Experiences Protesting Taxes

People often wonder what the process of protesting your taxes is really like.  Below are a couple of experiences shared by our friends and past clients.  If you protested your taxes whether successfully or unsuccessfully, we’d love to include your story.  Just email me at jill@mysolis.com.

“Filing a protest on our property tax was really easy once I got started. The e-file system with Travis county sent me a nice settlement before I even uploaded evidence. Within 24 hours I received a reduced appraisal of $224,742 down from $240,000. Thank you so much for your assistance! You guys are the best!!!”(homestead located in Travis County)

“We filed a successful protest on our Property Tax Assessment this year. They had our square footage off by about 600 sq. ft. We didn’t pay too much attention last year because the homestead exemption, but we got hit with the bulk of the increase this year. My husband said it was a super easy process, he just went to the office with a copy of our mortgage appraisal with the drawing and measurements. The appraiser then did a new comp and brought us down to ~$326K from $358K. We had always heard that it was such a nightmare to protest, and one of our neighbors with the same plan tried to last year. He didn’t bring supporting docs with him and basically just dropped it when they pushed back. After seeing our success, 3 more neighbors, including the one from last year, successfully protested their Assessments. That was a pretty cool feeling, felt like we won the lottery!” (homestead located in Williamson County)

“Filing property tax assessment protest is quite easy when working with a realtor that can help you research comparable sales in the prior tax year. I was hoping to protest online and have them offer me on the spot a reduction as I have seen it done with other neighbors homes. In my case, they required an informal hearing as there wasn’t enough historical data online for their automated system to use. Unfortunately, there were no comparable sales in my condo’s neighborhood within the past month, but I was armed with similar sized condo sales from the past six months and normalized their price per square feet to show what my condo unit’s valuation would be. My unit was appraised at $197k for 2014, a 20.8% increase from 2013. The adjuster had shown me which properties they had used to make their valuation, as they were all from the first half of 2014. three were larger units from my neighborhood who’s price per square foot was much lower than my current valuation and three were similar size and sold for much higher than my appraised valuation.  They like to use data from the same neighborhood, so he didn’t use the comparable properties that I had brought, but he did use data from one of the larger home sales from my neighborhood that had a lower price per square footage. It brought my appraisal down to $191k which was within $2k of my goal.  I was happy with the outcome.” (investment property located in Williamson County)

Austin Ranked #1 Place to Live

Austin is ranked the #1 place to live in yet another study.  This one was conducted by WalletHub and considered 31 different factors ranging from economic growth to health and education to livability.  The top ten results were as follows:

1. Austin

2. Raleigh, N.C.

3. Colorado Springs, Colorado

4. San Jose, California

5. Seattle

6. San Diego

7. Denver

8/9. San Francisco & Lexington, Kentucky (tie)

10. Virginia Beach, Virginia

… as was reported in the Austin Business Journal:  complete article here

10 Hottest Neighborhoods in Austin


Did you see the cover story in the latest issue of Austin Monthly about the 10 Hottest Neighborhoods in Austin?  They crunched data from the Austin Board of Realtors and based their ranking on “inventory sold and percentage change in days on market and median price.”  It’s a really interest article which you can read here.

1.  Northwest Hills/Far West

2.  Pemberton Heights

3.  Mueller

4.  Bryker Woods

5.  Hancock

6.  Hyde Park

7.  East Riverside

8.  Great Hills

9.  Gracy Woods

10.  West Oak Hill

Bell Boulevard – Cedar Park’s Downtown


Two bond options were presented to the Cedar Park City Council which will likely be on our ballot come November.  One of which is for $89.9 million and would include $15.3 million for the Destination Bell Boulevard project as well as $42.6 million for transportation projects, 10.8 million in park improvements, and $15.3 million for phase one of a new library.  The second option is for $83.9 million and does not include the Bell Boulevard project but does have $20.2 million for a new library, $11.9 million in park improvements, and $44.4 million for transportation projects.

So what is Destination Bell Boulevard?  Though no one is officially saying this, I think of it as what will be Cedar Park’s downtown since we don’t really have one.  The current plan includes moving Bell Blvd (old 183) eastward around the Buttercup Creek area to allow for 40 acres of retail, residential, and office space plus 12 acres for a park.  In a nutshell, the goals of the project are to work with the natural and historical assets of the area to create an economically vibrant corridor while maintaining traffic mobility.  Aspects of Destination Bell Boulevard are still in refinement but there are many details on the project’s website including renders and maps.  From all descriptions, I’m picturing something that looks a lot like the Domain which is very exciting since I think it will bring Cedar Park some real charm and character, not to mention money.  I, for one, will definitely be voting in favor of the bond for the Destination Bell Boulevard.  How about you?

A Few Things to Know Before Buying a Condo

People buy and sell condos all the time. It is not rocket-science. But it is also not as simple as buying a house. Unless you are purchasing with cash, there are additional considerations to check to ensure there won’t be any surprises with financing, such as larger down payment requirements.

At the heart of the matter is the fact that whether you are getting conventional, FHA, or VA financing, most loans are sold on the secondary market shortly after you close. For the majority of buyers this is of little consequence since the terms of the loan remain the same and sometimes even the place where you send your payments stays the same too. Being able to sell your loan on the secondary market is critical to your lender, however, and to do so, your loan must meet certain requirements established by Fannie Mae.

The term used to indicate that a condo meets the requirements to be sold on the secondary market is “warrantable”. These requirements can change so it is best to contact your lender for a current list, but just to give you a feel the current list most likely includes:

*Complex must be at least 51% owner occupied.

*No one entity can own more that 10% of the units.

*Less than 15% of the units can be behind more than 30 days on association fees.

*HOA must carry specific insurance on the complex.

In addition, if you are getting an FHA or VA loan, the condo must be on the FHA or VA-Approved condo list. If the condo you are trying to buy is not on this list but does meet the requirements, your lender along with the condo’s HOA can work to get the complex approved and on the list. This all takes time, of course.

Believe it or not, most of the difficulty lies in ascertaining the answers to these warrantability questions. In a perfect world, we agents can call the HOA and have our answers. But it is not uncommon for HOA management to be unable or unwilling to provide some or all of this information without you first submitting a formal request based on a contract to buy a unit within the complex as well as paying a fee.

Before you throw your hands up and decide condos are too complicated, a good agent (ahem, Solis Realty) can take much of this research off your hands. And in cases where the HOA is less than helpful, we can pursue alternative sources of information such agents and lenders who have recently sold other units in the complex and presumably went through the same questions to do so. Really as long as your agent understands the process, and is resourceful and proactive in finding the answers, you can have a smooth condo buying experience.

We find the best thing for buyers is to be informed about what is involved (which is why we are writing this post) so you can pick a knowledgeable agent, refrain from falling in love with a condo until you know if it meets your lender’s requirements, and be realistic about the timeline involved in processing such loans. Please note, if the complex is non-warrantable, all is not lost either. There are a few select lenders who make these loans provided your down payment is at least 20%.

Questions?  Call us at 512-771-9129

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