Real Estate Housing Feed

Being a homeowner can be a royal pain in the tush. I speak from experience. The hubby and I have bought a condo and five houses over the years. But, as you can tell from my buying string, it's my preferred living arrangement. And a lot of people joined us in the in the homeownership club in 2020. The National Association of Realtors says last year's housing boom was driven by sales of existing homes. The specific numbers from the NAR report released Jan. 22 show existing home sales totaled 5.64 million in 2020. That's 5.6 percent higher than in... Read more →


As this recent report from my local Community Impact newspaper shows, Austin's housing market is en fuego. That's good news for sellers, but bad news for homeowners sticking around and seeing the increased prices drive up our property tax bills. My relationship with my neighbors, regardless of where we've lived, has been … interesting. They all and always intrigue and annoy me on a daily basis. To be fair, I suspect they feel the same about me. Right now, however, my real beef is with my former neighbors. Specifically, the ones who recently sold their homes in Austin's astoundingly (some... Read more →


You just finished filing your taxes last week. That included, for most Americans, state tax returns, too. And for some, the news was not good, especially on the state tax front. Residents of 42 states and Washington, D.C., face state and local taxes on at least some of the income, either earned (usually from jobs) or unearned (usually investment income). For some, the dollars handed over to their state and local tax collectors are more troubling than their federal tax amounts. High state taxes, both corporate and individual, usually is cited as a key reason lower-tax states like my native... Read more →


Washington's capital gains tax proposals have people talking. On both coasts. In Washington, D.C., President Joe Biden's call for those earning more than $1 million to pay a 43.4 percent tax on their investment earnings instead of the current 20 percent tax rate has anti-tax lawmakers and lobbyists working overtime to stop it before it gets going. That total comes from a return to the pre-George W. Bush tax cuts ordinary income tax rate of 39.6 percent plus the 3.8 percent Affordable Care Act investment income surcharge. Meanwhile, around 2,350 miles to the west, a new capital gains tax on... Read more →


One of the many reasons that people hate taxes is that after the hassle of filing, then comes the fear that a Form 1040 mistake will mean an audit. The sort-of good news for taxpayers is that the Internal Revenue Service hasn't been auditing as many people in recent years. The agency has had other things to worry about, like doing its myriad jobs with fewer staff and less money. Then there's COVID-19, with added pandemic payments that the IRS is tasked with distributing. Things could be changing, though. More people are getting vaccinated, meaning the end of the coronavirus... Read more →


We lost all our ornamental rosemary bushes in February's devastating winter storm. This debris pile is all that's left of them. (Kay Bell photo) February's surprisingly harsh winter storm has done a number on our yard. We are not alone. Major federal disaster areas were declared for parts of frozen Louisiana, Oklahoma and Texas. I've heard the same stories from my Austin neighbors, as well as friends in the Sooner and Pelican States. While some of our exterior flora made it through the subfreezing temperatures, quite a few of our plants succumbed. Our line of ornamental rosemary bushes in the... Read more →


A panoramic view of Positano, Italy, the famously vertical town where actor and food/travel show host Stanley Tucci found the highly-desired Amalfi Coast lemons. (Image courtesy Italia Agenzia Nazionale Turismo) Tonight, the hubby and I will watch our latest favorite television series, Stanley Tucci: Searching for Italy. The CNN show is part travelogue, but with routes determined by Tucci's tastes, which are so far spectacular. The award-winning actor, director, screenwriter, Instagram bartender and cookbook author (you're not surprised, are you?) essentially is eating his way through Italy, the county from which both sides of his family hail. He started in... Read more →


Much of Texas got record snowfall on Feb. 14-15, with around 6 inches covering our backyard. Thank goodness for some much welcome sunshine today, but it's still below freezing, meaning our heater is working overtime! (Photo by Kay Bell) We have sunshine here in Central Texas! Still, the high temperature today in the greater Austin area is not expected to break the freezing mark. That means my home's heater is still in overdrive. And that means my next bill is going to be ginormous. The only consolation, is that I can count part of that heating bill as a home... Read more →


Neighborhoods like this one are major tax revenue sources in many states. (Photo by Pictometry) Much is made here in Texas about our lack of a personal income tax, but I can tell you that doesn't mean millions of us residents are tax-free. There's a 6.25 state sales tax. And Austin is among the cities that also tacks on another 2 percentage points, meaning we pay 8.25 percent tax on most of our purchases. Then there's the county-collected annual tax on our home's value. Property tax pain: I paid our annual residential property tax bill this weekend and I can... Read more →


We got our first tax statement yesterday. It's our mortgage lender's Form 1098 with details on potentially tax-deductible amounts like loan interest and property taxes. This is just one of the documents that millions of taxpayers are awaiting so they can file their returns. In addition to tax-related home transactions, the various documents that are or soon will be on their way include documents detailing income, be it from wages, contract work or retirement accounts; investments; winnings and/or gambling proceeds; and in some cases, health care information. A handful of these documents must be submitted with Form 1040. Most, however,... Read more →


Even though we definitely are more than ready for 2020 to end, the celebration of its official departure in a few hours — that's for us here in the United States; Happy New 2021 to all y'all on the other side of the International Date Line — likely will be subdued. Thanks, no thanks, COVID-19. May you, too, be gone soon in the coming 12 months. But even if the ringing in the New Year will be in smaller, pandemic-precautioned pods, some adult beverages will be raised as the clock strikes midnight. And among those celebrating the most will be... Read more →


Movie burglar Harry Lime, played by Joe Pesci (left), cases the house where Kevin McCallister, played by Macaulay Culkin, was left "Home Alone" leading up to Christmas Day. (Image courtesy 20th Century Fox) "Home Alone" has been a beloved Christmas movie since it was released in November 1990. Young Kevin McCallister's adventures foiling inept burglars as his frazzled and forgetful family frantically tries to make it home to him by Dec. 25 have delighted audiences for 30 years. It's also been an annual favorite of Illinois tax collectors. Yes, home where the titular alone youngster repeatedly bested the Wet Bandits... Read more →


The end of the disappearing stream water feature in our backyard. The installation was a home improvement. My work today to shore up a part of it was home maintenance. The differences have tax break implications. (Photo by Kay Bell) I spent most of today taking care of home repairs that I felt confident doing. It's not a long list. I am not really a do-it-yourself kind of person when it comes to most things around the house. Still, even though I've worked from home for years, being stuck here more than usual because of the COVID-19 pandemic has made... Read more →


Welcome to Part 8 of the ol' blog's series on 2021 tax inflation adjustments. We started with a look at next year's income tax brackets and rates. That first item also has a directory, at the end of the post, of all of next year's tax-related inflation updates. In today's post, we look at the tax considerations of U.S. taxpayers living and working abroad. Note: The 2021 figures in this post apply to that tax year's returns to be filed in 2022. For comparison purposes, you'll also find 2020 amounts that apply to this year's taxes, due April 15, 2021.... Read more →


Voters' voices literally matter each election when initiatives are on ballots. Here are results of some tax questions that were decided by the 2020 electorate. Vice President Joseph R. Biden today was declared president-elect of the United States. It took longer than usual, but that part of Nov. 3 (Donald J. Trump legal challenges notwithstanding) is over. Decisions on the myriad ballot questions that also went before voters across the county on the first Tuesday of November came a bit sooner. Here's a quick look at the results of the tax initiatives in the order they were featured in my... Read more →


In addition to selecting who gets to go to, or stay in, Washington, D.C., voters across the country on Nov. 3 will decide on a variety of ballot measures. This coming Election Day, citizens in 32 states will decide the fate of 120 statewide initiatives. There also are measures on the ballots in the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. And yes, there are plenty of tax questions that will be decided. Ballotpedia, the Wisconsin-based nonprofit that's been tracking election data since 2007, says this year voters in 12 states will decide 19 tax-related ballot measures.... Read more →


The vehicle lights coming and going across Pennybacker Bridge in northwest Austin are lovely in the evening, but the image also illustrates, as photographer Manuel Garza (via Flickr) notes, "the traffic sucks." I can't speak for all the country's suburbs, but I know mine is pretty sure that our neighborhood will still be around after the coming presidential election even if Joe Biden does move into the White House. We are, however, a bit concerned about how our continuing life here outside Austin's downtown might be affected by a proposed real estate tax increase that also will be on our... Read more →


Donald J. Trump announced on Aug. 8 four executive actions to provide COVID-19 relief in the wake of the stalled Congressional talks. (White House photo via Twitter) By now everyone knows that Donald J. Trump decided to literally take COVID-19 relief into his own hands yesterday. Sitting at table in a meeting room at his Bedminster, New Jersey, golf club, surrounded by media and club members who served as a smaller surrogate rally crowd to cheer him and boo the reporters, Trump sign four executive actions. One was a formal Executive Order. The other three were memoranda. He and his... Read more →


My desk in my home office which I deduct when I file my taxes. Not that I'm paranoid, but sometimes it seems like unseen others somehow know what's going on in my life. The latest example is tax related. Earlier this week, a #TaxTwitter pal asked that social media group about home office tax deductions. Granted, this is not an unusual question since the coronavirus pandemic has meant many of us have been working from home, a lot of us for the very first time. Today, the Internal Revenue Service issued a tax tip on what taxpayers need to know... Read more →


Remember the Michigan man who lost his property because he underpaid by $8.41 the overdue real estate tax bill? The state's highest court says the how the tax sale of Uri Rafaeli's house was handled was wrong, at least as far as the transaction's proceeds. Because of that finding, the Michigan Supreme Court said Rafaeli, an 85-year-old retired engineer, is due financial compensation for the loss of his home to the tax collector. That means Rafaeli soon should be depositing more than $24,000 from the county. High Court speaks: "[G]overnment shall not collect more in taxes than are owed, nor... Read more →


Screenshot from an interview in 2011 of Georgist economist and professor Mason Gaffney (Posted on Vimeo by the Robert Schalkenbach Foundation) Not to be morbid, but I like reading obituaries. They reflect not only on peoples' lives, but also provide a look at the worlds and times in which they lived. Well-written obits essentially are mini history lessons. I came across one such commemoration last week that introduced to me the late Mason Gaffney, as well as Henry George and the economic concept of land-value-only taxation. A tax to pay for progressive goals: Gaffney, who passed away on July 16,... Read more →