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Old 06-04-2008, 03:55 PM   #61
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I'll take to robbing liquor stores to pay off my Reliant bill before I'll melt in the dark.
Ugh, Reliant. I'm having flashbacks to when I lived in Houston.

Our town has municipal electric purchased wholesale from a co-op, so it's cheaper than most power through Texas utilities. Last I checked it was about 10.5 cents per kilowatt-hour. I remember paying about 16 to Reliant before I switched away from them.
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Old 06-04-2008, 03:57 PM   #62
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Ugh, Reliant. I'm having flashbacks to when I lived in Houston....I remember paying about 16 to Reliant before I switched away from them.
Just another benefit of life in the big city...
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They must not include property taxes when calculating cost of living increases
Old 06-04-2008, 05:36 PM   #63
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They must not include property taxes when calculating cost of living increases

I am always depressed when the tax bill comes.

2001 increase + 17.3%
2002 increase +19.5%
2003 increase +0%
2004 increase +10.5%
2005 increase +9.5%
2006 increase +7.9%
2007 increase +13.1%

In the last 10 years my property taxes have increased 237% on the same house. I was so fed up after paying the taxes last year I intended to protest the assessment. I researched comps in my neighborhood and found that I have significantly higher than everyone else. Unbeknownst to me one of the houses in my comparison was the township assessor's house. Guess what, big drop in assessed value and my tax bill this year went down $1.420.00.

I suggest you all take the time to evalulate your taxes and protest if they are out of line. In doing my research it became obvious there is no magic formula that insures everyone is assessed in the same fair manner. It is definitely "by the seat of the pants" which the county can't defend when you call them on it, at least where I live in suburban Chicago.
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Old 06-06-2008, 02:08 AM   #64
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Not to get carried away, I'd bet that Texas is still one of the cheapest places to live. No state or local income tax. Fairly low insurance costs. No salt in the air or on the roads so cars hold up. No snow tires and few winter clothes. No intangible tax. Cheap houses.
Good points, but ...

8.25% sales tax, 2-3% property tax, long distances and very little public transit (so the increasing cost of gas is painful), houses not cheap any more in central metro areas.

Then again, there are solutions: don't buy much stuff, ride a bike or drive a small energy-efficient car, and live in a small energy-efficient home or apartment.
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Old 06-06-2008, 02:23 AM   #65
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Winter lasts about four weeks, spring and fall are about an hour and a half each, and for most the rest of the year we have SUMMER. Then it gets really hot in September and October.

Your local electricity provider loves Summer, because that's when they extort you for every dime you're worth. They never worry about needing to hire collectors for back due accounts, they merely remind customers that the lifeblood of their AC system will be cut off if the debt is not paid.

I'll take to robbing liquor stores to pay off my Reliant bill before I'll melt in the dark.
Let's not forget to thank the previous governor for pushing through "deregulation" that took Texas from lower-than-average rates to higher-than-average rates, and let's not forget to thank the current governor for insisting that it's all going very well, thank you.

(Oh, did we forget to mention that the price decreases would go to a few very large industrial consumers, while the 50-100% price increases would be reserved for residential consumers?)

[FYI - I put "deregulation" in quotes because it really was not deregulation; it was a badly mismanaged "restructuring" and partial reduction of regulation.]

A longtime Louisiana & Texas utility company employee recently told me, "In Louisiana, we would never shove so much of the industrial customers' costs onto residential customers like Texas does. Louisiana wouldn't let us, but Texas demands it."

EDITED to add:
Excellent description of the Texas seasons.
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Old 06-07-2008, 10:12 AM   #66
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The oppressive Texas property and sales taxes are why I'm looking at moving to Missouri (most likely), Louisiana or Oklahoma. I've checked my total tax cost and all 3 states would result in significant savings plus less scorpions and fewer ebola outbreaks.

One thing I've considered is a Texas "base" at one of my kids' places. They would effectively be a mail service and could sort the junk from real stuff for us. We'd also have the benefit of no state income taxes for further savings. We could stay at our "vacation home" wherever that turns out to be.
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Old 06-07-2008, 10:55 AM   #67
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The oppressive Texas property and sales taxes are why I'm looking at moving to Missouri (most likely), Louisiana or Oklahoma.
Good idea, but just mentioning parenthetically that if you happen to live in New Orleans, total sales tax is 9.75%. It varies in different parts of the state, so in general it isn't anywhere near that bad. Property tax is low.

Missouri has yearly personal property tax on your car, boat, and such items. I don't recall the rate but I figured out last week that it would be over $400 for a $25K car. I don't care. The rest of the taxes are not exorbitant, prices are low, and I feel safe and happy when I am there.

Not considering Oklahoma, so I don't know about their taxes. Now I am wondering why we haven't considered that state! I'll have to review my notes.
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Old 06-07-2008, 11:21 AM   #68
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The oppressive Texas property and sales taxes are why I'm looking at moving to Missouri (most likely), Louisiana or Oklahoma.
According to this site (Real Estate : Top 10 U.S. Cities With The Lowest Taxes? :: Free Article by Real Estate Advisor), Houston ranks 9th as one of the friendliest in tax.
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Old 06-07-2008, 02:54 PM   #69
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According to this site (Real Estate : Top 10 U.S. Cities With The Lowest Taxes? :: Free Article by Real Estate Advisor), Houston ranks 9th as one of the friendliest in tax.
I didn't look up your article but I've seen similar ones that only count the county portion of the property tax. They neglect to include the school tax (the highest part) or the MUDD tax for the cost of installing utilities when the subdivision was first developed. I pay $3.85 for every $100 of assessed value. The assessed value is the absolute highest a drunken buyer would pay for the property without deducting real estate fees.

Our rapidly appreciating house was last appraised at $270,000 but my homestead exemption brings the tax down to a little over $7,300 (current estimate). I wish we could "put" our house to the appraisal district at their presumed value.
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Old 06-07-2008, 10:49 PM   #70
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Our rapidly appreciating house was last appraised at $270,000 but my homestead exemption brings the tax down to a little over $7,300 (current estimate). I wish we could "put" our house to the appraisal district at their presumed value.
The tax rate is almost 2X of ours currently. The property tax will likely rise if the school referendum is approved. I wound not mind paying for a higher property tax rate if the state income tax rate were 0 as it is in Texas. Our state income tax is over 7.5%.
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Old 06-08-2008, 07:30 AM   #71
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The tax rate is almost 2X of ours currently. The property tax will likely rise if the school referendum is approved. I wound not mind paying for a higher property tax rate if the state income tax rate were 0 as it is in Texas. Our state income tax is over 7.5%.
I think you live in one of the highest tax states. You should also consider moving.
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Old 06-10-2008, 06:50 PM   #72
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I hear farm property in Texas is treated much more fairly. Move out of town a little and plant a couple of avocado trees.
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Old 06-11-2008, 11:35 AM   #73
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I hear farm property in Texas is treated much more fairly. Move out of town a little and plant a couple of avocado trees.
There may be a few places in Tejas where an Avocados would survive, but the climate in much of the state would murder those suckers.

A lot of people just lease pasture land for grazing, or grow hay and either cut it themselves and sell it or sell the mowing rights to someone else. Probably a lot less work than planting an avocado tree just to watch it go up in flames one August afternoon.
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Old 06-11-2008, 11:49 AM   #74
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That was tried in my old county...preferential tax treatment for small farms. What constituted a small farm wasnt well defined, so a lot of folks bought nice 10 acre plots, built minimansions on them and then planted a bunch of peach trees in the back yard.

Of course the law was repealed after a couple of years. Right after all the friends of the guys who enacted it had their homes built and were grandfathered in.
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Old 06-11-2008, 11:57 AM   #75
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That was tried in my old county...preferential tax treatment for small farms. What constituted a small farm wasnt well defined, so a lot of folks bought nice 10 acre plots, built minimansions on them and then planted a bunch of peach trees in the back yard.

Of course the law was repealed after a couple of years. Right after all the friends of the guys who enacted it had their homes built and were grandfathered in.
Apparently Louisiana doesn't have a complete monopoly on corruption! California is giving us a run for the money. That's awful.
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Old 06-11-2008, 12:13 PM   #76
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. What constituted a small farm wasnt well defined, so a lot of folks bought nice 10 acre plots, built minimansions on them and then planted a bunch of peach trees in the back yard.
I'm batting .000 today. Avocados do well enough in the hot weather, it's the winter that smites them. There's probably a bunch of them being grown in the Valley.

In Texas there are two types of special appraisals (not an actual tax exemption) for land either used primarily for agricultural purposes (based on owner's primary occupation and source of income), and a "open land" appraisal method that is pretty wide open:
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The land must be currently devoted principally to agricultural use to the degree of intensity generally accepted in the area.
The land has been devoted principally to agricultural use or production of timber or forest products for five of the preceding seven years.
The owner files a prescribed form provided by the appraisal office with the chief appraiser before May 1 with all the necessary information to determine the validity of the claim.
The statute contains an extensive definition of agricultural uses that qualify for open space appraisal.
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planting and producing crops,
raising or keeping livestock or exotic animals,
devoting the land to floriculture, viticulture and horticulture,
producing or harvesting logs and posts for agricultural improvements and
wildlife management.
I've always heard that five cows on 20 acres will get you by.
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Old 06-11-2008, 12:18 PM   #77
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I'm batting .000 today. Avocados do well enough in the hot weather, it's the winter that smites them.
I know they are pretty fragile. They were grown in some places in San Diego County when we lived there, but I didn't hear of any in College Station Texas when living there. We had a lemon tree that produced unbelievable quantities of lemons, and an orange tree, in San Diego. We had reasonable results from a Bartlett pear in College Station, but no citrus or avocado trees.
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Old 06-11-2008, 12:41 PM   #78
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I hear farm property in Texas is treated much more fairly. Move out of town a little and plant a couple of avocado trees.
Our pastor bought a place out in the country on 10 acres a couple miles outside of town last year. Earlier this year he and his wife bought a few goats to keep on their property to qualify for an ag exemption.
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Old 06-11-2008, 01:36 PM   #79
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Our pastor bought a place out in the country on 10 acres a couple miles outside of town last year. Earlier this year he and his wife bought a few goats to keep on their property to qualify for an ag exemption.
I believe the state law requires a minimum of 10 acres and 5 years of "ag use" to qualify for the property tax exemption. It is a substantial price break, but the added cost of enough acres to qualify, at least for a location where DW and I would want to live, more than offsets any tax savings potential.

Update on my original post: I called the county appraisal office to set up an 'informal review'. I asked the appraiser how they came up with my new value and was told it was based on recent sales. When I pressed him for details, he revealed only one home had sold in our neighborhood in all of 2007 and the price was in the range of $125 sf. He admitted they would prefer to have several sales to establish market value, but said they had to use what they had when it came to reappraisals.

I asked for the values and the sq footages of my 4 nearest neighbors. Those appraisals worked out to be $75, $88, $97, and $126 per sf. Since my old appraisal was $98 sf and the new appraisal is $122 sf, I asked why my number was near the top and not closer to the average as my house was not substantially different from the others. His response: "Those two lower ones are probably under valued".

I said OK, then if you throw out the two low numbers and take the average of the top two, you come up with $111.50 sf, which I think is more reasonable than the $122 sf number. He seemed to be open to this and said he'd take it up with the chief appraiser and get back to me.

I'm waiting for his call to see what new number they come up with. If they go for it my 24% increase will be reduced to 14%, not great but an improvement over what they proposed. If they don't bring it down to a number I think I can live with I have the option to file a formal protest and meet with the appraisal board in person. Hope it doesn't go that far.
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Old 06-11-2008, 03:05 PM   #80
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I asked for the values and the sq footages of my 4 nearest neighbors. Those appraisals worked out to be $75, $88, $97, and $126 per sf. Since my old appraisal was $98 sf and the new appraisal is $122 sf, I asked why my number was near the top and not closer to the average as my house was not substantially different from the others. His response: "Those two lower ones are probably under valued".

.
When you talk $$per foot you need to look at the competing dwellings.
One story is more per foot than multi story. Then if some have high cost features like central vac, marble counters etc, etc, that goes into the figure also. Age of the house should be like 5 to 8 apart. You really need to show the reason those homes are higher is because they deserve to be and your doesn't......you know, overrun with snakes and stuff.
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