Well I haven’t blogged anything this week because I’m at Apple’s World Wide Developers Conference in San Fransico. While airport networking is suppose to be ubiquitous it has never worked for me, and I’m now using an ethernet collection.

The conference has been OK. The G5’s are obviously impressive, but not something I’m going to be able to afford for quite some time. There are some additions to the Cocoa frameworks that look really cool, but I end up wondering how I’m going to use them if I want to stay compatible with Jaguar.

They seem to have a thing against colas, something with sugar and caffeine. They started showing up last night and seem to exist today so maybe there is hope.

As you can tell I’m not on Atkins and I just don’t care. I’ll worry about my diet next week.

State Farm and Gun Range on Your Property

I’m back in what I call my survivalist cycle. I seem to get interested in various things in a cycle. As part the survivalist cycle I think about buying a place in the country as weekend retreat. One of the things I’d like to have there is a shooting range. It would save me significant money and let me shoot more often. Will surfing around I found an article about a guy who’s home owners policy was canceled by State Farm because he had a range on his property.

Frankly I would have bailed on State Farm as soon as they threatened me. He spent a lot more time trying to fight them.

Written while listening to “2112”

album 2112 (The Rush Remasters)

by Rush

Negotiating with the Taxman II

I fought the law and the law…well lost.

Learned a lot about the appraisal process. First off HCAD doesn’t care what you say, they are just going to use their computer program to calculate the value of your house. But the good news is the Appraisal Review Board is made up of three regular citizens.

Here it is in chronological order.

We got there early. Mainly because it took a lot less time to get to the building than we thought. You go up to the third floor and there is a room with a bunch of chairs and a reception type desk where you sign in. I went ahead an got my parking ticket validated when I signed in just so I wouldn’t have to come back. The room probably had 100 chairs in it and was full at 2:30. My wife, youngest son and I went and sat on the floor in the hallway.

After about 40 minutes of waiting an appraiser named Osh called out our name and we went to our informal meeting. The first thing they do is make you say how much you think it is worth. I said $130,000. (Remember the current appraisal was $140,000 and they wanted $157,00). Then you present your evidence to the appraiser. I showed all the stuff I mentioned in yesterday’s post.

Osh says the air conditioning is maintenance and doesn’t count. Then he pulls out the recent sales list and pick three different comparisons based on semi-random looking at square footage. He enters it in the computer and gets a new estimate, $144,000. He then says we can take it or we can go to the board. He mentions that the board is made up of 3 homeowners and they generally side with the homeowner, but that we would have to start from $157,000 and not $144,000 he’s offering us.

We discuss it and you really feel like just taking it to avoid a “hearing”, which sounds scary. Finally I decided to go with the board. Osh was a little surprised. He’d already told his computer to print out the agreement forms. Which tells you most people take what they are given here.

Back out into the waiting room, which has less people in it and we are able to sit down. While sitting there the wife is looking over my print outs and tells me I calculated the home value in my comparisons to sales wrong. I had used the previous sales amount for the home value. Frantically we try to change the values. I get out the laptop and start changing the spreadsheets. The one that averages all the comps would take too long, but the one that just uses the ones they gave us was done pretty quickly. So we start writing the new values on each copy. Had gotten through most of them before they called us.

We walk back to the hearing room. Its a small room with tables in a T. At the head of the T are three older people with nothing in front of them. On one side of the bar is an HCAD representative. You sit on the other side. The board introduces everyone, and then they asked if my wife was going to speak. I say I want her to have the option and they give me the affidavit I’d signed before with Osh that says everything I said was true. She has to sign it too.

The board members were very friendly and helpful, explaining everything. Then they give me a chance to present my evidence. I tell them about the average of everyone on my streets appraisal, the average of the HCAD comps. Point out the other thing I had given Osh was wrong. Then I tell them about the air conditioning, showing them the estimate and pointing out how much inadequate AC impacts the salability of a house in Houston. Then I show them the pictures of where our siding is rotting.

The board asks a number of questions. Mostly about the AC and the siding. They also asked about the price we bought for and what upgrades were included in that price.

Then the HCAD guy gets his say. He first asks when the pictures were taken, and I say “Last night”. Then he says we had a remodel this year. Got to love computers. Get a permit from the city and it shows up in the appraisal district’s computer. We say it was for two interior doors and we also had the roof fixed. Then the HCAD guy goes through the list of comps, pick two Osh did and another one and make a new estimate. Can these guys do anything other than plug comps in to the computer? Any way he recommends $143,000 to the board. Did I mention he had a really strong Jamaican accent and I couldn’t understand a lot of what he said, because he mumbled most of it?

Then they let you have your say. I say basically his comps don’t take into account the condition of the house.

The three members of the board confer amongst themselves, while I lean over to the wife and ask her what the Jamaican guy said our value was. I’m keeping one ear open and hear the lady who is the forman of the board say, “I think we should take the recommendation of HCAD and knock off some for the condition.” The others agree.

In an official voice they say they are setting the value of the house to $138,000. Which is lower than it is now and much lower than what they wanted. We chat a little with the board asking how they ended up here. One guy said its like jury duty.

Looked up my tax bill online and refigured my taxes for the year and figured our savings.

At $138,000 we will pay $3,711.91 in property taxes this year. Includes county, city and school district.
At $157,000 we would pay $4,309.80, so we saved $597.89.
At the current $140,000 we pay $3,774.85, so we save $62.94 over last year.

So we went a spend most of our tax savings eating dinner at Saltgrass Steakhouse.

Written while listening to “Ever Fallen In Love”

album The Raw & The Cooked

by Fine Young Cannibals
Written while listening to “Cup of Coffee”

album Beautiful Garbage

by Garbage
Written while listening to “Drive You Home”

album Beautiful Garbage

by Garbage
Written while listening to “Sweet Child Of Mine”

album ^a

by Guns n’ Roses
Written while listening to “I Wanna Love You Forever”

album ^a

by Jessica Simpson
Written while listening to “Deconstruction”

album Become You

by Indigo Girls

Negotiating with the tax man

Today I’m going down to the Harris county tax assessors office to contend they have valued my house to highly for tax purposes. It will be interesting to see how it goes. You are suppose gather evidence why your appraisal is wrong. Then first you present it to an assessor in a one on one thing. If you still don’t feel satisfied you go before a three person board and make your case. There are two ways to contest, first you can say it isn’t equal or you can say it isn’t market value. I’ve kind of done both.

I’ve looked up the appraisals of everyone on my street, figured the average per square foot value and used that to calculate my value which is $33,000 less based on square footage and lost size. Found out in the process I’ve got the largest house on the street and the smallest lot.

Secondly I took the three comparison houses they used and figured their average price per square footage. That lowered us almost $22,000. Don’t know where they got their value. They give you a break down, but they have lots of added costs that don’t seem to correspond to anything.

Lastly I figured the price per square foot for the last 10 houses sold in our neighborhood, and used it to calculate our cost. Again down $10,000.

Too top off all of this we had an air condition company come out and give us a estimate to make our AC actually cool our house. $10,000. And we have the siding on our house deteriorating, which we photographed, but didn’t have time to get an estimate.

Wish me luck

Written while listening to “Story Of A Girl”

album American Pie

by Nine Days

Lisa Hourin

Lisa Hourin is a fitness model with the most awesome abs I’ve ever seen on a woman. They are really impressive is you understand how hard it is to accomplish this at the body fat even athlete women have. She has a very long waist and I wonder if that contributes. She doesn’t really have an hourglass figure, but a long lean one. In her case I’d say it works, though normally I think of that as “a skinny sort of way”, as in “she’s pretty in a skinny sort of way”. Normally women with this body style have small breasts. Lisa’s don’t seem large or small, though she says she’s got a 37 in chest, which is a good size.

She has a diary, which is essentially a blog (though it lacks an RSS feed). She’s currently pregnant, which means her abs are awesome in a different way. There is a progression of her belly change. And some shots from a shoot she did while 3 months pregnant.

She’s got an wonderful body and a infectious smile.

Written while listening to “Don’t Look Back”
album The Raw & The Cooked

by Fine Young Cannibals