Final Profile

Salt Lake City, UT – Buying a home is the goal of many young couples and individuals but the recent financial crisis that was spurred by issues within the housing industry has made it a challenge for first time home buyers to get into a home.
Housing prices themselves are at a historical low having dropped around 30 percent in Utah since 2009 making it a great market to buy the house of your dreams. Besides housing prices being historically low, interest rates are also very low in Utah and are hovering around 3 to 4 percent. The numbers support that it is a buyers’ market and that first time home buyers should be able to get a very good price on a decent home.
“This is not the case,” says ShirLee McGarry, a 20 year veteran Realtor who specializes in helping first time home buyers. Because of the collapse of the sub-prime housing market in 2009 and the subsequent multibillion dollar bailout by the United States government more stringent regulations for lenders have been instituted.
The new regulations came with much stricter punishment of lenders and more protection for consumers but also make lenders more cautious in whom they will lend money to. “As recent as 2009 many first time home buyers were able to get into homes beyond their affordability because of the sub-prime laws that allowed lenders to lend money to these sub-prime borrowers,” McGarry explained to a small group of hopeful first time homebuyers.
This is no longer the case so these first time homebuyers are not allowed to capitalize on the great market situation for buyers. One of the individuals sitting in the group candidly expressed her concern that by the time she will actually be able to qualify for a home, the market may no longer be favorable. “I have been told by multiple lenders that despite having perfect credit, my fiancé and I do not have enough credit history to buy a home,” said Laura Kamper, a recent college graduate who has had a stable job for three years.
McGarry addressed Kamper’s concerns and admits that her case is not unique. As recent as 2009 Laura and her fiancé would have been able to qualify for a loan based off their credit history and how much they make. The new regulations though emphasize having a history of consistently paying off some kind of larger balance. As McGarry explains to the group, this could include rent, multiple credit cards, multiple car loans or other decent sized loan amounts.
Kamper explains that it is very frustrating having to wait on their plans to purchase a home, that based off their salaries they can more than easily afford. Instead they have to push back their plans a couple of months and have decided to rent an apartment with another friend until they can qualify on their own.
Adam Johnson is in a very similar situation as Kamper except that he is on both sides of the issue. He is presently working on his real estate license, is a recent college graduate, just bought his first home and works as a junior loan office at a local lender. “Being someone who works in the industry and having just gone through the process of buying my first home, I understand how frustrating it is,” Johnson said.
But he also explains there are many resources out there like McGarry who are there to help first time home buyers and many of those resources are free. “Not many people realize that Realtors are paid by the seller and so work for free with buyers,” Johnson says and explains that it is to the benefit of any buyer to use their services. It is already difficult buying a home for the first time having never experienced it before and so the services provided by McGarry really help simplify the process as much as possible.
The biggest problem Johnson says is that most first time home buyers are not going to be classified as prime buyers and so they fall under that sub-prime rating that is now being more strictly regulated. This would require most first time homebuyers to have a co-signer or some other financial help that they might not have.
Johnson also brings up some regulations that have been being considered but have not passed which would require any homebuyer to have a 20 percent down payment. The demographics of most first time home buyers show that for the most part none will have the ability to pay that 20 percent.
“It is difficult for first time home buyers now but it is all done in the purpose of protecting them from getting into loans they can’t afford,” Johnson said. McGarry shared the same sentiment to the group of hopeful homebuyers who all are now taking the proper steps to become qualified.


What can we learn from 5 million words?

There’s a popular saying that, “a picture is worth a thousand words.” But two Harvard researches want to test the validity of this saying and actually have found that some pictures can be worth much more than a thousand words.

            “Ladies and gentlemen, a picture is not worth a thousand words. In fact, we found some pictures that are worth 500 billion words,” said Erez Liberman Aiden of Harvard and Google.

            Aiden’s statement brought laughter to the attending audience as did the colorful images that explained the process of how he and fellow researcher Jean-Baptiste Michel, also a fellow of Harvard and Google, could come to such a conclusion.

“So many books actually have been written over the years,” Michel explained. “So we were thinking, well the best way to learn from them is to read all of these millions of books.” Reading that many books would take a lot of time and so is not an option for Aiden and Michel.

            Faced with the improbability of reading this many books Michel and Aiden decided to use Google, which to this point has scanned 15 million books. With Google’s help, Michel and Aiden were able to statistically evaluate the use of certain lines of text within the books. With this statistical data Michel and Aiden where able to see such things as how popular a certain event of phrase is.

“That gives us a time series of how frequently this particular sentence was used over time,” Michel said. “We do that for all the words and phrases that appear in those books, and that gives us a big table of two billion lines that tell us about the way culture has been changing.”

            Using the results of this data Michel and Aiden began to show graphs that explained much about history, including what is important to the different generations. Some of them brought laughter to the audience especially when they looked at the usage of “argh, aargh, aaargh” and found that the various levels of frustration had different levels of popularity in the last century.

            It was not only fun and games, as Aiden explains, “There are more sobering notes among the n-grams.” These moments; as he explains, they found by looking at inconsistences within the graphs and found that certain people should have been more famous for a certain time but due to various factors, they were not. Michel explained doctors, physicist and biologists don’t get mentioned much in history despite their contributions to society while actors and actresses are mentioned a lot.

                        “There are many usages of this data, but the bottom line is that the historical record is being digitized,” Michel said, which allows us to look at important aspects of human culture. It is a way for us to gaze into the past and understand what people where thinking during that time so that we may understand further our history.


Profile Story

Salt Lake City, Utah – The annual Sigma Chi Night to Conquer Cancer event is more than six months away but for Andrew Stott, founder and executive board member, preparations for the event are already underway. When he founded the inaugural charity event in 2009 they rose close to $30,000 for Huntsman Cancer Research and every year he has tried to help build on that success.

Andrew Stott was very active in the first event and was important to its inaugural success as his personal relationship with the former owners of the La Caille restaurant helped secure the location for the event. But Stott is quick to point to the actions of others as what really made the event function as well as it did.

“Matt Hansel (Sigma Chi President) and the rest of the chapter are who really made this event successful,” Stott said. “Without all the tables they sold and the items they were able to secure for the silent auction, we would have not been able to do as well as we did.”

The inaugural event in 2009 did better than expected by raising as much as it did and that early momentum has helped fuel the event to be just as successful in 2010 and 2011. Stott’s involvement in the last two events has not been as active as the first, but the connections that he created for the Sigma Chi house have allowed them to continue the event at La Caille as well as gain many of the same sponsors they had in that inaugural event. This has helped make the event one of the most successful charity events at the University of Utah and the most successful on the University of Utah Greek Row.

Stott gives all the credit to the Sigma Chi presidents who have been able to maintain the momentum of the event and continue to expand on it. “The original event was an honor to be a part of, but at the same time a very stressful one,” Stott explained. “It has been great being able to sit back and watch as each year the chapter has been able to bring in new aspects to the event and make it even better. It is truly impressive to see these young men take charge of such an important event that could have an impact on someone’s life.” Now that he has taken on a formal position as a Sigma Chi alumni he will again take charge of the event that he helped get off the ground and he hopes that he will not only continue its success but build on it further. The thought of which he says is, “both exciting and nerve wracking,” because he understands just how important the fundraiser money is too many people all across the country.

Stott has long been involved in charity events all across Utah, even before the Huntsman Cancer event. As a member of Shriners Children’s Hospital in Salt Lake City he makes regular visits to do many charity events. He has also done charity walks and marathons but he says that none have the same personal weight that the Sigma Chi cancer event does because of his intense involvement in the design of it and the understanding he has gained of the impacts of cancer. Having personal relationships with people who have been impacted by cancer has brought a new light to the event and has inspired him to continue to try and make the event even bigger.

“It’s my hope that this year we can raise more money than any other year of the charity and keep the momentum going so that this event continues to grow into the future,” he said.