Real estate rules. But have I ever told you my story, why I am so obsessed with real estate and why I blog? It goes like this: I was a journalist, a magazine journalist, who covered real estate as a journalistic beat, then got hooked. I realized that blogging about homes and featuring them on the web is really the only and best way to market homes.  If you disagree, I want to know. And I may challenge you to an ad dual. Agents in Silicon Valley don’t even bother with print any more: 89% of buyers search for homes on line, and internet buyers’ incomes are 25% higher than traditional print buyers. By the time a certain listing is printed, that home may have a price change or even be sold, if anyone ever reads it. In fact, the homes we feature are selling sell and when we write about a home, the open houses are overflowing. This one sold four days after our posting.  From a reader in Plano:

Candy, Just thought you’d like to know the impact of your article on our house. The weekend after it ran, we were inundated with showings – I think we had 12 total. Last weekend, after the buzz from your article died down, 2 total showings!

I cannot thank you enough for the article, hopefully someone will like it enough to put a bid in. –Thad

I believe residential real estate should completely migrate to the web, and that blogs are one of the best, most efficient ways to deliver real time information and promote transparency. On CandysDirt, we focus primarily on residential real estate in Dallas and increasingly, North Texas. I founded as a hyper local real estate blog to take off where DallasDirt left off. I created for the growing (and struggling) second home community niche. My heart was proud the other day when I posted a listing and the community told us that when an agent showed it, it smelled of smoke. We want the truth about these homes — price and condition! Ultimately, I want to add more transparency to the buying process, help consumers find the very best homes and deals, and obtain the very best value out of their real estate investments.

A reader writes and the Tax Doc will respond! By the way, if you have NOT received your appraisal in the mail, that means your taxes are unchanged from last year. But you can still go down and try to lower your appraised values. In fact, the Tax Doctor advises it.

Hi Candy,

We are somewhat new homeowners living in Lake Highlands (75238) where the Dallas CAD has our property values all over the place.  Our home is not updated, except for one bathroom.  We are appraising on the CAD for $215K.  What is frustrating is that my next door neighbor (I have not been in his house), has a little more sq feet, new roof, and house looks great on the outside. His appraisal is $165K, so he is paying over $1,000 less in taxes a year.

My questions to you…

-Is it worth the time and effort to fight the appraisal?

-We did put a lot of sweat equity in our landscaping this past year, does that hurt us?  Are they actually driving by and making appraisals based on curb appeal?

-What is the best way to fight the appraisal?

I appreciate your insight, we are grateful to be homeowners but find it extremely discouraging when we see our neighbor’s homes with the $20K kitchen remodels, extra sq. footage, etc and know that we are paying more in taxes than they are.

Keep on blogging, you do great work!

Sincerely, Leeanne

A Reader who has had her house on the market for over a year writes:

Dear Candy:

It has been a nightmare trying to sell my home in Prosper. I’m a single mother of two. I paid about $280,000 for my home 2.5 years ago. Been on the market for two years. One buyer came in and backed out at the last minute, after I’d signed a lease on a rent house. (That was costly!) Now we have another buyer at $263,000 on a $275,000 asking price. I put $40,000 down on this home and with this offer, will only net $3,000. That’s a lousy investment on $40K. It’s a solid buyer, all pre-approved, clean deal and they are paying all fees. I just don’t know what to do! Do you think home ownership is worth it? Everyone keeps telling me that they are going to take away the tax deduction, and I should just sell and lease. What’s the real story? I need a real estate expert? I’m afraid my agent wants me to sell just to get rid of me and make some money off me.



Dear JH,

Wow, that’s a tough call. I still believe in investing in real estate now, maybe more than ever, but only if you can afford it and hold it for the long term. The market is improving, but disasters keep happening — Japan, Libya, the Middle East. There are signs of inflation everywhere but in housing it seems, and that’s because of all the foreclosures and short sales out there.

I think that if you need to sell, you should take this offer, maybe counter at $269,000. I think you should be happy you will not be taking your checkbook to closing but will, instead, get a check, no matter how small. Think of it this way: you lived in the home and it only cost you $11,000 (assuming you sell it at $269K) plus maintenance for 2.5 years. That’s $366. per month, and that’s not figuring in your tax benefits, if any. (Some folks don’t enjoy the mortgage deduction thanks to the Alternative Minimum Tax.) So you have a nice home in Prosper with great schools for less than $400 a month. Houses are not ATMs.

Are you secure in your job? Can you hold off for another year? It’s a gamble, because while the market may get better, it could get worse and interest rates could go up. Personally, I think prices will stay flat for several years (sorry) and there is an election coming up, which throws in yet more variables. So you could stay in your home,  knowing you may make out the same in a year or even two. It really depends on your situation.

Why don’t you map out a “worse case scenario” if you stay in your home, worse case if you move out. Renting is a great idea if you want to be flexible — someone today at an Urban Land Institute Meeting said Paris France is a city loaded with apartment renters. But don’t give up on housing for the long term. I hope this helps. I really wish I had a crystal ball for you!

Now we need to ask the SecondShelter community what they think you ought to do!

By the way, Darling Homes is raffling off a brand new home in Prosper — check it out!

Dear Candy,

I’m an Australian looking to buy an investment property in the States while our dollar is relatively strong and your market is low.   Are there any US web sites or companies that you would recommend that research and recommend properties for buyers?

2nd question – The demographics look good for Florida over the next 10-20 years.  Do you have any specific areas in Florida that you would recommend?



Dear Garth: We’ll ask the Candy Community for help with both questions, and I will email you my personal recommendations. I am very bullish on Florida, particularly the “designer” Gulf coast. Panama City Beach has a new international airport, stay tuned for a SecondShelters report in April. Also check out Amelia Island and surrounding areas on the east coast. I don’t know if you are thinking a home or condo, but Miami has plenty of those. The St. Petersburg/Tampa area is also beautiful and a bargain-hunters paradise. Unemployment rate a little high for my tastes.

Floridian traps: the high senior population could get costly as the Feds cut back on funding, and any coastal area runs the risk of disaster weather — be sure to check insurance rates carefully. Plus: Florida has no state income taxes, and property taxes are at about .85% or $1860. on a home values at $218,700.

Gulf Shores, Alabama is also extremely cheap right now. The Texas Gulf coast is developing — check out Cinnamon Shore — and you’ll be in another no-income tax state that is enjoying population growth and zippier employment than the rest of the nation. But our property taxes are nothing to sneeze at, 1.76% of the home’s value or $2232. on a $126,800 average home.

Thanks for Asking Candy!