May means great weather, less sneezing, and, in North Texas Real Estate parlance, time to grit our teeth over home appraisals. Property tax appraisals went out Friday, so this coming week we should be getting the hard, cold news about property taxes. Dallas rates have gone up. Property values have gone down. Will the Appraisal District reflect this in our bills or look the other way to sop up much-needed revenue?

Do you anticipate your property taxes will go up or down?

Couple things: Jim Schutze over at the Dallas Observer had an interesting article this week on taxes, and the mayoral candidate’s rhetoric that we need to expand the business tax base in Dallas. For what? (To lower our property taxes is the assumption, I guess.) Schutze was another journalist getting hoarse shouting, for the 300,000th time, the inequity that the property tax burden in Texas weighs on the shoulders of homeowners rather than commercial property — I agree:

“What is this crap about the importance of attracting more businesses to the city? They throw it out like a line from the Bible or something — especially mayoral candidates Mike Rawlings and Ron Natinsky. Got to “grow that tax base.” Only way we can grow that tax base is by attracting more businesses, they say.”

The real growth in this city in the last 10 years, he says, has been in residential, which has risen almost 65 percent. Commercial real estate values are up only 31 percent. In 2000, he says, residential was 40 percent of the total tax base. In 2010, it was 47 percent.

“Part of the problem with commercial, of course is that the values at which commercial properties are taxed are often substantially below market values. For whatever reasons (and I think I know what some of them are), the Dallas Central Appraisal District seems to like to low ball commercial values.”

I have long wondered why the tax base has not improved from the flourishing, expanding downtown. The reason is that commercial real estate pays less in taxes. Some argue they should, because businesses use fewer city services — which is news to me. Last time I looked, business created way more waste. But apparently this year, commercial is going to see rates go up.

According to the Dallas County Appraisal District, about 12 percent of residential property values will increase this year, very similar to last year,  according to spokesperson Cheryl Jordan via the Dallas Morning News. But oh boy get ready: more commercial properties will increase in value this year than last. Last year, 4,500 commercial properties had value increases, and this year that number will jump to 22,135.

DCAD anticipates just 23 percent of residential properties will lose value, compared with 34 percent last year.

So you know what that means: our Tax Doctor is back! Tiffany Hamil Mackey will be here to answer your questions as you get your tax bill. I was talking to her last night about what she thinks is coming down the pike, and she thinks the city may decrease land values while increasing improvements to keep appraisals the same. In other words, if your property is valued at $500,000 with $100,000 on improvement and $400,000 on land value, she thinks that they will reduce land to $200,000, but increase improvement value to $300,000 to preserve revenue. This means that the total value of your home goes unchanged, but suddenly your improvement just increased in value 300% in one year?!??! Who’s playing games here?  She’s already noticed whole blocks of areas in Preston Hollow subject to this exact situation.

Even if your taxes have stayed the same, Tiffany says you should fight. So get ready, the Tax Doctor is IN!

Now this really sends me out for Happy Pills: my colleague Rob Hahn over at AOL Real estate says we really need to get ready for 20% down payments IF WE ARE LUCKY! Yep, I’ve been having this convo with many housing experts: first of all, the Obama admin really wants to scale down home ownership and encourage people to rent. Of course, this is great psychological PR for the housing market – NOT! (Maybe I ought to just send off a hammer and nails to the White House — go ahead, drive the final nails in the recovery coffin!) The only folks handing out mortgages will be the big 3 (or is it 4?) banks. See, the  the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010 — don’t even get me started on what I think of the two men behind the name of this “act” — contains a provision authorizing federal regulators to define a “gold standard residential mortgage,” as Rob points out. That would be one where the homeowner has a whole lot of skin the the game.

But Candy, you say, our whole mess today was caused by loosey-goosey lending and those zero down rates. I agree. People are like cattle sometimes and will take anything that looks like a good deal when it’s really not, how else to explain garage sales and why Sam’s is so successful? But then, sometimes you can find real treasure at a garage sale.  So why not punish those who promoted the weak lending standards with wimpy underwriting instead of punishing everyone?

Because here’s what’s going to happen: it’s going to be harder than ever for young people to buy their first home. Those of us who own real estate will always have equity to flow from one home to another — less if this bill results in a further deterioration of real estate values. So our kids will have a whale of a time buying a home. How are they going to save up $30,000 for a 20% down payment on a $150,000 home? That’s a lot of money with taxes, car and student loan payments.

Do you see where I’m going with this?

Of course, if this brings down all home values to, say, 1960 rates, they might be getting a $150,000 house for $70,000…

You are looking for the best real estate values in greater Dallas, right? You want a maintenance, headache-free first or second home close to that great maker of getaways, D/FW Airport. Yet you continue to look in Dallas. Are you crazy? Las Colinas is right next door, closer to D/FW, and has some of the best home values in North Texas. Look at this darling pretty-as-pink town home: 6843 Verde, Irving, TX. Beautiful hardwoods throughout the down stairs. Granite, stainless steel, convection oven, breakfast bar, and glass front cabinets make the kitchen sleek and sexy. (No time to cook but we must look good.) The living area overlooks the patio. There are three living areas and 2 dining areas, upstairs office loft. Built in 2006, it has 1772 square feet, three bedrooms, two bathrooms, two living afraes and gorgeous kitchen, two car rear garage, only $160 per month in association fees so you can lock and leave. La Villaita is a beautiful nook centered around a lake, two canals, trails and parks minutes from DFW Airport, Downtown Dallas and Fort Forth with convenient access to I35, I635, George Bush Turnpike. How much you ask? (Thought you never would!) Don’t faint — only $230,000.

See what happens when you venture out of the D Bubble?