If you think coffee is only good for getting you moving in the morning, this new study will wake you up. Apparently, it can also provide a jolt nearby home values.

That’s according to Zillow CEO Spencer Rascoff and Chief Economist Stan Humphries. In their New York Times bestseller, Zillow Talk: The New Rules of Real Estate, they crunched the numbers and found that houses located within a quarter mile of a Starbucks location appreciated more quickly than houses overall.

Rascoff and Humphries knew the traditional guideline for finding real estate that would appreciate the most – good schools, easy access to major job centers, or a quick drive to the grocery store. They wanted to dig deeper.

“We were looking for other markers that could tell us where home values would appreciate the most, and in doing the research, we found that if you live near a coffee shop, chances are your house outperforms other houses further away,” Humphries said. “When we dug even deeper, we found that living close to a specific coffee shop – Starbucks – was the best indicator your house would out-perform other houses in the area.”

This trend held true nationwide, although results varied by region. In North Texas, there was a 7.2 percent difference during the time measured.


Power lines

As expected, on Jan. 15 Brazos Electric Power Cooperative filed a certificate of convenience and necessity (CCN) to build to build a 138,000-volt transmission line across west Frisco. In response, several Frisco homeowners have retained legal counsel to represent their interests to the Public Utility Commission (PUC) of Texas.

Their attorney, Francis B. Majorie of The Majorie Firm Ltd., will be compensated solely from fees arranged for by the Collin County Association of Realtors (CCAR) from the Texas Association of Realtors Issues Mobilization Political Action Committee. Majorie does not represent the CCAR or the West Frisco Homeowners Coalition (WFHOC); he only represents the individuals who have retained him.

“I was approached by several interested homeowners who have retained me and have asked me to be available to answer questions and enable the homeowners to present a united front in that they all have a common interest in asking that the power lines be buried,” Majorie said.

In order to answer questions, there is a town hall meeting Wednesday, Jan. 28 at 6:30 p.m. in the cafeteria of Pioneer Heritage Middle School, 1649 High Shoals Dr., Frisco.

As we reported in November, the WFHOC and CCAR joined forces in September 2014, creating a grassroots campaign,, to oppose the above-ground high-voltage transmission line. Through that website, they have gathered names of potential “intervenors” who could be a part of the legal proceedings surrounding the CCN.

“An intervenor is someone who is directly affected by the imposition of the power line, who chooses to appear and be a party in the proceedings,” Majorie said. “Because they are a party, they have a right to appear at all the hearings, the right to offer evidence, they have to be available to provide discovery to others. It’s the functional equivalent of being a party in a lawsuit.”

A 45-day period where people can voice their concerns to the PUC began when Brazos filed on Jan. 15. The PUC then has up to a year to make its decision regarding transmission line route and if the line will be above ground or below ground. Jump to read more!


New Home ConstructionRocky Mountain High takes on a whole new meaning as Dallas and Denver continue to lead the nation as the most vibrant real estate markets, according to the venerable Standard & Poors Case-Shiller Home Price Index that came out Tuesday. .

Here, too, is why more real estate investors are swooping in to Dallas to buy up properties: our home values are up, so much, in fact, that we have now surpassed the heights we attained at the peak of the bubble back in 2006. That’s right: our real estate values have climbed higher than we thought they could.

Dallas area home prices rose by an unprecedented 9 percent in one year. That was for August sales, of course; there is a month and a half delay in gathering and reporting all those sales, then deciphering the stats. And remember Case Shiller does not include new home sales so 9% could actually be conservative. New home construction continues to be in such high demand, there is no softening of prices.

That leaves Dallas home prices at 5% above their pre-recession levels. And August’s year-over-year percentage price increase for Dallas was the highest in the history of Case Shiller. According to David Blitzer, Dallas and Denver both set new real estate highs, and we don’t even have mountains or marijuana!

But we may all have to start toking if my nagging fear takes hold: inflation! That’s what I fear when I Read about our steadily climbing values. Kneejerk reaction is yes, great, our home is worth more. I feel rich!

Then: DCAD will be catching on, upping the old property taxes next. Ugh. Then won’t it be nice to sell my home for a nice juicy profit? Sure, but then I’ll pay capital gains tax and have to buy another home that may be smaller and less desirable than my current home, for more money!

Here is the 20-city Case-Shiller report. As you can see, some cities are enjoying some healthy upward valuations, especially Detroit and of course, California cities.

Nationwide home prices rose by 12.8 percent from August 2012 levels, according to Case-Shiller. Ha ha ha: what happens in Vegas apparently stays UP in Vegas: but Vegas values are still down 47.1 percent from freaky-peak levels. San Francisco, no stunner, was up 25.4%. I read somewhere that the proliferation of millionaires in the Bay area was leading to a class of ridiculously wealthy individuals who spend life being shuttled from their employment campus (like Facebook) to palatial $20 plus million dollar homes in Palo Alto. San Francisco is quickly becoming a city where anyone earning less than $100K cannot afford to live.

Blitzer said that 13 of the 20 cities Case-Shiller tracks had double-digit increase in home prices this August. Like I said, how long will it be before we start hearing about the “i-word”: inflation?


Not in Texas

No, I have not been drinking. No, this is not one of those Realtor sites where I’m going to tell you this is the best time to buy a home, that prices are going up up up the moment the clock strikes midnight. But I was pleasantly surprised to read that Dallas is one of five cities in the USA where real estate values are projected to rise — did I say RISE — yes, I said RISE — in the next year. According to a recent report by Clear Capital’s home data index, home prices in the following five cities will be heading up: New York City, San Francisco, Washington D.C., Dallas, and surprise, surprise, Orland, Florida. Don’t go too excited — we are talking a tiny .03 % increase in our neck of the woods. But that’s better than .03 down, right?

Those folks at Disney are not so dumb, eh?

The only shocker in that group is Orlando, where home prices have taken not just a beating but a brutal beating, home prices falling 63%.

Here’s the report from Clear Capital.

Oh and the rest of the nation is trying to explain why Texas continues to be a hotbed for jobs and employment. They are calling our gold star with the U.S. Census Bureau, “The Texas Surge”.

May means great weather, less sneezing, and, in North Texas Real Estate parlance, time to grit our teeth over home appraisals. Property tax appraisals went out Friday, so this coming week we should be getting the hard, cold news about property taxes. Dallas rates have gone up. Property values have gone down. Will the Appraisal District reflect this in our bills or look the other way to sop up much-needed revenue?

Do you anticipate your property taxes will go up or down?

Couple things: Jim Schutze over at the Dallas Observer had an interesting article this week on taxes, and the mayoral candidate’s rhetoric that we need to expand the business tax base in Dallas. For what? (To lower our property taxes is the assumption, I guess.) Schutze was another journalist getting hoarse shouting, for the 300,000th time, the inequity that the property tax burden in Texas weighs on the shoulders of homeowners rather than commercial property — I agree:

“What is this crap about the importance of attracting more businesses to the city? They throw it out like a line from the Bible or something — especially mayoral candidates Mike Rawlings and Ron Natinsky. Got to “grow that tax base.” Only way we can grow that tax base is by attracting more businesses, they say.”

The real growth in this city in the last 10 years, he says, has been in residential, which has risen almost 65 percent. Commercial real estate values are up only 31 percent. In 2000, he says, residential was 40 percent of the total tax base. In 2010, it was 47 percent.

“Part of the problem with commercial, of course is that the values at which commercial properties are taxed are often substantially below market values. For whatever reasons (and I think I know what some of them are), the Dallas Central Appraisal District seems to like to low ball commercial values.”

I have long wondered why the tax base has not improved from the flourishing, expanding downtown. The reason is that commercial real estate pays less in taxes. Some argue they should, because businesses use fewer city services — which is news to me. Last time I looked, business created way more waste. But apparently this year, commercial is going to see rates go up.

According to the Dallas County Appraisal District, about 12 percent of residential property values will increase this year, very similar to last year,  according to spokesperson Cheryl Jordan via the Dallas Morning News. But oh boy get ready: more commercial properties will increase in value this year than last. Last year, 4,500 commercial properties had value increases, and this year that number will jump to 22,135.

DCAD anticipates just 23 percent of residential properties will lose value, compared with 34 percent last year.

So you know what that means: our Tax Doctor is back! Tiffany Hamil Mackey will be here to answer your questions as you get your tax bill. I was talking to her last night about what she thinks is coming down the pike, and she thinks the city may decrease land values while increasing improvements to keep appraisals the same. In other words, if your property is valued at $500,000 with $100,000 on improvement and $400,000 on land value, she thinks that they will reduce land to $200,000, but increase improvement value to $300,000 to preserve revenue. This means that the total value of your home goes unchanged, but suddenly your improvement just increased in value 300% in one year?!??! Who’s playing games here?¬† She‚Äôs already noticed whole blocks of areas in Preston Hollow subject to this exact situation.

Even if your taxes have stayed the same, Tiffany says you should fight. So get ready, the Tax Doctor is IN!

Now this really sends me out for Happy Pills: my colleague Rob Hahn over at AOL Real estate says we really need to get ready for 20% down payments IF WE ARE LUCKY! Yep, I’ve been having this convo with many housing experts: first of all, the Obama admin really wants to scale down home ownership and encourage people to rent. Of course, this is great psychological PR for the housing market – NOT! (Maybe I ought to just send off a hammer and nails to the White House — go ahead, drive the final nails in the recovery coffin!) The only folks handing out mortgages will be the big 3 (or is it 4?) banks. See, the¬† the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010 — don’t even get me started on what I think of the two men behind the name of this “act” — contains a provision authorizing federal regulators to define a “gold standard residential mortgage,” as Rob points out. That would be one where the homeowner has a whole lot of skin the the game.

But Candy, you say, our whole mess today was caused by loosey-goosey lending and those zero down rates. I agree. People are like cattle sometimes and will take anything that looks like a good deal when it’s really not, how else to explain garage sales and why Sam’s is so successful? But then, sometimes you can find real treasure at a garage sale.¬† So why not punish those who promoted the weak lending standards with wimpy underwriting instead of punishing everyone?

Because here’s what’s going to happen: it’s going to be harder than ever for young people to buy their first home. Those of us who own real estate will always have equity to flow from one home to another — less if this bill results in a further deterioration of real estate values. So our kids will have a whale of a time buying a home. How are they going to save up $30,000 for a 20% down payment on a $150,000 home? That’s a lot of money with taxes, car and student loan payments.

Do you see where I’m going with this?

Of course, if this brings down all home values to, say, 1960 rates, they might be getting a $150,000 house for $70,000…

You are looking for the best real estate values in greater Dallas, right? You want a maintenance, headache-free first or second home close to that great maker of getaways, D/FW Airport. Yet you continue to look in Dallas. Are you crazy? Las Colinas is right next door, closer to D/FW, and has some of the best home values in North Texas. Look at this darling pretty-as-pink town home: 6843 Verde, Irving, TX. Beautiful hardwoods throughout the down stairs. Granite, stainless steel, convection oven, breakfast bar, and glass front cabinets make the kitchen sleek and sexy. (No time to cook but we must look good.) The living area overlooks the patio. There are three living areas and 2 dining areas, upstairs office loft. Built in 2006, it has 1772 square feet, three bedrooms, two bathrooms, two living afraes and gorgeous kitchen, two car rear garage, only $160 per month in association fees so you can lock and leave. La Villaita is a beautiful nook centered around a lake, two canals, trails and parks minutes from DFW Airport,¬†Downtown Dallas and Fort¬†Forth¬†with¬†convenient access to I35, I635,¬†George Bush Turnpike. How much you ask? (Thought you never would!) Don’t faint — only $230,000.

See what happens when you venture out of the D Bubble?