SimplySanAntonio Buying a Passive Energy Home NUMBER 8
FOR RESIDENTS, VISITORS, OR ANYONE PASSING THROUGH
By John J. Speegle
Have you thought about passive energy design features when deciding which home to purchase? “Probably not” is the most likely answer. But what exactly is “Passive Energy?” Simply put, passive energy design features don’t use any energy after they are installed. They just sit there and protect you in the home or on the front porch or perhaps even around the pool. These design features are very simple items that will help to control the energy use that your future home will cost you. A home, through its design, controls the levels of temperature, humidity, wind and sunshine. San Antonio has a very hot and humid climate. The weather is only considered “comfortable” about 11% of the time. What can you do about it? Buying a home with incorporated passive energy design features may increase the comfort level from 21% to 35% or more. This can create a significant reduction in cooling and heating costs. Now, isn’t that a great idea? Comfort and energy savings at the same time?
In this issue of
SimplySanAntonio • The Ten Commandments of Buying a Home • Faults • Floors • Master Planning the Future • 6 Things EVERY Homeowner can do to Lower their Property Taxes This Boerne home has a covered porch on the south elevation and roof-top clerestories which provide day-lighting and venting of the main family living/kitchen areas.
San Antonio’s climatic conditions dictate that your home should have adequate area around it to allow for ventilation of the breezes. The plan should facilitate cross-ventilation with operable windows, glass doors and louvers. All these windows and doors need protection from the sumContinued next page
• Home Value Trends: San Antonio and Hill Country Neighborhoods Average price per sq. ft. • Homes Sales Continue to Rise
Buying a Passive Energy Home mer sun. Hopefully you will allow the winter sun to enter (especially if you use deciduous trees on the east and west sides of your home). If the trees aren’t there, you can plant the correct types of trees – and that’s a great start to conserving energy. When shopping for a new home, look and see if the home has its kitchen and bathrooms on the north or northwest side of the floor plan. These locations will allow the home to vent the moisture out and natural breezes, from the southeast or south, will take it away. Is the attic properly ventilated to vent the humidity away from the interior? Think of historic homes with decorative patterns in the venting of the roof gables; pretty to look at but they also serve the purpose of reducing energy to cool the home. High ceilings, at least 10’ tall, let the heat and humidity rise in the home. Tall ceilings allow space for transoms above doors and extra tall windows to vent better. An open plan with low and tall vents, either through windows or screened doors, will also create better crossventilation of the breezes. Look for arbors or pergolas to shade the home but not stop the breezes. A solid roof on a pergola will keep the rain off, but plants growing in the shade are a better feature for keeping temperature and humidity down. One of the nicest features found on some historic homes is an exterior trellis shading the walls and windows. This was done for a purpose but it also looks great. Does the home have proper overhangs to shade exterior openings on the east, south and west elevations? A longer overhang keeps the sun off the openings thus reducing energy costs (not necessary on the north elevation because it gets less direct sunlight. The home should also have proper insulation in its walls; 3.5” of batt insulation (an R-11 value) and a minimum of 8” in the ceilings (an R-26-30 value). The windows may be double-insulated, but it is not essential. Shaded or tinted windows are more important than double-paned (go to Austin and you’ll need the doublepaned windows - not so much here in San Antonio where we cool more than we heat). Landscaping is always an important feature of the home, but exterior surfaces on the south and east side of the home need to be “permeable” rather than solid (that is constructed from a type of material that drains water, such as gravel, crushed granite, spaced parking masonry or stone pavers). These materials don’t create puddles, thus reducing the humidity levels that might enter the home. Also, a sub-surface or drip-irrigation system is better than lawn sprinklers.
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The author’s office illustrates a heavy porch overhang on the west elevation shading the wall and the windows.
Here are some items to think about in selecting your future home: 1. Allow for cross ventilation but avoid winter infiltration; 2. Protect from the summer sun with roofs, overhangs, porches and vegetation; 3. Avoid features that create exterior humidity; 4. Let the sun in at selected times; 5. Avoid exposure to outside temperatures when it’s too hot or too cool for comfort. Have fun in your search for a new home!
John J. Speegle is an architect and co-founder of Speegle & KIM-Davis Architecture. He has an upcoming lecture on “Passive Energy Residential Design” on May 25th, 6:30 p.m., at the EcoCenter at San Antonio College, 1802 N. Main. www.skdarchitecture.com
The Ten Commandments of Buying a Home 1. Thou shall not change jobs, become self-employed or quit your job. 2. Thou shalt not buy a car, truck or van. 3. Thou shalt not use credit cards excessively or let current accounts fall behind. 4. Thou shalt not spend money you have set aside for the closing of a home. 5. Thou shalt not omit debts or liabilities from your loan application. 6. Thou shalt not buy furniture. 7. Thou shalt not originate any inquiries into your credit. 8. Thou shalt not make large deposits without checking with your loan officer. 9. Thou shalt not change bank accounts. 10. Thou shalt not co-sign a loan for anyone.
By Greg Sethness, P.E.
Earthquakes, faults, uplift, shifting - what does it all mean? It means that at some locations our earth can definitely move! However, for those of us here in San Antonio, it is not much of a worry. We do have faults, where uplift and shifting once occurred from earth pressures and/or earthquakes. Our faults are fairly inactive. Today, the design ground acceleration from an earthquake in Bexar County is about 1/20 of that for a California earthquake. That means that we rarely have noticeable earthquakes! However, if you look at a US Geological Survey map you would be surprised at the hundreds of soil/rock fault lines in Bexar County! A fault line is the line across which there is normally a change in the subsurface soil or rock strata. The fault is usually created by uplift in the earthâ€™s crust, more on one side of the fault line than on the other. So, on one side of a fault line the soil or rock is normally a little different than on the other side. Most of the soil in San Antonio near the ground surface is a dark brown or grey clay, and finding a fault line in this clay soil is difficult. However, when you are driving along earth cuts on North Loop 1604 or IH-10 West you can sometimes see definite vertical fault lines, usually in the rock.
by Hank and Judy Goldstein, Owners CSC Floors www.cscfloors.net
A few weeks ago, we attended the annual international flooring market, “SURFACES.” We go every year to see the latest in the flooring industry and apply those trends to the real estate market. Flooring plays an important role in selling a home– knowing what flooring styles and trends buyers are seeing in the media and looking for in the homes they’re buying. Here are some of the trends CSC Floors feels will be most important to buyers and sellers in 2016:
HARDWOOD Color Trend – Opposites Attract
Very dark colors (espresso, dark walnut, true browns) and very light colors (light or blonde woods) are the trends this year. Gray tones are still popular, but reds are not as much. The traditional hand-scraped planks continue to be popular.
Wider planks make a space look larger and more modern. Generally, 3.25” to 5” width planks look more contemporary. Planks that are wider tend to give a more rustic look.
Location, Location, Location
Hardwood continues to grow in popularity for kitchen floors, especially because open concept floor plans are more the norm. In addition, there has been a growing trend toward adding hardwood in entryways and powder rooms.
portion of the industry in the past two years,” according to Scott Humphrey, chief executive of the World Floor Covering Association, a trade group based in Anaheim, California, who said this flooring category has developed thanks to extraordinary photo Wide-plank LVP flooring technology that mimics wood (or just about any other material) so closely that you have to look twice to see that it’s vinyl. LVP products come in a wide range of styles and thicknesses, which makes it an attractive choice for just about any budget.
CARPET Carpet continues to be the quickest and most affordable choice for buyers. It’s important to understand not only what type of carpet buyers want, but where they want to see it.
Cut loop carpet
Carpet that has a mixture of cut pile and looped fibers to form a pattern continues to grow in popularity. More and more patterns are being introduced by manufacturers to match a wide variety of décor styles.
Bamboo – In our opinion, this seems to be a fad that has just about run its course. Bamboo does not hold up well – to water or foot traffic. Generally, it’s a cheaper alternative to hardwood and most cannot be refinished, so they really aren’t sustainable. Bamboo has been widely pushed by cheaper big box stores, and because most are made in China, they have a lot of adhesive and may have high levels of formaldehyde. Customers are getting smarter and realizing this.
LVP (Luxury Vinyl Plank)
Continues to be the “it” product. “It’s the fastest-growing
Plush/cut pile carpet
This is no longer your mother’s carpet. Even though it’s the most traditional carpet available, it’s undergoing change. The introduction of soft fibers has rejuvenated this product category.
Where should it go?
Most people expect and prefer to see carpet in bedrooms and on stairs. Carpet in living areas is still quite popular, although the trend is leaning toward wood or luxury vinyl plank.
Wood-like tile flooring
The Trend is Big – Literally
Tile in formats larger than the standard 12-by-12 inches is growing in popularity because it adds a level of sophistication and spaciousness to rooms. Faux-wood and woodlook tile continues to grow in popularity as an alternative to real wood for several reasons: 1. It can be less expensive than even engineered hardwood. 2. It’s easier to care for,
and 3. It’s more durable. On the downside is the noise level. Tile is slightly louder than wood to walk on, and of course, it’s harder, so standing on it for long periods can cause quicker leg fatigue. Many buyers, though, are willing to trade those things for the ease-of-care and durability that tile offers.
Master the Future Planning
By Lyle Landsmere
Master-planned communities often include amenities like golf courses
As the years fly by, it has become abundantly clear that the lion’s share of residents in San Antonio are being
drawn to suburbia; that is, an area some twenty or more miles beyond the city’s center. In fact, the majority of residents in most U.S. cities (save, perhaps, for the larger ones on the east and west coasts) are living outside city centers. In San Antonio’s case, this is much to the tempered chagrin of city officials who are eager to have many move back to a hoped for revitalized center city. Study after study has proven the fact of movement. In fact, the latest figures from a Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) study indicate that up to 60% of the population is living in suburbia. So, from this person’s eye, it seems the proper time to give serious consideration to how we can better develop this city’s outlying areas to accommodate the multitudes who live or are taking up residence in once rural areas. I believe a lot more thought needs to be given to what the areas will look like and what will be offered to residents in the future. This is especially relevant in regard to the way we get around our city – or don’t – dependent as we are on our automobiles and, in some cases, buses. San Antonio currently lacks forms of public transportation that other cities enjoy, such as light and commuter rail.
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So you ask, where am I going with this? If you haven’t already guessed, let me explain a concept I’ve been reflecting on recently, believing it to be worthwhile and advantageous for outlying areas. While traveling south on US Hwy 281, in traffic no less, about six miles beyond Loop 1604, I came upon a sign announcing an area, Coronado, referred to as a Master Planned Community (MPC.) The term, also commonly known as a Planned Unit Development (PUD), is a land mass (in Texas spell that f-a-r-m or r-a-n-c-h beyond its time) that spans something over 1,500 acres but which can go as high as, well, 10,000 acres or more. The first MPC that I became aware of was in Reston, Virginia, the city about twenty miles outside Washington DC, created by one Robert E. Simon, Jr. in the 1960s. That was hatched with a desire for a suburban retreat in places where that much land could be developed into individual subdivisions of single-family houses and apartments / condominiums in a larger community, centered by a central shopping / business district. And where the subdivision build-out was delegated to different builders, each creating in their own fashion, allowing for both gated and gate-free “neighborhoods.” And further, the master planned community necessarily included schools, recreation areas, a large amount of open space, including parks, offices, and civic meeting places. In other words, a self-sufficient community with subdivisions convenient
small business parks, shopping centers, recreational areas including walking trails and two golf courses, Stone Oak is flourishing, existing for the pleasure of, by a 2012 population estimate, 76,000 residents. And a little further south and east, Oakwell Farms is another Master Planned Community. Years earlier, the estate of the Edgar Tobin Family from 1945, the land was initially developed into a dairy farm and eventually a place to raise cattle and sheep.
Oakwell Farms. A model for master-planning a community
The plan to develop the land into a master planned community was initiated by Robert Tobin, son of Edgar, with help and guidance from one Arnold Swartz and other, more professional individuals. After doing research that determined it would make a splendid residential setting, Robert Tobin contracted with Denton Development and the San Antonio architectural firm of Ford, Powell and Carson. Oakwell Farms came into being in the early 1980s with neighborhoods of single family and multi-family residences, small office complexes, recreational areas including walking trails, a middle
Stone Oak streets were designed with aesthetics in mind
for walking, hospitable for its residents. Texas has seen such developments over the years, for instance, in Houston, one of the country’s best known and most successful master planned communities is The Woodlands. And in San Antonio, Dan Parman and partners accumulated 4,500 acres, in fact, to develop Stone Oak in the 1970s where, before San Antonio measurably ventured that far north, land in the form of ranches or private estates existed. Today, with gated and gate-free subdivisions, North East Independent School District schools, single-family houses and multi-family developments,
Oakwell Farms’ trails offer recreation within the community
school of the NEISD, and a civic center. But, alas, no central shopping area, which because of its location just inside Loop 410 might not be as big of a loss as if it were miles beyond in outlying areas. In a recent conversation I had with Boone Powell, who was intimately involved with the creation and design of the master planned Oakwell Farms, as the project partner with Ford, Powell and Carson, Powell said of Oakwell Farms and other master planned communities: “The vitality of an MPC comes from the mixed use form of an overall development,” by which he meant that the community’s diversity of uses provides amenities of convenience to the project’s residents and avoids the sameness of most other housing neighborhoods. A vital part of this concept is the inclusion of significant public community park lands and open spaces. Alamo Ranch, another Master Planned Community in the city, approximately 3,000 acres in size, is being developed by Galo Properties with twenty builders constructing in eight subdivisions. As with the others above, some of the subdivisions are gated, others not, with retail
prevalent throughout the community. Northside Independent School District has two elementary, one middle and two high schools in the Ranch area. And unique to Alamo Ranch is one of the subdivisions, Hill Country Retreat, which is an active 55+ adult-lifestyle facility including a large amenity center surrounded by housing development. Return with me now to square one of this essay then, where I stumbled upon the Coronado Master Planned Community up 281. There are, in addition, a few other master planned communities I’ve identified that have been started in the last eight or so years: Ladera, located off U.S. Hwy 90, Stillwater Ranch and Kallison Ranch, both located in the northwest quadrant of San Antonio near Culebra Road. Adding one final thought to this essay, the Master Planned Community or Planned Unit Development zoning classification promotes flexibility in land development but states that there should be no crowding of residences to speak of. In fact, the zoning all but limits the number of dwelling units permissible per acre of developable land.
6 Things EVERY Homeowner can do to Lower their Property Taxes! 1: File Your Homestead Exemption
2: Save Major Repairs Until After January 1st
Homestead exemptions remove part of your home’s value from taxation, so they lower your taxes. For example, if the county appraises your home at $100,000, and you qualify for a $25,000 homestead exemption, you will pay taxes on the home as if it was worth only $75,000.
Your home’s taxable value is its market value as of January 1st. The problem is that since homeowners do not receive their proposed property tax bill until late April, they are not aware of how the January 1st date provides an opportunity to reduce their property taxes. If your home had any major repair costs that would have affected the market value as of January 1st, those costs can be subtracted from your home’s market value. This means that any major repairs between January 1st and May 31st (the protest deadline) are eligible to be considered in reducing your home’s taxable value. For example, if you had major roof repair after January 1st that cost $6,000, you have the right to argue that your home’s taxable value is $6,000 lower.
To qualify for a homestead exemption, a home must meet the following criteria: 1. The home’s owner must be an individual (for example: not a corporation) and use the home as his or her principal residence on January 1 of the tax year. 2. 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. 3. A homestead can include up to 200 acres, if the land is owned by the homeowner and used for a purpose related to the residential use of the homestead. Filing your homestead exemption is vital because your property taxes cannot increase more than 10 percent each year. Claiming your homestead exemption is especially important if your city has seen significant increases in property taxes because if you do not file your homestead exemption: you not only lose the money saved for the current year, you essentially lose it forever.
3: Monitor Sales in Your Neighborhood Using Online Resources Your local appraisal office is legally required to value your home at the current market value as of January 1st. Market value is defined as the price at which two parties would agree to sell and purchase the property. Texas is considered a “nondisclosure” state - this means that real estate transactions (such as how much homes are sold for) do not have to be shared with any government agencies or private parties. Despite Texas being a non-disclosure state, some sale prices are still disclosed, so as a homeowner you should use sites like realtor.com or zillow.com
6 Things EVERY Homeowner can do...
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to monitor sales in your neighborhood (or surrounding areas) of homes that are similar to your home. Furthermore, your realtor can provide you with a Comparable Market Analysis (CMA) report that will show you what they would “list” your home for if you were to put it up for sale. The appraisal office considers sales going back 24 months in some cases. Using both of these tools can be useful in determining what your true market value is in an attempt to reduce your property tax valuation.
4: There is No Harm in Filing Your Own Protest (Every Year) The Texas Legislature passed a new law in 2015 that allows most homeowners to file an online protest themselves. You are eligible to file an online protest if: 1. Your home has a homestead exemption 2. Your home is in a homogeneous subdivision 3. Your home is not assigned to an agent (property tax consultant). This new law eliminates the need for homeowners to appear in person to file a protest in their city’s appraisal office. You still want to provide the appraisal office with as much evidence as possible to justify the reduced taxable value you are requesting, but as long as you provide this information, you can now complete this process from your computer. If the appraisal office denies your request for a property value reduction, you are still legally entitled to a formal hearing and can hire a professional to represent you. Homeowners unfamiliar with the property tax appeals process believe there’s a risk that their taxable value could increase if they file a protest - but this is absolutely not true. The only way you run the risk of increasing your home’s taxable value is if you were to go to a formal hearing and the board decided to increase the value. In short, there is no risk for an increase in value if you choose to file an online protest and decline to go to the formal hearing (if your reduction request is denied).
5: Always File Applicable Exemptions, and Always Protest The title of this tip might seem redundant (but it’s not!), and for some homeowners this might be the way they save the most money in the long run. We have already mentioned the homestead exemption and its effects on your taxable value (a 10% cap annually as well as an annual exemption which varies on the county your property is located in). The second most common exemption is the “over 65 exemption” - once you reach 65 years of age your property taxes are locked in on your homestead property. Other types you might be eligible for include agricultural and disabled veteran exemptions. This brings up a distinction in the values the appraisal district sets on a property annually. Even though your property might have these exemptions in place, the appraisal district will still appraise your property’s market value in addition to its assessed value. The market value is the value of your property without any applicable exemptions, while the assessed value is the value of your property after the applicable exemptions. As an example, let’s say you just turned 65 (and filed an
over 65 exemption), and the value of your property is $500,000. Five years later the market value of your home has increased 20% to $600,000. While your tax bill will reflect the assessed value of $500,000 (because of your over 65 exemption), when you sell your home this exemption does not carry over, and the new homeowners will be taxed at the $600,000 market value. This can have an adverse effect when selling your home, so a savvy homeowner should always monitor these values. The important thing to remember is that you, as the homeowner, always have the right to protest the “market value” every year. Even though you might not be incurring the financial burden, you will incur a financial loss in the long run if you believe your property to be unfairly assessed.
6:You Need Evidence To Support Your Protest The Texas government passed legislation allowing the majority of residential homeowners to protest their property taxes online themselves. While each county decides how they implement this process, the major counties follow similar procedures. If you are eligible to protest online, you will receive a PIN code on your proposed value notice in late April. The first question on the online protest form asks you for “your reason for protest”, followed by two options for you to select: 1. Value is above market value 2. Value is unequal compared to others You can, and often should, select BOTH options. You are legally allowed to protest on both arguments, and the Appraisal District must set your assessed (or taxable) value on the lowest of the two options. Texas law also allows you to be taxed based on “the median appraised values of a reasonable number of comparable properties appropriately adjusted.” In layman terms, the market value option only considers sales data available to the Appraisal district, and in a hot real estate market like the one we find currently in Texas, sales are usually not helpful. The “unequal to others” option allows taxpayers to look at other similar properties’ (neighbors) assessed valuation and provide evidence that shows they are not being taxed equally when compared to others. The second question the online protest form will ask you is for your “opinion of value.” You should not just make up a number, but instead provide the value that your RealValueIQ report indicates; your RealValueIQ amount is based on the median appraised value of a reasonable number of comparable properties, which should be lower in the majority of cases. Finally, if asked to submit evidence for your opinion of value, the RealValueIQ report clearly provides the evidence needed to support your protest. Copyright © 2016 RealValueIQ. All rights reserved. www.RealValueIQ.com
San Antonio and Hill Country neighborhoods
Home Value Trends
Average price per sq. ft.
Courtesy Bob Gardner and Christian Chacon
Home sales continue to rise Sales of homes in the San Antonio area have continued to increase (through March, 2016), according to the latest statistics released by the San Antonio Multiple Listing Service. This is great news not just for sellers, but also for buyers, as property values continue to rise and San Antonio continues to grow. Source MLS
Real Estate Questions? ...Call Me! Whether it’s your first time, or you’re moving up or downsizing, I represent sellers and buyers of fine homes, as well as investment and commercial properties.
David Simon Realtor®, SRES (210) 573-0643
14855 Blanco Rd, Suite 403, San Antonio, Texas 78216 Your referrals are always welcome.
In this fast-changing city and metro area in which we live, it behooves us to stay in touch with the old as well as the new. Change touches all of us. Thus the mission of SimplySanAntonio is to highlight change and how it affects us, as homeowners, so that we can make the most of the present and keep a watchful eye on the future.
For Residents, Visitors or Anyone Passing Through