The Dallas Central Appraisal District and I have very different opinions on what is considered “desirable,” it seems.
Last year I began to notice a change in how DCAD valued certain multi-family and high-rise condo properties. Specifically, I noticed that The Warrington units of the same floor plan and judged as being in the same condition were almost always valued the same. On the surface, this seems logical, but is it?
First, a little background.
DCAD categorizes homes by what they call “desirability” but might as well be called “condition.” Unfortunately “desire” seems more in line with location than a structure’s physical repair. There are eight buckets of desirability ranging from undesirable to excellent. During this year’s annual property tax challenge, I was told that single-family homes utilize all eight while condos use fewer. For example, for my Athena floor plan, there are only four categories used – Average, Good, Very Good, and Excellent.
Think of desirability as a multiplier in the assessed valuation equation. If “average” equals one, then those properties rated lower get a base value multiplied by something less than one. The opposite math for those rated above “average” being multiplied by something more than one.
How could it be that in Dallas neighborhoods booming with redevelopment, that multifamily properties and investment properties haven’t seen any increases in their appraisals?
Last week, I wrote an update on the DCAD valuations for properties that are part of a block on Lemmon Avenue that was to have been the site of a Central Market (before HEB shifted plans to McKinney Avenue). That story showed DCAD substantially raising the assessed valuations in 2019.
But as you know, I’ve written a few stories on DCAD, and particularly one on properties at the end of a block of Fitzhugh Avenue bounded by Swiss and Gaston Avenues. I’d seen a new listing for a 616-square-foot detached house at 921 N. Fitzhugh and was curious. The price seemed high, but it was a good-ish location, so I checked the taxes. That check expanded to encompass 13 properties at the end of the block. What I found was astonishing. Two apartment buildings hadn’t seen a penny increase in their appraised value in five years. Another investment property whose value had bounced around between $75,500 and $78,560 since 2011.
What happened in 2019 is equally astonishing …
The Athena is one of those buildings with really good, quite large floorplans coupled with HOA dues that pay for everything including utilities, cable, and internet. Located in Preston Hollow, it’s perfect for those downsizers not wanting to leave the area as well as those seeking easy access to the Dallas Tollway and Central. However, being an older building, finding a renovated unit isn’t always easy.
Enter unit 1111, soon to be on the market. And if I seem to be a bit enthusiastic about this place, I come by it honestly — it’s the home I put my heart and soul into remodeling. A new job means it’s time to move on to my next renovation (in the Metroplex).
What was once a three bedroom, three bathroom unit has been reconfigured into a more spacious two bedroom and three bathroom unit. It boasts 1,899 square feet, plus it is one of the rare units with its glorious 28-foot long balcony intact.
Note: Those familiar with the Athena will know the original walls were heavily textured (crow’s foot) – this unit has smooth walls and no popcorn ceilings. The property will be listed by Robert Blackman at Solvent Realty Group.
As you can see from the picture above, there’s a lot more that’s was done during its stem-to-stern renovation. Let’s have a look …
Perhaps commercial property owners will soon be paying their fair share of property taxes if this news from the Dallas Central Appraisal District is any indication.
Last June, I reported that HEB owned a block of Lemmon Avenue between Reagan and Throckmorton Streets that was to have been a new Central Market. Those plans shifted to a more ambitious project at Lemmon and McKinney Avenues. However, DCAD had already planned on the Reagan/Throckmorton block being developed and had gutted the block’s assessed values (as they routinely do prior to development).
Each of the four townhouses was valued at $1,000, while rating as “very good” or “excellent.” The land the four sat on was also not reflective of market rates. Net-net, each of the four had three years where they were valued at less than half their 2015 market rate. While you and I likely got walloped with large increases, multi-billion dollar HEB benefitted from DCAD’s shoddy benevolence.
It’s nice to know DCAD reads CandysDirt.com, because things changed for 2019’s proposed valuations.
In 2015, 3929 Bowser was valued at $331,220 before spending the next three years assessed at $141,950. The property’s 2019 proposed valuation is $427,140. For 3520 Throckmorton, 2019’s proposed valuation is $456,750. Neighboring 3516 Throckmorton sees a 2019 proposed valuation of $464,100. Rounding out the four townhouses, 3512 Throckmorton’s proposed 2019 value is $388,920.
Are even these valuations fair?
At last night’s Oak Lawn Committee meeting, Streetlights Residential had a lot of explaining to do in regards to the design of their planned tower at Lemmon and Oak Lawn avenues.
If you’re in a Google satellite, the building on the lower right is the proposed 21-story apartment building. It would supplant the Shell station and Pizza Hut, and would be next to Eatzi’s (which is also sorta part of the plan).
For those without long memories, this is the parcel of land that empowered the neighborhood to set out the Oak Lawn Plan and PD-193 that is rigorously overseen by the Oak Lawn Committee. On this lot once stood the Esquire Theater, built in 1931 as the Melrose Theater. Lore says the reason “Esquire” was chosen in the renaming is that it had the same number of letters and would fit on the marquee. The theater would have turned 88 this year had Lincoln Property not demolished it in February 1985, in the middle of the night (also according to lore). The demolition catalyzed the neighborhood. So as things go, this is sort of hallowed ground in Oak Lawn.
Thus, when Streetlights Residential presented their proposal for this long-neglected corner, questions naturally arose about the building’s unfortunate exterior. More than one OLC member asked why Streetlights wasn’t going all out for a “signature” building on such a highly trafficked corner.
The response was that the exterior was still being worked on. Good. Thus far, it appears to be poor company to other high-rises seen in their picture, and the many other well-done projects Streetlights is known for.
The Dallas Morning News called the District 13 election results a “trounce” by incumbent Jennifer Gates against former Dallas Mayor Laura Miller. And at a commanding 66 percent to 34 percent, who am I to argue?
Delving into the precinct-level numbers, an interesting picture appears. Miller was a one-trick candidate, focusing her campaign on anti-development messaging surrounding Preston Center and the Pink Wall. As you can see in the map above, District 13 is a lot more than Preston Center. The myopathy of Miller’s message wasn’t lost on voters outside the Preston Center orbit. Oh, and constituents really like Gates. By contrast, Miller didn’t even win her own precinct, where neighbors voted for her opponent, two-to-one.
In total, Miller carried just three precincts within District 13 – essentially the Pink Wall and Preston Center along with a tiny precinct out by Marsh Lane and Walnut Hill (although not as tiny as the 16-vote precinct to its right that was one of two reporting a tie).
For performers, the winning combination for success is singing, dancing, and acting. In condos, it’s location, selling price, and HOA dues. In every condo purchase, the topic of HOA dues comes up.
For buyers comfortable in the digital age, that topic and resulting self-editing arrive when listings and HOA dues pop onto computer screens. That’s because condo buying adds a cost that’s not factored into single-family home purchasers. For single-family buyers, a monthly nut equals mortgage, utilities, insurance, and taxes. There is no maintenance component – each owner can neglect or maintain as they see fit. In a condo, maintenance is a monthly fee.
Many non-condo people are uncomfortable paying a monthly HOA fee because it typically adds hundreds of dollars to monthly budgets reducing what they can ultimately purchase. Almost everyone has a budget, so it’s an important consideration. Unreasonably high HOA dues crimp the buyer pool even more.
Me? I’m OK with reasonable HOA dues. One check a month and I don’t do a gosh-darn thing outside my front door. I don’t pay separate utilities, cable, internet, window washing, or even regular exterminator spraying – in my case, it’s all rolled into the monthly HOA dues.
But not all condos charge reasonable fees, especially when compared with similar buildings. The results aren’t good.
Begun in 1979 by the Hyatt Hotels’ founding Pritzker family, the Pritzker Prize in architecture is considered to be the Nobel Prize for architects – in fact, if you Google “Nobel Prize architecture,” the Pritzker Prize is the first result. The prize is awarded annually for a body of work versus a single building. The first winner was Crescent Court architect Philip Johnson.
The 2019 winner is 87-year-old Japanese architect Arata Isozaki who was quoted as being “overjoyed,” adding with an impish grin, “it’s like a crown on a tombstone.” Isozaki grew up in post-war Japan where much of its buildings had been lost to war. His early career rode a second wave of rebuilding.