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Leon

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  1. I am looking to replace existing roof with a new one. Two main goals in mind: prepare for the hurricane seasons and improve energy efficiency of the house. Energy is a special consideration as our 2nd story is a converted/added on attic and there is quite a bit of heat leakage from the roof into the house. Roof is conventional, sloping. No homeowners association gestapo in the neighborhood. Two questions: what are recommendations for materials and can you recommend a good roofer? Thanks for help!!
  2. I have a slightly more nuanced opinion. I had an old house (1930s vintage bungalow) and home warranty paid off handsomely there: it replaced AC and central heat. Additionally, plumbing problems with an old house can be very expensive. The downside is that home warranty companies usually pick cheapest contractors they can find with corresponding impact on quality of work (I recently had a contractor trying to convince me to rip all of my ducts out because they are not sized correctly. This was given as explanation for heater not coming on. The real reason was an air leak blowing the flame towards wires connecting the flame sensor - a 15 cent fix). So: - if you have an old house with potential for problems - and you understand a little bit about household equipment they can be an OK deal Otherwise, steer clear.
  3. I am not convinced that there is a good upside. First of all, 6 hrs/day already takes clouds into account. Secondly, power prices are going up - current peak ERCOT rates are way north of 20 cents / kwh (note that Natural gas is already above $13/MMbtu and climbing). Key issue is whether centerpoint would allow net metering (i.e. meter rotating backwards when solar panel is at max rates). Also solar would make the most sense if power companies implement time of use pricing (see http://mospublic.ercot.com/ercot/jsp/balan...ervices_mcp.jsp for actual real time power price in Texas; note how high prices get during afternoon - this would be the peak power production by a solar panel. Should electric provider allow you to take advantage of this pricing, payback will be pretty good.
  4. I would be surprised. Marketing margins are in the toilet and this is a prime piece of real estate. There is also a Chevron station 300 ft down on Kirby (with the carwash). Note how many gas stations disappeared in the area over the last 3-5 years (Shell at Westheimer and Kirby, Texaco at Greenbriar and 59, Chevron at Westheimer and Shepherd, Chevron at Alabama and Montrose, etc etc - the list is long!). Considering land values, alternative uses of this land should be much more attractive than selling gasoline. But I have been wrong before ...
  5. Here is a guess: Starbucks!! There isn't one on that particular intersection yet. You have to drive all the way to Shepherd/Alabama or Kirby/Nottingham to the nearest one. How awful is that?
  6. Does anyone have experience with grid connected Solar PV in Houston? My house could be a pretty good place for PV panels: low slope south roof; fairly high power bill (in the summer). I looked at Southwest Photovoltaic website and the cost is pretty high: a 3 kW (peak power) system costs $20K (and probably more due to certain excluded items). What is difficult is to estimate annual production from the system: they say minimum is 390 kW/mo, but I would hope it should make more: 3 kW * 6 hrs per day * 30 = 540 kWh. If the system makes 500 kWh/mo and costs $20K, then payback is about 266 months assuming 15 cents / kWh power. Pretty long but could be better if power prices keep climbing. Questions: - Has anyone had any experience with Solar PV? - Any reputable contractors (on spec, on budget, on schedule)? Thanks!
  7. Mine disappeared as well. Note that you could only see them if you did a records search by a range of addresses. But now everything is pending.. I guess they are updating the database (I doubt the numbers will be any different).
  8. Well, like all sweeping generalizations, this one is wrong. The true answer is it depends. If you compare Prius with Corolla you get payout of about 5 years assuming $3.50 gasoline and 20K miles per annum. Is it good enough? Not for me with my 7K miles per year per vehicle. But for someone who drives extensively, especially in the city, hybrid would make tons of sense (taxis, fleet vehicles). Also, this estimate assumes that you keep the car forever. If you trade yours, however, hybrid looks much better because so far they have holding value extremely well so you have very low depreciation - the largest portion of car ownership cost. Again, not my case but this would make sense for a lot of people. By the way, this last reason is why car rental companies buy hybrids - they count on being able to sell them 2-3 years later and recover higher portion of the original value vs. traditional vehicles.
  9. +/- 15% requires a very detailed estimate since there are so many unknowns about an old structure (does it have to have new plumbing, electrical, wastewater, does the foundation have to be repaired/replaced, are you looking to move structural walls, do you need new flooring etc etc etc). However, if you do your homework, renovations can clearly be economic if: - you keep labour costs under control (either DIY or bid the job properly) - house is fundamentally sound (does not matter that it has ugly carpet on top of hardwoods) - house is expandable from a 2/1 to, say a 3/2 (this is a function of floor plan) - the property you buy goes at land value or close to it As far as new build, I would anticipate something in the order of $150-200/ft for something worth living in (i.e. not the typical trashboxes built in Houston these days I do know a few people making good $$ on renovations in the Heights. They buy, renovate (no general contractors, partly DIY), then sell. So the potential is there.
  10. They actually get sales data from MLS - it's just that now they cannot disclose it on their website. Allegedly, when you file an appeal, they must make data available. What flips me out is that houses literally across the street are apprased at $37/ft2 for land value while my side got hit with a $57 valuation. I have never appealed the appraisal before figuring that the appraised value was always pretty close to the actual market value of the property (which means that the appraisal was fair - I do not mind paying my fair share of tax) but this year it is just ridiculous. What also annoys me is that lots of owners, especially commercial and builders, manage to get their property vastly underappraised raising tax on the rest of us. There is one guy who onws good chuck of property on the adjacent street and he somehow manages to swindle the app. district to discount his land 50% for "economic" reasons. I really wonder what kind of shady deals are made under the cover of darkness (or in the strip club) between HCAD / property tax lawyers and large property owners ....
  11. Musicman, cap was not the issue as it did not significantly affect property valuation the year before (when it was a homestead). They raised their MARKET estimate for no good reason (I am willing to offer this house for sale to ARB members with a $20K discount versus their appraised value). I am getting pretty paranoid wondering if ARB is in cahoots with the tax protesting mafia - ARB artificially boosts your appraisal so that you go to these companies - they reduce your bill - you give them 50% - they share spoils with ARB (dinners, hookers, who knows what) - cycle closed. I know this is probably ridiculous but recent proliferation of tax protesting firms makes me think that they employ ex-ARB appraisers. Oh the cycle of life!
  12. Except that the Amtrak rideship is about 26 million, so the subsidy calculation is off quite a bit. Not sure about $14 Bln estimate for airline subsidies - you'd have to make sure that all the municipal borrowing for airports is accounted properly.
  13. I just saw my 2008 appraisal on HCAD website. I own a small bungalow w/garage apt in Montrose and I rent both out. My appraised (market) value just went up 25% for no good reason to the value waaaay above anything I could sell that property for. I will definitely protest. I have several possible pathways to pursue in my protest: 1) Unequal appraisal: a similar house around the corner (similar street, larger lot) is appraised at 60% of mine solely because of land value: mine is assessed at $57 per foot while the other house at $35 per foot of land. 2) I just had mortgage refinanced and the bank appraised the property at about 80% of what HCAD thinks it is worth 3) Try to find "comparables" via MLS (either through a realtor or by going to HCAD) 4) Try to go by rental income The most beneficial way is definitely the land value approach but I am not sure that it will work. And if it does not, could I bring up other arguments later in the hearing? Does anyone have experience/suggestions?
  14. They bought a lot of lots in the Montrose area in the last 2 years and started building townhomes (I think previously they were focused more on Rice Military and adjacent areas). I own a house near two of their sites and I am yet to see a single one sell (admittedly most have not been finished yet). I would be concerned about their financial position considering that they paid a lot of $$ for that land and that TH market slowed down a lot in the last 12 months. So I would not buy anything from them unless it's done. Otherwise, there is always a risk to be stuck with an unfinished house and bankrupt builder. Because they are so heavily focused on areas with expensive land and slowing market, they could be very succeptible to any liquidity problem (drying up in construction financing etc). All that being said, I do not have inside knowledge about this company.
  15. I can recommend a very good HVAC person. He is a little more than a technician, though, he actually has a PhD in thermodynamics. His name is Henry Wall and the company is called Wall to Wall A/C (you can google wall to wall A/C houston and will find him). He is very good - not very cheap (but reasonable), but, unlike a lot of people in the field will not rip you off and leave you hanging.
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