is just a reflex. I think about ways to make people stop—something unexpected to catch their eye.” 

Along with branding building projects and winning marketing competitions, Courtney’s 2020 was a huge personal success. She took advantage of the low mortgage rates and her connections with Sibcy Cline and bought her first home—a rehabbed 120-year-old house in Northside. With the pandemic going on “I’ve had plenty of time to organize my knick-knacks and vinyl collection, take care of houseplants and my garden, and plan for future projects,” she says. What kind of future projects? For a designer with a creative fire that burns non-stop, her love of art touches her work, her home, and her body: “I’ll be working on my tattoo sleeve!”  she said.

Sibcy Cline Employee Spotlight: Spencer Bach

 “I get some kind of satisfaction at the end of the day knowing that I’m helping people with their technology problems. And each time I encounter a problem, I learn something new.”
  • Name: Spencer Bach
  • Title: Help Desk Analyst 
  • Hometown: Cincinnati 
  • Current home: Cincinnati 
  • Proudest career or life accomplishment: Graduating college
  • Favorite local hangouts: Arlins Bar & Restaurant, Oddfellows in OTR, The Mockbee 

When Spencer Bach was in his senior year as a student at the University of Cincinnati, he thought graduation from college in May of 2020 was going to be an “obvious defining moment when you knew you were starting life as an adult.” With a bachelor’s degree in information technology concentrating on cybersecurity, he had a marketable degree as well as nearly four years of experience in desktop support. Clearly, there would be opportunities for him.  

Then, just two months before he was expecting his launch into the post-graduation adult world, the pandemic hit. Instead of a clear path in front of him, Spencer was suddenly faced with incredible uncertainty. “I always felt like there would be this fresh start…a clear answer to your life,” he says. “But no, there is none. It’s never going to be a linear path. It’s terrifying, but beautiful.”  

Terrifying may be an understatement for the feeling of finally completing years of schooling only to graduate into the highest unemployment the country has seen since the Great Depression (14.7% in May 2020). With many companies shut down, on hiring freezes, or going out of business altogether, newly minted grads like Spencer had no idea what to do next and no precedent to follow. Even when Spencer did eventually find a job, at a factory assembling speakers, it didn’t last long. About a month after he was hired, they ran out of work and he was let go. “No one was having shows or performing, so musicians didn’t need new speakers anymore,” he recalls.  

“I was experiencing the lowest lows I’ve ever experienced,” he says. “I thought, wow, I’m never going to be able to find a job and enjoy my mid-20’s now.”  

Things began to take a turn for the better when Spencer was hired as a help desk analyst with Sibcy Cline’s Technology Services department in October of 2020. Now happily employed, he’s grateful for a job, but also happy for having landed safely at a company whose culture is a good fit for him.  “I really like how it’s a family business. There’s something about it that feels so personal to me. I really like the interactions I have with the agents and employees here because it feels like I’m a part of this family,” he says.  

The company culture is not the only thing that Spencer enjoys about his work. “I get some kind of satisfaction at the end of the day knowing that I’m helping people with their technology problems,” he says. “And each time I encounter an issue, I learn something new.” 

In the “wild ride” of his pandemic journey from barely surviving to happily thriving, Spencer’s desire to learn new things has been the constant that keeps him moving forward toward a better future. During the past year, he’s taken up several new artistic pursuits, including film photography, music production, drawing, and the culinary arts (he can make a mean Neapolitan pizza!). “I really love art and I have a deep respect for those who can do any kind of art and express themselves through their art,” he says.  

While filling his free time with creative exploration keeps him balanced, Spencer remains focused on his future in IT. “I want to get my IT comp certificates so I can get further in my career,” he says. And with a bright future ahead of him, he’s learned a lifetime of wisdom in one pandemic year: “The main thing that has changed is I feel more in tune with who I am. It’s given me a lot of time to reflect on things.”  

Sibcy Cline Employee Spotlight: Damon DiBari

“My success is based on everyone’s success, and I truly enjoy being a part of everyone’s life and livelihood.”
  • Name:  Damon DiBari, CFP, ChFC, MBA 
  • Title: Senior Loan Officer 
  • Birthplace: Providence, RI 
  • Current home: Downtown Cincinnati’s West End
  • Proudest accomplishments:  Becoming a Certified Financial Planner and running three marathons 
  • Favorite local hangouts: Salazar’s in OTR and Washington Park’s bar area 

The virtual world that we live in now was only an imagined reality in the world Damon DiBari grew up in. “It’s like something from the 80’s sci-fi movies,” Damon says, “not something we thought we’d actually see in our lifetime. Now it is just the norm, the way we do business every day.” 

During the pandemic, the mortgage business couldn’t just come to a grinding halt, so making those sci-fi fantasies a reality has been a necessary move. People needed to buy and sell homes, so a pivot was the only option.  “In any industry, you have to have the ability to make a 180 change based on whatever the market is. You have to come up with your own method,” he says.

According to Damon, Sibcy Cline has proven its ability to shift in response to changes in the market and he believes that ability is what has made the mortgage division successful during COVID. “Covid pushed me to my limits on how efficiently I can handle our business.  I have changed processes, added new teammates, became virtual in a new virtual world.” 

In his 8 years with Sibcy Cline, Damon has been able to find a space for himself as a financial planner who gives advice and information to clients, rather than simply quoting rates and terms for a loan. One of his favorite parts about his job is the freedom it gives him to innovate and create personalized plans with clients, something he couldn’t do in his previous roles as a stockbroker and private banker. “The bigger banks I worked for in my career did not have that option. Here I can come up with a plan and Sibcy Cline helps me see it through.” 

It’s this kind of “personal touch” banking and the ability to innovate freely that Damon finds most rewarding in his job as a financial planner. “I have built excellent relationships that have been like family.  My success is based on everyone’s success, and I truly enjoy being a part of everyone’s life and livelihood,” he says.   

And the challenges that come along with that are not something that he shies away from. Rather, he sees fluctuations in the market as opportunities to learn and change so you can be better prepared for the future. “With the millennials seeing the housing crisis in 2008, they have been better prepared. They have saved carefully and are ready to buy houses. Right now, even with the Coronavirus, this is going to be the smartest group of buyers I’ve seen in my entire career. They know more, they’ve seen more,” he says.  

As someone who has seen tremendous change in his lifetime, Damon speaks from experience. In his own neighborhood in Cincinnati’s West End, he’s seen a huge shift from one of the most dangerous neighborhoods in the U.S. to what is now often referred to as “the Paris of the Midwest”.  “After college I got my first apartment downtown, right after the riots happened. It was rough time for downtown, before OTR was what it is now. You could find a property for $10,000 which are now selling for $500-600,000. It was a different time,” he says.

Being in the middle of so much urban upheaval in the early part of the 2000’s was far different than Damon’s upbringing on the outskirts of Cincinnati. “My parents moved here from Rhode Island and My dad worked for GE, so I grew up in Fairfield and West Chester in the 80’s, which was mostly farmland. I went to college at Miami, which was also pretty far out there…a gorgeous campus, but not in the middle of anything.”  

In spite of his rural-suburban roots, something about the urban life appealed to Damon. “They built a pocket neighborhood there in 2005 on the West End, where they built 15 brownstone rowhouses. I passed by there and I fell in love with them the first time I saw them,” he says.  Damon bought one of the brownstone houses and has lived there ever since, with no plans to leave. “Especially with the new FC stadium going in—I’m a big fan—I’m going to own that house forever,” he says.  

Another thing that Damon loves about the downtown life is being so close to the music scene. “I love music. I go to 20-30 concerts a year. I’m a Bunbury fan and I’ve been every year since its inception.” Damon’s also looking forward to downtown’s newest concert venue, The Icon Center. “It’s unbelievable. That is going to be a gem in the city.”  

It may seem like a distant reality to gather again in an indoor concert venue to enjoy live music, but Damon is confident that it’s not only imaginable, but possible. “Things will evolve,” he says, “there will always be something new, something we haven’t thought of.” 

HOMEARAMA® 2022 Kickoff for ChimneyRidge in Loveland

The site for HOMEARAMA® 2022 is in Loveland near the Little Miami River and bike trail.
  • Who: Real estate agents, homebuilders, and HBA members
  • What: Informational networking event with coffee and baked goods served
  • When: Tuesday, March 16, 9-11 a.m..
  • Where: The Landing Event Center, 119 Karl Brown Way, Loveland

ChimneyRidge development in Loveland will be the site of next year’s HOMEARAMA® and this week kicks off the build up to the completion of some of the finest custom homes in Cincinnati. Always a well-attended and popular event drawing thousands of locals every year, HOMEARAMA® displays top-notch craftsmanship and the most innovative approaches to home design and home building in the country.

Included among the top homebuilders in Greater Cincinnati who have committed to build homes is Sibcy Cline’s builder partner, WP Land Company. 2022 will be WP Land Company’s second time to participate in the event. In 2019 they were part of the Kensington development of Mason.

“When ChimneyRidge was selected as the community for 2022, we were excited to jump in as we felt the location was a home run,” said Tim Mahoney II of WP Land Company and Executive Sales Vice President with Sibcy Cline.

“Today’s buyers are always looking for opportunities to be close to amenities, but still crave a sense of privacy and space to retreat to,” Tim said. “Marrying those two can be challenging, which is what makes ChimneyRidge such a unique opportunity.”

Right next to Downtown Loveland sits Nisbet Park, a popular gathering place for visitors and residents while dining, shopping, and enjoying the river and bike path that run through downtown.

Due to the popularity and desirability of the Loveland area and low housing inventory in the market as a whole, Tim knows that new construction is a welcome option for many future homebuyers. “There are also six additional lots in the community we’d be happy to secure for interested buyers, so we’re really looking at 15 opportunities for a custom home by WP Land Company in the ChimneyRidge community,” he said.

Tim’s not alone in his belief that the ChimneyRidge development is an attractive site for homes. Sibcy Cline REALTOR® Andrea Lucke DeStefano agrees. Andrea, who is the listing agent for lot #11, the site for a custom-built home by Robert Lucke Homes, Inc, listed off the many features of the development that buyers want, like the charming gas street lights, a small community with only 30 home sites, and wooded/private lots. “It feels like you’re in the country, but so close to everything,” she said.

Downtown Loveland is a short commute to Cincinnati by bike, bus, or car.

ChimneyRidge sits high on 26 wooded acres off of Butterworth Road, less than one mile from the Downtown Loveland and the Little Miami bike trail. It also offers easy access to I-275. Homeowners who build with HOMEARAMA® builders for the 2022 event at ChimneyRidge save thousands on expensive upgrades for homes outfitted with the newest innovations in custom homebuilding.

For more information about the meet and greet event on Tuesday, March 16, visit the HOMEARAMA® blog.

Sibcy Cline Employee Spotlight: Paula Wilton

 “I enjoy working for a family-owned company and it truly feels like one big family.”
  • Name: Paula Wilton
  • Title: Executive Assistant to Lisa Lakeman, CFO
  • Hometown: Cincinnati
  • Current home: Cincinnati
  •  Favorite local hangout: Cincinnati Art Museum

A combination of both math-minded and artistic, Paula Wilton spends her life walking the line between the analytical and creative. The pursuit of balance is her zone, and she has done it well—few people can move so easily from left-brain to right-brain tasks and perform well. But for Paula, jumping from spreadsheets to painting murals is all in a day’s work.  

In the early days of her career, after earning her degree in graphic design, Paula worked as Donor Research Coordinator for the Cincinnati Art Museum, a job where she discovered her love of numbers while preparing financial reports for the Board of Directors. The position at the art museum was the perfect balance of number-crunching mixed with creative stimulation.  

“I absolutely loved the fact that I was surrounded by art! I would take afternoon walks through the galleries to clear my head. I could satisfy both sides of my mind—the mathematical and the creative. It was the best of both worlds.”  

Paula took a career break from the museum after her second child, returning to work later part-time for a family-owned wine business in Anderson Township, Wine World. There she went back to her creative roots by designing displays, gift baskets, and creating monthly newsletters—but her love of accounting held strong and eventually she took over as bookkeeper for the store as well.  

Later Paula desired a full-time position, which led her to Sibcy Cline. Paula’s rich career and life experiences made her exactly the right fit among the well-rounded and varied backgrounds of Sibcy Cline employees. “I enjoy working for a family-owned company and it truly feels like one big family,” says Paula.  

Since her start at Sibcy Cline 6 years ago, Paula has embraced the opportunity to dive deeper into the world of accounting and hone her skills. “I enjoy a variety of tasks. While everything runs on a cycle in accounting, each day still brings new challenges and opportunities to learn,” she says.  

And for Paula, the learning doesn’t stop at 5 o’clock. She’s still active in a wide variety of creative pursuits. Her biggest love right now? Rehabbing a home out in Felicity with her boyfriend. “It’s a lot of work, but I know it will be well worth it when we are sitting in our home and looking around, knowing we did it all ourselves,” she says. Despite all the time and effort it takes to gut and rehab a house, Paula manages to squeeze in some relaxation, “I love to read out on our balcony, overlooking the river.”  

7 Tax Benefits for Homeowners

Buying a home is usually the single biggest purchase most of us make in our lifetimes. And while there are many benefits to owning a home, they may differ for everyone. As Pat Kuether, President of Mortgage Services at Sibcy Cline, points out, “A first time borrower might be looking to build wealth and find that perfect home to raise a family; A baby boomer might want the sense of comfort and security that comes with owning your own home, while the corporate transferee might see it as a transitional commitment.” 

While everyone is different, there is one benefit to home ownership for all of us. “In all of these examples, the fact that you can take advantage of the tax deduction is a huge benefit,” says Pat.  

Many buyers, especially first-time buyers, don’t always see the tax benefits right away. “Most buyers only the see from the perspective that [buying a home] is a place to live ‘at cost’. As a financial planner, I feel it is my job to communicate the financial benefit,” says Damon DiBari, Loan Officer and Certified Financial Planner at Sibcy Cline Mortgage Services.  

Tax Benefits to Claim on Your Tax Return  

The tax benefits of homeownership are significant, and knowing what benefits are available to you will help you get the most money back on your taxes this year. We’ve compiled a list below for your reference.  

1. Mortgage Interest 

This is the biggest tax benefit you will receive for being a homeowner. Every homeowner who is married and filing jointly who has a mortgage up to $750,000 can deduct the interest paid on their loan. Single filers can write off up to $375,000. You may also be able to deduct the interest on a home equity line of credit of up to $100,000 when it is used to purchase or make improvements to your home.  

If you purchase home from $150,000 to $250,000, you will pay about $6000-$10,000 in mortgage interest in the first year, and you will be able to then deduct that against your income. The larger the mortgage, the larger the deduction becomes.  

Here’s how it works: You will receive a 1098 form from your lender which lists the mortgage interest you paid. You can use the amount on this form on Schedule A of your 1040 to deduct from your taxes owed.  

2. Property Taxes  

The latest rules for property taxes (a.k.a. real estate taxes) allow you to deduct up to $10,000, which includes both state and local taxes.  

If you paid your taxes directly, you will need to keep receipts and copies of checks to claim this deduction. When you pay through an escrow account with your lender, the total will be on your Form 1098.  

3. Mortgage Points  

When you take out a mortgage, it is common to pay “points” to the lender in order to reduce your interest rate. Paying these points is another tax benefit of being a homeowner since they are also tax deductible.  

You will need to check with your lender to evaluate your mortgage payment and see if you qualify for this deduction. For example, if your monthly payment includes $200 for points, your deductible would be $2,400.  

4. Private Mortgage Insurance  

When you don’t put 20% down on a home, lenders require that you buy private mortgage insurance (PMI). Although this is an added expense to your mortgage, you can claim it as a deduction.  

There are a couple of guidelines for this deduction. The first is that your mortgage must have been taken out after 2007. The other is that you can’t claim this deduction if your income is over $100,000 if you are married or over $50,000 if you are single.  

5. Energy-Efficient Upgrades  

Going green can get you rewards when you own a home. Under the residential energy-efficient property credit, IRS has made upgrades that conserve energy a tax credit for homeowners. You can be credited up to 30% of the cost of your upgrades. 

To get this credit, you must make improvements (such as solar energy panels) to your home that increase its energy efficiency. For a full list of eligible improvements, you can visit energystar.gov.  

6. Home Office Expenses 

Although many of us worked from home this past year, this benefit is only available to self-employed workers and the guidelines are strict. If you qualify, you can deduct up to $5 per square foot for up to 300 sqaure feet of office space—a maximum deduction of $1500.  

Included in this deduction are other expenses such as your electric bill, internet bill, and computer equipment.  

7. Capital Gains from Selling Your Home 

One last benefit of homeownership comes when it is time to sell. You are not required to pay taxes on the profit you make when you sell your home, up to $500,000 if you’re married and $250,000 if you’re single.  

There are some guidelines around this benefit that are worth checking out, but most homeowners will not have to pay any taxes on their profits from selling. This is a huge benefit and allows homeowners to use the money on the purchase of a new home if they choose.  

Help with Claiming Your Tax Benefits  

Figuring out which tax benefits you qualify for and what documentation you need can be confusing and frustrating. “Our number one goal is to communicate with homeowners to help with their taxes. We promote a proactive approach by reaching out in February and March to ensure the documentation and information are received and understood,” says Damon.  

“We take pride in having the background to be an advisor for our clients as part of their trusted team,” Damon says. If you have any questions regarding your tax benefits related to home ownership, get in touch with a loan officer with Sibcy Cline Mortgage Services for assistance.