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Michelle Adams' Blog

By Michelle Adams | Agent in Austin, TX
  • Mayor Pro Tem, City Council District 5 Sheryl Cole hosting open house this Saturday.

    Posted Under: Home Buying in Austin, In My Neighborhood in Austin, Property Q&A in Austin  |  May 15, 2014 2:43 PM  |  397 views  |  No comments
    Mayor Pro Tem, Austin City Council District 5, Sheryl Cole has scheduled an open house forum in your district! This is your opportunity to speak about opportunities in District 5 and any ideas involving your city government. 
    Hope to see you Saturday! 


  • FAQ Texas Tax Exemptions:

    Posted Under: Home Buying in Austin, How To... in Austin, Property Q&A in Austin  |  June 2, 2013 10:38 PM  |  693 views  |  No comments

    Frequently Asked Questions

    Q: Do I, as a homeowner, get a tax break from property taxes?

    A: You may apply for homestead exemptions on your principal residence. Homestead exemptions remove part of your home's value from taxation, so they lower your taxes.

    For example, your home is appraised at $100,000, and you qualify for a $15,000 exemption (this is the amount mandated for school districts), you will pay school taxes on the home as if it was worth only $85,000. Taxing units have the option to offer a separate exemption of up to 20 percent of the total value.

    Q: Do all homes qualify for homestead exemptions?

    A: No, only a homeowner's principal residence qualifies. To qualify, a home must meet the definition of a residence homestead: The home's owner must be an individual (for example: not a corporation or other business entity) and use the home as his or her principal residence on January 1 of the tax year. If you are age 65 or older, the January 1 ownership and residency are not required for the age 65 homestead exemption.

    Q: What is a homestead?

    A: A homestead can be a separate structure, condominium or a manufactured home located on owned or leased land, as long as the individual living in the home owns it. A homestead can include up to 20 acres, if the land is owned by the homeowner and used as a yard or for another purpose related to the residential use of the homestead.

    Q: What homestead exemptions are available?

    A: There are several types of exemptions you may receive.

    • School taxes: All residence homestead owners may receive a $15,000 homestead exemption from their home's value for school taxes. 
    • County taxes: If a county collects a special tax for farm-to-market roads or flood control, a residence homestead owner may receive a $3,000 exemption for this tax. If the county grants an optional exemption for homeowners age 65 or older or disabled, the owners will receive only the local-option exemption. 
    • Age 65 or older and disabled exemptions: Individuals 65 and older and/or disabled residence homestead owners may qualify for a $10,000 homestead exemption for school taxes, in addition to the $15,000 exemption for all homeowners. If the owner qualifies for both the $10,000 exemption for 65 and older homeowners and the $10,000 exemption for disabled homeowners, the owner must choose one or the other for school taxes. The owner cannot receive both exemptions. 
    • Optional percentage exemptions: Any taxing unit-including a city, county, school, or special district-may offer an exemption of up to 20 percent of a home's value. But, no matter what the percentage is, the amount of an optional exemption cannot be less than $5,000. Each taxing unit decides if it will offer the exemption and at what percentage. This percentage exemption is added to any other home exemption for which an owner qualifies. The taxing unit must decide before July 1 of the tax year to offer this exemption. 
    • Optional 65 or older or disabled exemptions: Any taxing unit may offer an additional exemption amount of at least $3,000 for taxpayers age 65 or older and/or disabled.

    Q: How do I get a general $15,000 homestead exemption?

    A: You may file an Application for Residential Homestead Exemption with your appraisal district for the $15,000 homestead exemption up to one year after the taxes on the homestead are due. Once you receive the exemption, you do not need to reapply unless the chief appraiser sends you a new application. In that case, you must file the new application. If you should move or your qualification ends, you must inform the appraisal district in writing before the next May 1st. A list of appraisal district addresses and phone numbers is available online.

    Q: How do I get an additional $10,000 65 or older or disabled homestead exemption?

    A: You may apply to the appraisal district up to one year after the date you turn 65 or qualify for disability, or up to one year after the taxes are due, whichever is later. If your application is approved, you will receive the exemption for the entire year in which you turn 65 or become disabled and for subsequent years as long as you own a qualified homestead. Beginning in 2005, if your date of birth was on your original homestead application or other written correspondence to the appraisal district about your homestead you will automatically receive the 65 or older exemption without applying, if you are entitled to the general homestead exemption.

    Q: How do I qualify for a disabled person's exemption?

    A: You are eligible for this exemption if you can't engage in gainful work because of a physical or mental disability or you are 55 years old and blind and can't engage in your previous work because of the blindness. To qualify, you must meet the Social Security definition for disabled. You qualify if you receive disability benefits under the federal Old Age, Survivors and Disability Insurance Program administered by the Social Security Administration. Disability benefits from any other program do not automatically qualify you. To prove your eligibility, you may need to provide the appraisal district with information on disability ratings from the civil service, retirement programs, or from insurance documents, military records, or a doctor's statement.

    Q: What is the deadline for filing for a homestead exemption?

    A: You may file for any homestead exemption up to one year after the delinquency date. The delinquency date is normally February 1st. If you are 65 or older or disabled, you qualify for the exemption on the date you become 65 or become disabled. To receive the exemption for that year, 65 or older or disabled homeowners must apply for the exemption no later than one year from the date you qualify or one year after the delinquency date, whichever is later. If you miss the deadline you may apply for the following year.

    Q: May I continue to receive the residence homestead exemption on my home if I move away temporarily?

    A: If you temporarily move away from your home, you may continue to receive the exemption if you do not establish a principal residence elsewhere, you intend to return to the home, and you are away less than two years. You may continue to receive the exemption if you do not occupy the residence for more than two years only if you are in military service or live in a facility providing services related to health, infirmity or aging.

    Q: What is a homestead tax ceiling?

    A: It is a limit on the amount of taxes you must pay on your residence. If you qualify your home for a 65 and older or disabled person homestead exemption for school taxes, the school taxes on that home can't increase as long as you own and live in that home. The tax ceiling is the amount you pay in the year that you qualified for the 65 or older or disabled person exemption. The school taxes on your home may go below the ceiling but not above the amount of the ceiling. However, if you improve the home (other than normal repairs or maintenance), the tax ceiling may go higher because of the new additions. For example, if you add on a garage or game room to the house after you have established a tax ceiling, the ceiling will be adjusted to a higher level to reflect the value of that addition.

    Q: Does the school tax ceiling transfer when a person who is age 65 or older or is disabled or is the surviving spouse (age 55 or older) of a person who was age 65 or older moves to another home?

    A: A percentage of the school tax ceiling may be transferred.

    The ceiling on the new home would be calculated to give you the same percentage of tax paid as the ceiling on the original home. For example, if you currently have a tax ceiling of $100, but would pay $400 without the ceiling, the percentage of tax paid is 25 percent. If you move to another home and the taxes on the new homestead would normally be $1,000 in the first year, the new tax ceiling would be $250, or 25 percent of $1,000.

    To transfer the school tax ceiling, you may request a certificate from the chief appraiser in the last appraisal district in which you received the tax ceiling. You present the transfer certificate to the chief appraiser in the district where the new home is located, when you apply for homestead exemptions on the new home.

    Q: If I am the surviving spouse of a disabled person, am I entitled to the school tax ceiling?

    A: No, only surviving spouses (55 years of age or older) of persons who were 65 years of age or older when they died may benefit from the tax ceiling.

    Q: If I am 65 years of age or older, disabled, or a surviving spouse who is age 55 or older, does a tax ceiling apply to county, city or junior college district property taxes?

    A: Yes, if the county commissioners court, city council or board of the junior college district authorizes a tax limitation on the homesteads of persons 65 years of age or older or disabled. The taxing unit's governing bodies or voters (by petition and election) may adopt the limitation. This local option exemption does not apply to other special districts such as water, hospital, etc.

    Q: Can the local option ceiling transfer if the owner who is age 65 or older or disabled moves to another home?

    A: Yes, but the home must be located within the applicable taxing unit - city, county or junior college district. The ceiling on the new home is calculated the same as the school district.

    Q: Can the local option ceiling transfer to another home owned by the surviving spouse who is 55 year of age or older?

    A: No, regardless of the underlying qualifications (65 and older or disabled person).

    Q: If I own only 50 percent of the home I live in, do I qualify for the residence homestead exemption on the home?

    A: Yes. However, if you qualify for a homestead exemption and are not the sole owner of the property to which the homestead exemption applies, the exemption you receive is based on the interest you own. For example, you own a 50 percent interest in a homestead and will receive one half, or $7,500, of a $15,000 homestead offered by a school district.

    Q: Is the disabled veteran's exemption the same as the disabled person's exemption?

    A: No. To receive a disabled veteran exemption, you must either be a veteran who was disabled while serving with the U.S. armed forces or the surviving spouse or child (under 18 years of age and unmarried) of a disabled veteran or of a member of the armed forces who was killed while on active duty.

    In order to qualify for a disabled person exemption, you can't engage in gainful work because of physical or mental disability or you are 55 years old and blind and can't engage in your previous work because of your blindness. If you receive disability benefits under the federal Old Age, Survivors and Disability Insurance Program administered by the Social Security Administration, you will qualify for the disabled person exemption.

    Q: What is the amount of the disabled veteran's exemption?

    A: The exemption amount that a qualified disabled veteran receives depends on the veteran's disability rating from the branch of the armed service:

    Disability RatingExemption Amount
    10% to 30%$5,000 from the property's value
    31% to 50%$7,500 from the property's value
    51% to 70%$10,000 from the property's value
    71% to 100%$12,000 from the property's value

    The disabled veteran must be a Texas resident and must choose one property to receive the exemption.

    Q: May I file for a disabled veteran's exemption after the deadline has passed?

    A: Yes. The deadline for filing for a disabled veteran's exemption is between January 1 and April 30 of the tax year. However, you may file for a disabled veteran's exemption up to one year from the delinquency date. To file for a disabled veteran's exemption, you must complete theApplication for Disabled Veteran's or Survivor's Exemptions form.

    Q: If I lease a vehicle that I use for personal purposes, do I have to pay property taxes on the vehicle?

    A: In Texas, all property is taxable, unless exempt by state or federal law. Leased vehicles produce income for the leasing company and are taxable to the leasing company. In many leasing contracts, companies require their lessees to reimburse them for property taxes assessed on the vehicles.

    Leased vehicles that are not held for the primary purpose of income production by the lessee may be exempted. These vehicles include passenger cars or trucks with a shipping weight of not more than 9,000 pounds and leased for personal use. Personal use would mean using the vehicle more than 50 percent of its use (based on mileage) for activities that do not involve the production of income. The exemption applies only to vehicles subject to a lease entered into on or after January 2, 2001. Any leased vehicles contracted before January 2, 2001 would continue to be taxed. In addition, cities that passed an ordinance before January 1, 2002, could continue to tax personal leased vehicles. The law was effective on January 1, 2002.

    To qualify for the exemption, you must timely file an affidavit with the leasing company. You may print the Lessee's Affidavit of Primarily Non Income Producing Vehicle Use form or the leasing company could provide one for you.

     To receive the exemption, the leasing company must file a Lessor's Application for Personal Use Lease Automobile Exemptions with the county appraisal district where the property is located before April 30 of each year. The exemption application should contain all vehicles that are used primarily for personal use. If the leasing company does not file the application timely, the vehicle is not exempt for that year.

    Q:If a religious or charitable organization purchases property during the year, may the organization receive an exemption on the new property for that year?

    A: Yes. The religious or charitable organization may receive a property tax exemption for the year in which it purchases qualifying property. To receive the exemption for that year, the organization has to file for the exemption within one year of acquiring the property.

  • Permitting Requirements for the City of Austin – How to find them

    Posted Under: Home Buying in Austin, Property Q&A in Austin, Investment Properties in Austin  |  June 2, 2013 10:25 PM  |  659 views  |  No comments

    Inside the City Limits (full purpose annexation) – Zoning, Subdivision, Site plan, Building, Trade and Concrete permits required.

    If your property is totally within the City of Austin and you are erecting, constructing, enlarging, altering, repairing, improving, removing, converting, moving, demolishing any building or structure, you are required to obtain a City of Austin Building Permit and a site plan approval or site plan exemption. Depending on the extent of your work, you may be required to obtain one or more of the following permits

    Inside the City Limits (limited purpose annexation) – The same rules above apply to requirements for building permits and site plan and/or development permit approvals and exemptions for the City. City of Austin plumbing, electrical, concrete and mechanical permits are required. In addition to the City permits, Travis County requires development permits, building permits and driveway permits.

    Extra-territorial Jurisdiction (not limited purpose annexation) – The extra-territorial jurisdiction (ETJ) is that area extending five miles outside the City of Austin corporate limits. All development in the ETJ is required to obtain site plan (development permit) approvals or site plan exemptions from the City. In addition, plumbing and/or electrical permits may be required if the project is served by City utilities (ETJ fees will be assessed in addition to the permit fees). Development and driveway permits are required by Travis County and Hays County.

    All areas inside the city limits and/or ETJ (other commonly required approvals):

    • Austin/Travis County Health Department permits, if the project needs a septic system or if it is a sanitary land fill or salvage yard. LCRA has jurisdiction for permits for septic tanks adjacent to Lake Travis.
    • US Fish and Wildlife Service permits for endangered species habitats.
    • Texas Water Commission permit for projects over the Edwards Aquifer.
    • Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, Corps of Engineers approval for drainage modifications.
    • Projects involving single family boat docks, earthwork, site clearing, utilities, and street and drainage improvements require a site plan (development permit) or site plan exemption. Boat docks also require building and electrical (if lighted) permits along Lake Austin.  Call the Planning and Development Review Department for other requirements at (512)  974-2380.
  • Protesting your property taxes

    Posted Under: General Area in Austin, Home Buying in Austin, Property Q&A in Austin  |  April 3, 2013 7:57 PM  |  260 views  |  No comments
    Aside from hiring an attorney, the best way to protest is with a written notice of protest. It will be considered valid if it identifies the owner, the property being protested, and clearly indicates that you disagree with the appraisal district's decision. An easy way to file a written protest is to download and submit the "Protest Form" (Form 50-132) provided by the Travis County Appraisal District (www.traviscad.org/pdf/Forms/ARB/50-132_NoticeOfProtest.pdf).
    As a general rule, the deadline to file a notice of protest of your property's value is May 31; however, multiple exceptions exist that could alter your deadline. If you are uncertain of your deadline, contact the appraisal review board to confirm the specific deadline to file your protest form. There are a handful of exceptions that allow people to file a late protest (full time military, off-shore workers, etc.).
    Factors the Texas Comptroller's Office suggests a property owner should consider to determine whether a protest would be appropriate include:
    • Is the property valued unequally when compared with other property in the appraisal district?
    • Did the appraisal district deny a relevant exemption (homestead exemption, disabled veteran exemption, etc.)?
    • Do the appraisal records show an incorrect owner or identify the wrong property?
    • Is the property being taxed by the wrong taxing units (i.e., the tax records show the property in the incorrect school district)?

    Michelle Adams, 
    Real Estate Consultant
    Ultima Real Estate512.574.2969 direct | 512.852.4412 fax  | 512.22CONDO Office
    www.UltimaAustin.com Find me on: LinkedIn | Zillow.com | About Me |Trulia | 
  • Residential Architecture Styles

    Posted Under: Home Buying in Austin, Home Selling in Austin, Property Q&A in Austin  |  March 15, 2013 6:57 PM  |  430 views  |  3 comments

    Residential Architecture Styles


    These narrow, rectangular one-and-a- half story houses originated in California during the 1880s as a reaction to the elaborate decoration of Victorian homes. The style then moved eastward to the Midwest in the early 20th century, where it remained popular until the Great Depression. Bungalows have low-pitched gabled or hipped roofs and small covered porches at the entry. The style became so popular that you could order a bungalow kit from the Sears and Roebuck catalog. The name "bungalow" has its origins in India, where it indicated a small, thatched home.


    Some of the first houses built in the United States were Cape Cods. The original colonial Cape Cod homes were shingle-sided, one-story cottages with no dormers. During the mid-20th century, the small, uncomplicated Cape Cod shape became popular in suburban developments. A 20th-century Cape Cod is square or rectangular with one

    or one-and-a-half stories and steeply pitched, gabled roofs. It may have dormers and shutters. The siding is usually clapboard or brick.


    You know them by their odd-sized and often tall windows, their lack of ornamentation and their unusual mixtures of wall materials—stone, brick and wood, for instance. Architects designed Contemporary-style homes (in the Modern family) between 1950 and 1970 and created two versions—the flat-roof and gabled types. The latter is often characterized by exposed beams. Both breeds tend to be one-story tall

    and were designed to incorporate the surrounding landscape into their overall look.


    Popularized at the turn of the 20th century by Architect and Furniture Designer Gustav Stickley in his magazine, The Craftsman, the Craftsman-style bungalow reflected, said Stickley, "a house reduced to its simplest form...its low, broad proportions and absolute lack of ornamentation gives it a character so natural and unaffected that it seems to...blend with any landscape."


    This American style originated in homes built by German, or "Deutsch," settlers in Pennsylvania as early as the 1600s. A hallmark of the style is a broad gambrel roof with flaring eaves that extend over the porches, creating a barn-like effect. Early homes were a single room, and additions were added to each end, creating a distinctive linear floor plan. End walls are generally of stone, and the chimney is usually located on one or both ends. Double-hung sash windows with outward-swinging wood casements, dormers with shed-like overhangs, and a central Dutch double doorway are

    also common. The double door, which is divided horizontally, was once used to keep livestock out of the home while allowing light and air to filter through the open top. The style enjoyed a revival during the first three decades of the 20th century as the country looked back with nostalgia to its colonial past.


    Born out of the fundamental need for shelter, National-style homes, whose roots are set in Native American and pre-railroad dwellings, remain unadorned and utilitarian. The style is characterized by rectangular shapes with side-gabled roofs or square layouts with pyramidal roofs. The gabled-front- and-wing style pictured is the most prevalent type, with a side-gabled wing attached at a right angle to the gabled front. Two subsets of the National style,

    known as "hall-and-parlor family" and "I-house," are characterized by layouts that are two rooms wide and one room deep. Massed plan styles, recognized by a layout more than one room deep, often sport side gables and shed-roofed porches. You'll find National homes throughout the country.


    In suburban Chicago in 1893, Frank Lloyd Wright, America's most famous architect, designed the first Prairie- style house, and it's still a common style throughout the Midwest. Prairie houses come in two styles: boxy

    and symmetrical or low-slung and asymmetrical. Roofs are low-pitched, with wide eaves. Brick and clapboard are the most common building materials. Other details include rows of casement windows; one-story porches with massive square supports; and stylized floral and circular geometric terra-cotta or masonry ornamentation around doors, windows, and cornices.


    Sometimes called the California Ranch style, this home in the Modern family originated there in the 1930s. It emerged as one of the most popular American styles in the 1950s and 60s, when the automobile had replaced early 20th-century forms of transportation, such as streetcars. Now mobile homebuyers could move to the suburbs and into bigger homes on bigger lots. The style takes its cues from Spanish Colonial, Prairie and Craftsman homes, and is characterized by its one-story, pitched-roof construction, built-in garage, wood or brick exterior walls, sliding and picture windows and sliding doors leading to patios.


    A subset of the Modern style, Shed homes were particular favorites of architects in the 1960s and 70s. They feature multiple roofs sloping in different directions, which creates multigeometric shapes; wood shingle, board or brick exterior cladding; recessed and downplayed front doorways; and small windows. There's virtually no symmetry to the style.


    Legend has it that if you fire a shotgun through the front doorway of this long, narrow home, the bullet will exit directly through the back door. The style is characterized by a single story with a gabled roof. Shotguns are usually only one room wide, with each room leading directly into the next. Exterior features include a vent on the front gable and a full front porch trimmed with gingerbread brackets and ornamentation. Mail-order plans and parts for shotgun homes were widely available at the turn of the century,making it a popular, low-cost structure to build in both urban and suburban settings.


    Most common in the Southwest and Florida, Spanish-style architecture takes its cues from the missions of the early Spanish missionaries—such as the one at San Juan Capistrano in California— and includes details from the Moorish, Byzantine, Gothic and Renaissance architectural styles. The houses usually have low-pitched tiled roofs, white stucco walls and rounded windows and doors. Other elements may include scalloped windows and balconies with elaborate grillwork; decorative tiles around doorways and windows; and a bell tower or two.


    A Modern style that architects created to sequester certain living activities— such as sleeping or socializing—Split Levels offered multilevel alternatives to the ubiquitous style in the 1950s. The nether parts of a typical design were devoted to a garage and TV room; the midlevel, which usually jutted out from the two-story section, offered "quieter" quarters, such as the living and dining rooms; and the area above the garage was designed for bedrooms.

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