Real Estate Housing Feed

Today is the first day of winter and it's supposed to hit 76 it hit 79 degrees here in Austin. Similar temperatures are forecast for the rest of this Christmas week. I thought we left such winter warmth behind us 10 years ago when we moved from South Florida back home to Texas. And for most winters over the last decade, we've had our share of the cold, like in 2011 and 2013 when we had snow and temperatures low enough to freeze our backyard fountain. Some winters in Austin, Texas, like this one in 2011 have been cold. But... Read more →


I'm a big movie fan. I also am a personal finance/tax nut. So it's a big day for me as those two worlds converge. The Hollywood Foreign Press Association today announced its nominees for its annual Golden Globe awards. Two financially-themed movies, "99 Homes" and "The Big Short," were tabbed. Christian Bale, nominated for a Golden Globe as best lead actor, rocking out in a scene from "The Big Short." Both films are based on the housing industry collapse that followed the reckless subprime mortgages banks handed out right and left during the 2000s. That led to the disastrous (and... Read more →


The Republican governor of Massachusetts has signed a petition that, if successful, would let his state's voters decide if they want to tax millionaires more. Gov. Charlie Baker told WGBH public radio earlier this month that although he personally hasn't yet decided whether he supports a surtax on high-income taxpayers, he does believe that voters should get a say on the idea. Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker in the WGBH studios on Oct. 15. Photo by Meredith Nierman/WGBH News. Click image to listen to the interview. Such direct democracy efforts are becoming even more popular. As I note in my story... Read more →


It's no secret that I'm a big football fan. I prefer the NFL because I like to yell at my teams and the players, and it just doesn't seem right to berate college kids, even if they can't hear me shouting at my TV. I do, however, appreciate the special energy and enthusiasm that college gridiron match-ups generate. The Ohio State-Rutgers game this past Saturday is a perfect example. The Scarlet Knights knew it was a big game, probably their biggest one this year, going up against top-ranked Ohio State. Staying true to your school: So some Rutgers' fan took... Read more →


Labor Day weekend means one thing for NASCAR fans: The Southern 500 from Darlington, South Carolina. The race at the Track Too Tough to Tame was a tradition ... until 2004 when the NASCAR fools in charge powers that be decided to move the early September race to other spots in the schedule. But this year the race is back where and when it belongs, underscoring not only the sport's roots, but America's enduring love affair with cars. Kansas car lover's tough tax choice: Dorce Stapleton knows a thing or two about what a car can mean. The 78-year-old Hutchinson,... Read more →


Donald J. Trump, the leader for the Republican nomination for president, is still finalizing his plan to reform the country's tax system. Meanwhile, however, he still has to worry about his own taxes. Case in point, the real estate tax bill his Trump National Golf Club in Briarcliff Manor, New York, is facing. Donald Trump's New York City area golf club is fighting its property tax assessment, seeking a lower value on the luxury property so it will get a nearly 90 percent cut in its latest property tax bill. Trump seeks less huge tax bill: The 140-acre property in... Read more →


As the hubby and I cruised around a parking lot this week looking for a relatively close-in place to park, we quietly cursed the huge RV that had taken up half a dozen prime spots. We also marveled at the fact someone was tooling around in the personal bus. Even with gas prices at relatively reasonable rates, it's got to cost an arm and a leg to fill up a recreational vehicle. But the fuel factor apparently isn't a problem for a lot of folks. Refurbished RVs are making a comeback. The ubiquitous Winnebago Industries' first motor home model. This... Read more →


The highway funding bill that President Obama signed today may be short-term (money runs out again on Oct. 29) when it comes to providing money for roads and infrastructure, but it will have some lasting tax effects. Here are some of the tax highlights from the Surface Transportation and Veterans Health Care Choice Improvement Act of 2015. More mortgage reporting: Mortgage lenders already issue annual statements, either the official Form 1098 or an approved substitute document, to borrowers and the Internal Revenue Service. This form goes to homeowners who paid at least $600 loan interest during the tax year and... Read more →


It's summer. Not to overstate the obvious, that means it's hot, hot, hot. It also means that pool contractors are making out like bandits, at least here in my Austin neighborhood. This time every year, the backhoes and dump trucks and cement mixers form a regular parade. And I get the same question from neighbors: Can I deduct my new swimming pool costs? If your backyard pool is mainly used by you and your family for this type of cooling off fun, you won't be able to deduct its construction costs on your taxes. Photo courtesy Tim Pierce via Flickr.... Read more →


Millennials continue to get a lot of attention, and not just from their parents. This group of 18-to-34-year-olds are shaping and reshaping today's world. Sorry, geezers, but it happens with every generation. And although out hand baskets seem to be filling up, we haven't made it to hell yet. Millennials are changing what we expect from and how we give to charities. They are redefining the workplace and how we get to and from the office and other places. Young adults' living arrangements: Then there's housing. We've heard all the jokes about the young adults who just won't leave home.... Read more →


Texas has been getting a lot of adverse attention of late, thanks to a group of overly-anxious wackadoodle folks, including some of our pandering elected officials, who have gone full Black Helicopter berserk about routine U.S. military training exercises. While the worries about Jade Helm (the military maneuvers, not the young woman) by way too many of my Lone Star State compadres are overblown ridiculous, it seems some other Americans might have reason to look skyward. Some aircraft are indeed agents of governments. And they are conducting spying missions that could be costly to citizens. An aerial view of a... Read more →


As a homeowner who every year thinks that my local tax assessor has a much too inflated opinion of my house's worth, I certainly sympathize with anyone who fights for a lower real estate tax bill. But even I think the owner of what one real estate company lists as largest private home in Montana was asking a little too much of tax officials. Don Abbey of La Mirada, Calif., wanted his 2014 property tax bill of $367,696 on his lake mansion reduced by at least two-thirds. Photo courtesy LuxuryRealEstate.com Not going to happen. The Montana Tax Appeal Board has... Read more →


Sunday's Daytona 500 was great. Well, it was until a late-race wreck forced a contrived green-white-checkers finish and the dreaded but always expected "big one" mass crash at the back of the field. Despite that disappointment, congratulations to 2015 Daytona 500 champion Joey Logano. He deserves the trophy. He and his #22 Shell Ford were the class of the field all day. Daytona is the first NASCAR race every season. It's the sport's Super Bowl and an event the stock car community prizes. A few years ago, NASCAR set out to memorialize past and future Daytona 500s and other notable... Read more →


Tax time is doubly annoying for most U.S. taxpayers. Forty-one states and the District of Columbia collect taxes on wage and salary income, requiring folks to fill out an annual state return in addition to their federal Form 1040. Some residents of Tennessee and New Hampshire also have to file a state return if they have enough dividend and interest income. The one tiny silver lining to these income taxes is that they can be claimed as an itemized deduction on the taxpayers' federal returns. Writing off sales taxes, too: What about us Texans who don't have any state income... Read more →


Back in 2008 when the housing bubble burst and the financial crisis began, homeowners were literally walking away from their residences. Predatory lenders lured unqualified buyers with subprime mortgages that backfired horrendously for financial institutions and homeowners alike. Those who managed to stay in their homes were deep underwater on the mortgage loan amount. It seemed for the last five or so years that the American homeownership dream, while not dead, was on life support. The patient, however, appears to be making a recovery. Housing markets are picking up in some parts of the country. A recent survey by housing... Read more →


Ho! Ho! Ho! Holy Moly! It's December already! The song is wrong, or at least incomplete. It may well be the most wonderful time of the year, but it's also the busiest. I don't know about you, but busy and wonderful isn't always (or usually) a good convergence. Unfortunately, there's very little we can do about it this year, especially since Thanksgiving fell late in November. Things right now are even more crunched, what with more shopping, holiday parties, and getting ready to visit relatives or host them at your home, all the while trying to shoehorn in some work.... Read more →


Oh my Lord, IRS. What in the hell were you thinking? The Internal Revenue Service is already the most hated government agency, and then you go and seize honest working people's assets just because you can. Even worse, you make it incredibly hard for them to prove that it's you, not them, that is in the wrong. I repeat: What in the hell were you thinking? Apparently, according to a New York Times' story, the IRS was thinking that civil forfeiture laws offer an easy way to collect more money. Under the Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform Act, law enforcement agents... Read more →


Even in drought-stricken Texas, the phrase "when it rains, it pours" is true. Except in our case, it's not precipitation that's piling on; it's home repair and maintenance issues. Back in August, the main spring on the hubby's garage door decided to snap. A few weeks later our kitchen faucet needed to be replaced. That's the shiny new one there to the right. This week, painters are working on our home's trim. The stucco portion of the house is on repaint hold while we look for someone to repair a gable vent. Then we'll get that area painted, after which... Read more →


Airbnb is wildly popular with almost everyone. Among the few detractors are some neighbors of the short-term rental properties and the Empire State's top lawyer. Eric T. Schneiderman, Attorney General of New York, made his concerns known in a report, Airbnb in the City, released Thursday, Oct. 16. It details the AG's office investigation into Airbnb and similar web-based rental operators who, according to the report, "run large-scale enterprises in violation of fire safety, zoning, tax, and other applicable laws." Most of the data, and hence the report's name, came from four years of data Airbnb provided to the AG... Read more →


I finally finished up our 2013 tax return this week. Quick reminder to my fellow procrastinators: You've got to get your 1040 to the Internal Revenue Service by Oct. 15. One of the several reasons the hubby and I (OK, me alone, since taking care of our taxes is my job) put off filing each year is that our returns typically involve a lot of forms. Even with tax software, it takes time to fill them out and I'm usually pretty busy during filing season. One of those IRS forms is Schedule A for itemized deductions. Itemizing still works for... Read more →