Shocking Secret Revealed

Want to Know a Shocking Secret?

Online real estate Websites have a rather shocking secret buried in the pages of their sites. The data they use is not accurate in many cases. That’s right. The data Zillow, Trulia, and others use to create property value estimates is not accurate. At best, the data they use is not the whole story.

What?! How can that be? Well, for one, states such as Texas do not disclose sales prices. The information is considered private and confidential and is not reported to public Websites.  If you want to know what a property sold for, you need to work with a licensed realtor and specifically request the information as part of a market analysis. And as an aside, the appraisal district records do not necessarily reflect the sales price either. Taxable values are very frequently different from the sales price. Take my word on this one.

Zillow reports on their Website that the Zestimates they create are based on the available data. If the sold data is unavailable, how the heck are the Zestimates created? I’ll tell you: using the list price. That’s right, the price the house is listed at. We all know that properties don’t always sell for the list price. In some cases, properties sell way off of the listed price. Here’s an example:

Crowley, Texas 76036

In the last 90 days, 151 properties have sold. The final sales price ranged from 78.57% of the listed price to 112.85% of listed price. That’s a pretty big spread, wouldn’t you agree? How confident would you be with that Zillow Zestimate knowing a spread this large exists?

I’m not beating up Zillow or Trulia or any of the other online real estate sites. I know all consumers use these sites. And heck, I use them, too. The user friendly interfaces are awesome for house hunting! But I hope your take away from this shocking secret revealed is that the consumer sites are great, but frequently inaccurate. So please find a real estate advocate to take you through the process of buying or selling your property. They can save you so much time, grief and money! Even the consumer Websites advise you to consult a licensed professional. Read more online real estate sites and estimates.

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Lake Granbury, Shannon Houchin, For Sale, Real Estate

Life at the Lake

This is the perfect lot for the family and children. Enjoy the best of the country, Lake Granbury, and proximity to town. Mature trees and green space. A quiet cul de sac. Ready for immediate build of your weekend retreat. As a member of the Blue Shores POA, you have access to the clubhouse, boat ramp, picnic tables, docks and green space.


6615-blue-water-ct-granbury-tx-High-Res-1 6615-blue-water-ct-granbury-tx-High-Res-2 6615-blue-water-ct-granbury-tx-High-Res-6


Drive by and take a look!

More details here.

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Shannon Houchin, For Sale, Crowley

Storybook Retreat Could Be Yours

Fully upgraded storybook custom home in Johnson County


Constructed in 2006, this traditional home has 4 bedrooms, 2.5 baths and a 3-car garage separated by a breezy porte cochere. Custom built by McCaslin Custom Homes and owned by a single family, the house is upgraded with elegant finish outs, classic design elements and a family floor plan that accommodates entertaining as well as intimate family gatherings. With the perfect location in Johnson County on a 1.25-acre lot, this 2,716 square foot home has a view of the country, but is within proximity of the Chisholm Trail Tollway. A long driveway highlights the acre of manicured lawn and lush landscaping, taking guests to the front door. The unique octagon design of the master suite sitting room creates a quaint storybook façade that is downright welcoming. Tall ceilings and big windows throughout provide an openness and brightness highlighting the spacious interior. The open concept French country kitchen and family room is the heart of the home with an eat-in bar, granite countertops, tile backsplashes, custom cabinets with crown molding and decorative trim, and a separate butler’s pantry for additional storage. A beautiful brick fireplace anchors the family room, which overlooks the backyard pool and covered porch. The master suite is a full retreat, complete with an inviting sitting area overlooking the landscaping in the front yard, and a bath with a walk-in closet, his and hers vanities and graceful arches over the whirlpool tub.


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You Could Live Here

Quiet cul de sac. Green space. Close to shopping and businesses. Beautiful neighborhood. Fabulous Family Home. A game room every dad will be jealous for! 

The family home at 8328 Orchard Creek Dr. is all of this and more.

Constructed in 2010, this two-story, traditional home has 5 bedrooms, 4 baths and a 3-car tandem garage. Custom built by Meritage Homes and owned by a single family, the house is stocked with elegant finish outs, classic design elements and a family floor plan that accommodates entertaining as well as intimate family gatherings. With the perfect location at the end of the neighborhood cul de sac and backing up to the athletic fields of Crowley ISD school, Mary Harris Intermediate; this 4,148 square foot home has a view of green fields and children playing. Guests enter through the eight front door, passing through the grand entry with a wide foyer, arched reliefs, 18-inch tiled floors, and rounded wall corners. Just off the entry is an elegant office with double French doors and wood floors. Nine-foot ceilings throughout the downstairs provide an openness and brightness highlighting the spacious interior. The eat-in kitchen is the center of the home with an airstone eat-in bar, granite countertops, a cook s island also topped with granite, tile backsplashes, custom cabinets with crown molding, a large walk-in pantry, and a separate butler s pantry for additional preparation and storage. A beautiful stone-cast fireplace anchors the family room and a graceful formal staircase with oak railings leads guests upstairs to a vast game room with space to host a football watching party. The bright and open game room with adjoining theater room is the center of the second floor with the master and three more bedrooms nearby. The master suite is a full retreat, complete with fireplace, reading nook, a covered balcony overlooking the green fields and a bath suite with a walk-in closet.

Call for a private tour today. 8328-orchard-creek-rd8328-orchard-creek-rd-fort-worth-tx-High-Res-24Orchard Creek island

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Shocking Secret Revealed

14 Real Estate Deductions to Take Right Now

April 18th is the deadline! Here is an aggregated checklist of potential real estate deductions that could save you a lot of money. Be sure to check these deductions with your CPA or tax professional to see if any or all can be used on your federal tax return–or to see if they meet your overall tax strategy.

  1. Mortgage interest on primary and secondary homes.
  2. Property taxes.
  3. Interest on a home equity loan or a home equity line of credit.
  4. Interest on a home improvement loan. Capital improvements are the big ticket items, not standard maintenance items.
  5. Private mortgage insurance.
  6. Residential energy credits for items such as solar panels, energy saving water heaters, etc.
  7. Casualty losses: those losses on your property due to storm damage or fire. However, you cannot claim casualty losses if you have also claimed the loss on your insurance.
  8. Home office deduction if you work full time or part time from your home.
  9. Capital gains exclusions with the sale of a property. Single persons may exclude up to $250k and couples filing jointly may exclude up to $500k from annual revenues associated with the proceeds of a home sale.
  10. Home improvements in addition or on top of the capitals gains exclusion (not regular maintenance).
  11. Home sale costs such as realtor fees, legal fees, etc. These reduce the capital gains.
  12. Refinancing points if you’ve refinanced your home recently.
  13. Mortgage debt relief. If your home mortgage has been restructured or you’ve had mortgage debt forgiven, you may qualify under the Mortgage Debt Relief Act for exemption of the forgiven debt.
  14. If you recently purchased a home due to a job relocation, you may be eligible to deduct moving expenses.

And if you’re wondering why the tax deadline for 2015 was moved to April 18th, its because Washington D.C. is celebrating Emancipation Day on Friday, April 15th.

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What's the value of my home?

Insider tips: Fighting the tax appraiser’s assessment of your home

It’s that time again. How much tax do we owe on our most valuable asset–our home? For residents in Fort Worth and Tarrant County, we’re feeling the pain with the fresh spike in our property taxes. This year, it’s a big OUCH! And why are the taxes going up? Because the prices in the real estate market are going up! Read the County’s response to the HOT real estate market here.

So what’s a homeowner to do? If you feel the county’s appraisal of your property is wrong, review the reasons (according to the TAD Website) that you have to protest. Here are the three main reasons:

  1. Value is over market value
  2. Value is unequal compared to other properties
  3. Property description is incorrect

So now that you’ve selected a reason, what’s next? Gather the facts that may help your case. As a real estate advocate and agent, I’ve learned to gather strong data in favor of my clients. Here are my recommendations:

  1. Confirm all of the material facts regarding your home are correct. As an agent, I talk to certified appraisers everyday. They tell me the most common error made by the Appraisal District is square footage. Check that first. It impacts the value greatly and can be the difference in market value of thousands of dollars. Appraisers like to keep comparable properties within a 20% difference +/-. So when building a case to protest your appraised and/or market value, only look at houses within a 20% range. If your home is 2,500 square feet, look at sales of homes between 2,000-3,000 square feet–and better yet, look at houses that are 2,500 square feet. Also, confirm presence of central HVAC. Pool. Garage, etc. and the year built. All of these have an impact on valuation. Additionally, make sure the tax exemption for the subject property is correct. If you’re over 65 or a disable veteran, you are eligible for a reduced tax exemption.
  2. Use only recent sales. When selecting comparable properties as evidence, look only at sales activity within the last three to six months. Appraisers like to compare recent sales. The more recent, the better. If there aren’t any sales that recent, or if there are not 3 or more in the time period, look back 12 months and see what you can find. Don’t use “for sale” houses as comparables. Only those properties that have actually sold.
    1. WARNING: Do not use data from Zillow or other online consumer sources. Texas is a non-disclosure state, so the actual “sold price” is not reported to these sites. It may look like it, but the data Zillow uses, is only the “list price.” They don’t have access to the “sold price,” unless homeowners update it themselves. The only true way to get at the “sold prices” for properties in your subdivision is to go through a realtor or a professional who has a subscription to the databases. Read about Zillow’s “zestimate” for our area. Zillow only gives the accuracy of it’s own data 2-stars!!
  3. Try to stay within the subdivision. That means, find out the legal description of your property, and search for recent sales within the same subdivision. Those are truly comparable sales. If there aren’t enough recent sales in the subdivision, search the adjoining subdivisions, but keep it close as possible.
  4. Look for the exact same property details. If your home was built in 1955, has 3 bedrooms, 2 baths, a 2 car garage, is single story, is on an interior 0.3 acre lot, with no pool: that’s the comparable you want to use. If the property details are different in your comparable properties, the appraiser will adjust +/-. Every detail has a value. Four bedrooms are valued differently, so are pools, houses with second stories, and those homes built more recently. So stay as tight as possible.
  5. Look at condition. If your property has condition issues impacting value, provide evidence to the fact, such as photos with estimates from licensed technicians on what it would cost to replace or repair.
  6. Document upgrades or lack thereof. If your home doesn’t have the same upgrades as the recent sales in your subdivision, document those as well with photos. Details such as granite countertops, new appliances, hardwood flooring, remodeled kitchens and baths, etc. have value. If your home doesn’t have these, an appraiser would most likely downgrade some of the value.
  7. Recent appraisals, sales contracts, or closing disclosures. These documents can also be presented to the appraisal review board as evidence in your protest. So, if you’ve recently had the property appraised, are under contract to purchase the property, or have just closed on the sale of the subject property, you can present the closing disclosure and/or the sales contract.

Now you have evidence and are ready to protest. What is the process? TAD has a helpful process flow chart here. Forms for filing your protest are here. Good luck with the protest and well wishes!

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2016-03-09 18.06.19

It’s Financial Literacy Month. How Literate Are You?

According to recent studies, less than 60 percent of Americans understand basic financial principles such as compounding, inflation, and risk diversification. I can understand this. I see it everyday. But let’s get even more fundamental. How many Americans understand the most basic principle of: Pay Yourself First? Not the bills, the credit card, or the loans. But you. Pay you. Because who are you working for? YOU.

Studies indicate that our children don’t learn financial concepts in school, and as they leave school, the exposure to basic financial concepts is even lower. Ouch. So what do we do? How do we teach our children to be astute and savvy regarding finances?

Here’s where I started:

  1. Opened a teen checking account at Wells Fargo for my son. He has a debit card and online access where he can deposit birthday/holiday checks from grandparents.
  2. I advised him to “pay himself first.” Of every dollar he receives, set aside a minimum of 25 percent to savings. This is automatic. I helped him set it up through the online banking services. We discussed the concept of paying himself first and how in the long run, the money he saved could be used for any number of things, such as Play Stations, expensive headphones, gamer accessories, etc.
  3. Once he learned to pay himself first, we looked at the remaining balance and determined how it could or should be used. If he had immediate purchases he wanted, could he afford it? Could he pay outright for the item? If he had any debts to pay (to mom and dad for misc.) could he make the payments? Structuring the budget this way, allowed him to see the true reach of money. And it helped him resist impulsive purchases. It enabled him to see the bigger picture and set aside money for bigger desires.
  4. In addition to his teen checking account, we began conversations about investing. What companies were of interest to him? Apple? Google? Mattel? With the purchase of shares he can track performance, distributions and revenues. We have lots of discussions with this exercise because he can see the market and asks how it works. What makes it go up or down? What makes people buy and sell? How long should the investment be kept?
  5. Since these early conversations, he has set up other accounts for himself, such as Paypal, where he can make online purchases in a relatively secure environment. He is exposed to processors /third parties and how they make money. Additionally, he gains the experience of managing multiple online accounts–something we do as adults.

My strategy–over time–has proven successful and we are in the process of exploring debt, credit, and assets.

Here is a short and easy quiz for you or your child. See how financially literate you are!

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Are your HOA dues deductible?

Tax Deductions for HOA Dues?

Some Congressional lawmakers in California want to make HOA dues deductible on our Federal Income Tax return. In the proposed House bill–titled HOME, or Helping Our Middle Income Earners Act–homeowners earning less than $115,000 annually, would be eligible for a $5,000 income tax credit to offset what some elected officials are calling “double taxation.” The reasoning is that many HOAs perform duplicate services already offered by the resident’s city and paid for through property taxes. In essence, the mandatory assessments levied by HOAs are hitting homeowners wallets twice for the same services.

How does this effect us in Texas? According to the Community Associations Institute, over 66 million Americans live in HOAs and are potentially impacted by this form of double taxation. As Texas is home to one of the largest HOA populations in the nation, it is expected that Representatives here will back the bill and open a dialogue that includes the deduction as part of a larger more comprehensive tax reform legislation.

What is your opinion? In favor of the deduction? If not, why?

Read the proposed bill

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So7 Townhomes

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Linwood Rising: The Redevelopment of a Neighborhood

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