To say that the tax plans proposed separately by Republican senators and representatives were contentious would be an understatement. When both bills came out, many real estate industry organizations found them problematic, especially the National Association of Homebuilders. However, the NAHB just changed its tune after seeing the most recent iteration of the bill, which just came out of bicameral conference. 

“After significant improvements made during the legislative process, and due to the robust engagement efforts of NAHB and its membership, NAHB supports this final tax bill,” the organization said in a statement. “We believe it will help middle-class families, maintain the nation’s commitment to affordable housing and ensure that small businesses are treated fairly relative to large corporations. Lower tax rates and a fair tax code will spur economic growth and increase competitiveness, and that is good for housing.”


Douglas Square Apartments formerly located on top parcel

Frederick Square Apartments formerly located on top parcel right where I used to carpool!

Got a memo from some legal eagles who directed me to the Texas Property Code, Sec. 11.18. CHARITABLE ORGANIZATIONS.

(a) An organization that qualifies as a charitable organization as provided by this section is entitled to an exemption from taxation of:

(1) the buildings and tangible personal property that:

(A) are owned by the charitable organization; and

(B) except as permitted by Subsection (b), are used exclusively by qualified charitable organizations; and

(2) the real property owned by the charitable organization consisting of:

(A) an incomplete improvement that:

(i) is under active construction or other physical preparation; and

(ii) is designed and intended to be used exclusively by qualified charitable organizations; and

(B) the land on which the incomplete improvement is located that will be reasonably necessary for the use of the improvement by qualified charitable organizations.

Note to self: ask my lawyer if there are Cliff Notes on the Texas Property Code.

What this means is that if a church could argue exemption from property taxes on every single property, they would have an unfair advantage over other non-religious developers.

Think of it this way: most buildings’ largest expenses are the mortgage note, then property taxes, and finally maintenance/utilities. Eliminating the property taxes would have every church in town buying investment property. Plus, the work of the church will not be 100% happening in that new building. Legal says that it does get more interesting when the building is attached to the church.  An aggressive church could argue that it is all exempt, especially if the property is used by the church on the weekend, but that is a hard argument to make.  It is possible that St. Michaels could try to make this argument, but it would be presumptuous to assume that they would.


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By Leslie Rouda Smith
Special Contributor

Proposition 1 does four things. First, it lowers property taxes by increasing the homestead exemption from $15,000 to $25,000. Second, it ensures senior Texans and disabled Texans get as much tax relief as possible. Third, it prohibits local governments from repealing or reducing any homestead exemption that may exist. And finally, it ensures real estate transactions will never be subject to a tax.


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A reader writes:

I live in a newer downtown condo. As you may be aware, the assessed values are very low for many of the properties. The strange thing is that some of the homeowners for THE EXACT SAME FLOOR PLAN have values on DCAD that reflect market prices, while others are at outdated below-value values. I’m one of the lucky ones. It makes no sense. The only thing I could think of is that *something* is triggering a review or audit. I wondered if somehow the homestead exemption was triggering a re-appraisal for the folks with higher values. Clearly, this is all theory, but something is going on! Help CandysDirt!


Dear reader:

We consulted our trusty Tax Doctor, Rob Wheelock, who tells me that  often Appraisal Districts offer developers what is referred to as a Builder Inventory Valuation.  That value can be 30 to 60% below market value, depending upon the time allowed to sell off the inventory. (My guess is you are in one of the condos that has taken a while to sell.)  The lower value stays with the property until the following year after the purchase, so if you buy a unit from the developer today, you get the benefit of the lower property taxes for all of 2015, but it will go up the following year to the market value. I’d bet that the units that currently reflect market prices were purchased in 2013 or before.

I’m betting you purchased in 2014 and got the developers value, but when they receive their 2015 valuation in early May,  it will reflect market prices.

Hope this helps! If anyone out there has any other ideas, the comment lines are open!



Heads up: Parkland is looking for money to fund that new building that was approved by the taxpayers in 2008. (Personal note: I voted against it.) This despite the implementation of Obamacare. There is simply not enough money coming in from state and federal funding: (more…)

Breaking the Bank

When you’re working on commission, planning for tax season can feel overwhelming, and if you’re unprepared, that tax bill can really break the bank. That’s why Victoria Gillespie of  Realtors Federal Credit Union recommends you put away half of each commission check for taxes and a short-term reserve account.

I know, it’s not what anyone wants to hear after closing a transaction, but it’s smart financial planning that Realtors should heed. Gillespie’s advice is part of the National Association of Realtors’ Your Money Matters series of financial advice for real estate professionals.

Gillespie says that planning for slow seasons such as fall and winter is something you shouldn’t overlook. She suggests setting aside 50 percent of every commission, with 30 percent going into an escrow-type account for taxes and 20 percent going into a reserve fund for slow sales seasons, with a goal of saving six months of income as soon as possible.

That means if you earn $5,000 in commissions on a home sale, you should think of it as $2,500 in commission income. “I know that sounds like a dramatic number, but I think it’s important practitioners see it that way,” says Gillespie in the video.

The fact is, you’re going to pay about 30 percent of your income each year in taxes, and it’s a lot easier to pay that by setting aside money each time you get paid so, come tax time, you have the money available. And on the reserve fund, that’s so you have a comfortable cushion of income for those months when you close fewer transactions than you need to pay your bills.

View the full video below:

What do you do to keep yourself prepared for April 15th?

Proposition 6 Results by County


The results are in, and while many agreed that Proposition 6 was the best plan available to secure the future of Texas water, it garnered 73.37 percent of the statewide vote — a considerably safe margin.  Among constitutional amendment propositions on the statewide ballot, Proposition 6 garnered more votes that Propositions 3, 5, and 8.

What’s most interesting is the county-by-county reports from the Texas Tribune. While the Texas Hill Country and West Texas will likely be those most desperate for water, Proposition 6 didn’t pass muster in several counties throughout those regions. And many areas of East Texas shunned the proposed constitutional amendment that would tap the state’s Rainy Day Fund to secure more water resources. Find out more about Proposition 6 and its provisions here.

Check out more detailed results from last night here.

Shopping for a house requires the organizational skills of a master planner. How do you remember every detail of the listing you just looked at—never mind the house from last week or last month?

It can be nerve wracking to say the least. So we’ve put together a list of iPhone apps to help you pull everything together (many are also available for Windows and Android). Arm yourself with these tools and you’ll never forget which charming 60’s ranch house has a water heater in the guest bedroom.

Do you have a favorite app? Let us know about it in the comments.

Snap it, measure it, look it up — owning these apps creates a library in your pocket.

The Real Estate Dictionary

dictionaryMost real estate dictionaries cost between $4 and $10. Some are even $50. This bare-bones, no-cost app stands out among the free options.

Assets: It’s an easy to navigate and comprehensive dictionary of real estate terms—from construction to contract. When your home inspector is blathering on about a cracked collar beam, you can quickly discover just what that is.

Liabilities: There’s no search function, so users have to navigate to a letter tab and then scroll.

Mortgage Calculator Pro

mortcalcThere are a ton of free mortgage calculator apps out there, and you get what you pay for. This is the single non-free app in the survey, but it’s worth every penny of the 99 cents it costs.

Assets: Users can save various loans and loan configurations, so there’s no need to retype the information each time. This makes it easy to add or subtract variables, such as HOA fees, maintenance costs, different interests rates, and play with the numbers. Users can send loan info and amortization schedules to contacts via email. It also has features for auto and other kinds of loans, so it’s not a one-and-done purchase.

Liabilities: There’s no option for interest-only loans, it’s not free, and it’s brown … so much brown.


homesnapHomesnap is a little creepy. It lets users search a map of listings,  just like the major listings-search apps below, but its main feature is to “snap” a photo of any house and dig up its county appraisal and recent sale info. Homesnap also has a “stealth” mode that identifies houses near the user’s GPS location and serves up the same kind of goods.

Assets: Immediately identify the tax appraisal and see other interesting info on homes surrounding any listing.

Liabilities: Immediately feel like a creep.

Magic Plan

magicplanThis app is so good that it should actually cost something. Magic Plan allows a user to capture the dimensions and features of any room in a house. The process is just like taking a series of photos. The app then returns room dimensions and door locations so users can easily determine whether or not they can wedge their grand piano in the study.

Assets: Create a floor plans for multiple houses quickly with photos and notes. Users can email room plans in pdf and jpg formats for free. The app also allows users to send the data to Home Depot flooring departments, share it on social media and more.

Liabilities: It can be difficult to use in narrow spaces like galley kitchens and other oddly shaped rooms.


evernoteWhile not specifically related to house hunting, Evernote is a do-it-all note-taking app that has uses even after the closing papers are signed.


Assets: Evernote is actually a suite of tools that lets users capture web pages, bundle photos, record voice notes, and just type plain old notes. Each can be organized into an individual notebook that can be synched among all of a user’s computers and devices, and shared with friends, whether they are Evernote users or not.

Liabilities: None. Download it now!

These apps all do the same basic thing: They allow you look at homes on the market. Plug in a ZIP Code or a neighborhood, a price range, and parameters such as number of bedrooms and baths, and the apps display the results on a map or on a list. All have websites that synch with the user’s phone, so a search saved on a laptop shows up on the user’s mobile device. All have photo galleries, MLS information and agent info.

What makes one better than the other? Let’s plow through their strengths and weaknesses:

realtorcomAssets: Like other apps of its ilk, uses your phone’s GPS to display nearby properties. Its standout feature is that it allows the user to draw a circle, square or any other closed shape on the map and shows only listings within the boundary. Buyers can also share favorite properties and other information with their agent from within the app.

Liabilities: Searches for recently sold listings don’t show prices, but they do show the amount under or over the asking price for which the property sold. Users can’t save sold listings as favorites.

For Sale By Owner

fsboAssets: This is the most useful app to find listings that aren’t on the MLS, and DIYers will find it intuitive to use. Its search results highlight pending sales, new listings and regular sales, and it keeps a history of results, which is handy if you forget to save a favorite.

Liabilities: There is limited information on each property and there are fewer properties to view than on the MLS. The app also doesn’t offer links to schools, tax information or similarly helpful info.


truliaAssets: Trulia’s best feature is its ability to plot neighborhood amenities on a map. Buyers can see the nearest grocery stores, parks, gas stations banks with ratings and reviews from Yelp. Users can also toggle map overlays for information on crime, flooding, earthquakes and more.

Liabilities: Trulia app doesn’t default to residential property searches, so the user will want to dial in specific settings—unless they just happen to like looking at vacant industrial lots. Map overlays for crime are very general “heat maps” and don’t display information on number or type of criminal activities.


redfinAssets: This app includes decent mortgage calculator that allows a user quickly summarize monthly ownership costs, including insurance, taxes, and bills. It also provides the most detailed information on sold properties in its class, including prices. Users can take notes and add their own photos to favorite properties.

Liabilities: Agent features work only with Redfin agents.


zillowAssets: Zillow presents clear, easy-to-skim listing info with multiple graphs and charts that summarize financing estimates and the home’s position on the market, including Zillow’s own estimate of its worth. There are direct links to a property’s listing on the county tax sites, and summary of its tax history in the app. The app also allows users to get custom mortgage quotes from online brokers.

Liabilities: Map icons are subtle and can be difficult differentiate from one another. There is no rental search.


Marc LeeMarc Lee is a freelance writer and film buff who loves real estate almost as much as Candy herself. He lives in Dallas. Contact him via