Just in from Jenny...

Last year I got to be a part of HGTV filming one of my Listings for House Hunters!!  The episode "First-Timers in Texas" airs tonight on HGTV @ 9PM!  As an HGTV addict, I had a blast watching what goes on behind the scenes and meeting the amazing Producer, Camera and Lighting Crew! 

I will fill you in on the behind the scenes scoop, videos and pictures as soon as the episode airs! 

http://abc13.com/realestate/tour-houston-home-before-it-airs-on-hgtv/1705093/
Posted by Jenny S. Becker on May 25th, 2017 4:23 PM

To Protest or Not to Protest?

Just when you thought you were done dealing with your taxes for the year, it is time to consider protesting your property tax valuation. Every year your local appraisal district assesses your home’s value for taxation purposes. The value is based what the property could sell for ON January 1st of that year. Condition of the home, your neighborhood’s home values and accuracy of your home’s features all play a part in coming up with that value. Once you receive your Notice of Appraised Value, look over the numbers carefully. If your property is not described correctly or if the value looks out of whack, you should protest it. Also make sure your Residential Homestead is listed under exemptions!  If it is not, you have until April 30th to file.

Texans have the right to uniform and equal taxes. However, the system is set up that the property owner must appeal to ensure that is the case. The deadline to contest your property taxes is May 31, 2017 or 30 days from when your notice was mailed (whichever is later).

**DISCLAIMER! I am not a property tax expert. I strongly believe in adding value beyond the transaction. I believe providing quality resources to help my clients enjoy their home, to ensure they maximize homeowner benefits and help make their house a home while saving money in the process. Make sure you do your research, carefully review the information provided in the “resources” section below and/or contact a tax professional.  If you would like me to run comparables on your home, please email me at JennyShepherd@remax.net or call me at (832) 594-1265.    

Property Tax Bill Sticker Shock in Harris & Fort Bend County:

You are not alone if you are still reeling from the sticker shock of your recent year’s Property Appraisal Notice. A few years ago, the majority of Houstonians' started to notice that the era of the appraisal districts underestimating your home value was rapidly changing. In 2016 we started to see the local real estate market drastically come to a halt, however the appraisal districts property values did not follow suit. In the last couple years Harris County Appraisal District (HCAD) and Fort Bend County Appraisal District (FBCAD) came under hot water for not lowering the home evaluations to correlate with the local real estate market. Although the 2017 real estate market has started out in positive territory (CLICK HERE to read the latest MLS Market Report), this maybe the year you FINALLY win at protesting your property taxes!

I’m not a property tax protest expert, but I can send you comparables to use and outline the steps to protest your property taxes. There are also a slew of companies in the area that will protest your taxes for you (with a percentage taken out for their fee). Whether you decide to do it yourself or hire a company to do it for you, it is important to understand the process so you can make an informed decision.

In this Blog post, I am going to focus on protesting your taxes on your own using the appraisal districts online system (informal hearing) and making your case in front of the Appraisal Review Board (ARB) in Harris and Fort Bend County.

Steps to Protesting Your Property Taxes in Harris & Fort Bend County:

 


**FBCAD’s Tax Appeals Process is nearly identical to what is shown in this chart. 

 

File Notice of Protest:

Submit a written Notice of Protest form by May 31st. Detailed instructions of how to file online can be found in the resources section below. You will need to identify the property being appealed and the basis for your appeal. Pay close attention to the boxes you check off stating the reason for your protest. Your choices will affect the kind of evidence you can submit down the road. If you are appealing because the value is too high, I strongly recommend appealing on both “Assessed value is over market value” and “Value is unequal compared with other properties.” Checking both boxes will allow you to present the widest types of evidence. If the square footage and/or property information is incorrect, be sure to check “Property description is incorrect.” If the property information is incorrect and you feel the assessed value is too high, check all boxes that relate.

Supporting Your Appeal:

You are required to upload documents supporting why you feel that your appraisal value it too high. Documentation can include (but not limited to) a recent closing statement, an appraisal, pricing of recently sold homes that directly compare to yours (this is where I can help!), pictures of repairs needed, quotes on company letter head of the cost of repairs needed and/or a floor plan of your home.

“Property Description is Incorrect”

Check the property improvement (building data) details for accuracy. Does it have the correct square footage, accurate lot size and number of beds, baths and garage spaces? If the appraisal district shows that you have MORE of any these features, file a protest to have them correct it as that could result in a reduction. Hence the word MORE!

“Assessed value is over market value” & “Value is unequal compared with other properties”

One popular method is to ask me, Your Realtor, to email you comparable sales numbers to refute the tax value. You can also find someone in your neighborhood with the exact same floor plan and check their numbers on the appraisal district’s website. If their values are lower, use their pictures and tax records (available on the appraisal districts website) in your supporting documents. If your home has significant problems that affect its value, show pictures and get estimates to show why your home’s value should be lower. The condition on January 1st is key as you look at factors that affect the value. Any damage after this date, won’t affect the taxable value of your home this year.

The Envelope Please...

The appraisal district will review your evidence along with other market information provided by an Appraiser. They will either make an offer to reduce your assessed value or request that you present your evidence at an ARB hearing. As soon as HCAD or FBCAD notifies you of their decision, you will be able to log onto your online account to access the information and market data they used when considering your appeal. That information will play an important role when deciding whether to accept their offer and when preparing your case for the ARB hearing!

Preparing for Your ARB Hearing:


If you decline the appraisal district’s offer after the informal process, your next step is to present your evidence in front of the ARB. It is important that you know exactly how to prepare for your ARB hearing. I recommend that you carefully review The Homeowner’s Guide to Presenting Your Case at an ARB Hearing.It outlines the process in detail including what to expect (the format of the hearing), exactly how to prepare your evidence, approaches to take, burden of proof and what to do if you are still not satisfied after your ARB hearing.
You have a right to obtain copies of all information that the appraisal district used to appraise your property. If you aren’t able to access it online, make sure that you request this information, study it and find comps to refute it. Under the law, the appraisal district has the burden of establishing the value of your property. If they fail “to prove your home’s value by a preponderance of the evidence, the ARB must rule in your favor.”

Rules of the Road:

DO: Come with a specific value you believe your home is worth and the documentation to support that figure.

DO: Request, in advance, the appraisal district’s documentation they used to assess your tax value. Review it in detail to determine if there are differences that might make those properties a poor comparison to yours. I.e. property size, upgrades, number of beds/baths, proximity to a busy road, etc…

DON’T: Be emotional. Craft a clear convincing argument and state the facts. A long rambling presentation filled with generalizations is not going to get it done.

DON’T: Be rude. Your frustration is with the appraisal district, not the review board. “You catch more bees with honey than vinegar!”

DO: COME PREPARED! Know what documents you need to bring, how many copies of each and the format of the hearing before you go.

Resources:

Important Information About the Protest Process

Notice of Protest – Instructions for Filing Online:

Fort Bend County Appraisal District

Harris County Appraisal District

How to Present Your Case at a ARB Hearing: A Homeowner’s Guide

The Texas Comptroller’s Website – Tax Information

Property Tax Payer Remedies 

Frequently Asked Questions 


Posted by Jenny S. Becker on April 19th, 2017 5:58 PM

"Houston Home Sales Blossom in March"

The Houston real estate market continues it's "2017 winning streak" as home sales, prices and inventory keep rising!  The Houston luxury market ($750,000 and above) HAR March 2017.jpgenjoyed it's fifth consecutive month of sales gains, however the bulk of the activity was in the $250,000 to $499,999 price range.  The surge of new listings that hit that market in March was also crucial as it ensures Houston will maintain positive momentum in the coming months! 

The Houston real estate market enjoyed across the board gains compared to March 2016.  At the end of March 2017, month end pending sales increased 16.7% and total active listings jumped up almost 10%!  CLICK HERE to read the full MLS Report for March 2017.

Posted by Jenny S. Becker on April 12th, 2017 2:58 PM
With the final phase of LaCenterra at Cinco Ranch and the Westpark Tollway extensionLaCenterra Cinco Ranch both currently under construction, predictions are high for the mixed-use development, Cinco Ranch and the Katy housing market!

LaCenterra, located just off the Grand Parkway (99) in the heart of Cinco Ranch, now has more than 75 shops and restaurants.  The final phase will be anchored by a new 37,000 SF Alamo Draft House, will add an additional 7,500 SF of retail space and a 6 story parking garage.  When completed LaCenterra will span 34 acres and around 410,000 SF. 

Ariel View LaCenterra Cinco Ranch
It's hard to believe that LaCenterra celebrates it's 10th anniversary this month!  With it's already diverse variety of tenants and tenants that have already signed on for the final phase, there are high hopes that the second decade is going stronger then the first.

Cinco Ranch is an 8,100 acre Master Planned Community, home to over 12,000 families and is located 32 miles west of Downtown Houston.
Posted by Jenny S. Becker on March 16th, 2017 1:40 PM

It is time to get your tax ‘ducks’ in a row.  Home sweet home owner tax breaks!

There are significant tax breaks that come with the joys and woes of home ownership.  If you're among the new property owners, congratulations.  “You've just taken another step up the American-dream ladder and are a homeowner.”  Along with the joy of painting, plumbing and yard work, you now have some new tax breaks.  Other homeowners can enjoy tax breaks even when they sell their former abodes.

The bad news, your taxes will likely get more complicated if you want to ensure you are taking full tax advantage of your homeowner tax considerations.  As a homeowner you can most likely wave goodbye to the 1040-EZ form and start to familiarize yourself with itemizing the deductions on Schedule A.  Once you get it down, it is worth it.  Welcome to 'Homeowner Adulting'

Are you taking advantage of your standard Homeowner tax deductions? 

  • Mortgage Interest Deduction
  • Prepaid Interest Deduction
  • Property Tax Deduction
  • PMI & FHA Mortgage Insurance Premiums
  • Energy Efficiency Updates 

CLICK HERE to read more from HouseLogic about taking advantage of the homeowner tax deductions you are entitled to, what to know to itemize your tax deductions, tax mistakes that will cost you, how to get your PMI tax deduction and MORE. 

For detailed information ‘straight from the horse’s mouth’ visit www.irs.gov. Please consult your CPA or a tax professional for further advisement on your Homeowner Tax Deductions.

Posted by Jenny S. Becker on February 28th, 2017 9:20 PM
Did you wait until the last minute to plan your Valentine's dinner?  Love it or hate it, there are no shortage of Restaurants to choose from.  CLICK HERE for a detailed guide of what Houston Restaurant's are offering this Valentine's Day.  
Posted by Jenny S. Becker on February 13th, 2017 8:45 PM
The Houston Association of Realtors (HAR) latest monthly report showed an increase in both home sales and prices.  Most notably, the luxury market showed the strongest sales activity!  Are the woes of the energy industry behind us?  CLICK HERE to view HAR's January 2017 Press Release.


Posted by Jenny S. Becker on February 8th, 2017 2:53 PM
Tickets are on sale for the Katy Sip n Stroll! The bi-annual event, benefiting The Ballard House, takes place at Villagio Town Center on April 1st from 5-8 PM! You had me at "discover new wines, new beer, delicious foods and neighboring business."  For more information visit http://www.sipandstroll.com/home.shtml


Posted by Jenny S. Becker on February 8th, 2017 12:46 PM

Houston: Home of Super Bowl LI

As a native Houstonian, I have been looking forward the return of the Super Bowl to the Bayou City.  Amidst all of the bulldozers, road blocks and construction happening all over our great city for the past year... I have been patiently awaiting the end game!  Pun  intended.  The Super Bowl is back!!  I am proud of what Houston has done to get ready for our second chance to host the "Big Game".  And most of the new developments are here to stay... Hello Texas sized lazy river looking over Downtown Houston, Convention District, Restaurant Row & Midtown Super Block!!

Houston last hosted the Super Bowl in 2004.  We've had quite the makeover since the game invaded our great city over a decade ago.  The growth in the last 12 years is astounding!  www.visithoustontexas.com published a press release "A Tale of Two Super Bowls: Houston in 2004 vs. 2017" looking at how much the fourth-largest city in the U.S. has grown in population, developments and transportation (to name a few). 

An quick summary of 'Houston of Super Bowls Past vs. Houston of Super Bowls Present':

  • Houston's population has increased by 1.5 million people
  • Houston's airports served over 10 million more passengers and counting
  • Houston's rail has added 15 miles to the Metro Rail bringing the total to 23 miles
  • Hospitality and Tourism has nearly doubled in all categories from number of hotel rooms to restaurants/nightlife
  • Houston has added new parks (Hi Discovery Green!) and extensively renovated others
CLICK HERE to read the complete "Tale of Two Super Bowls" press release.



Posted by Jenny S. Becker on February 2nd, 2017 10:23 PM

If you don't have tickets to Sunday's game, there are tons of events to give you your fill of the return of the 'Big Game' to the Bayou City!  Here is your complete "Guide to Super Bowl LI" including details on the multi block interactive festival dubbed "Super Bowl LIVE," details on how to get around and how to either dodge the party or where to party!  Speaking of where to party... KHOU published their guide to "Super Bowl LI parties and events" highlighting the endless ways to enjoy live music, great food and parties happening in the Bayou City!

Here is the official event calendar for Super Bowl LI  
Posted by Jenny S. Becker on January 31st, 2017 10:06 PM

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