Texas taxes

I’m hopeful that my strategy for arguing my property taxes down works. I noticed that this year the county tax appraisal district almost doubled my land value; my house (improvement) value also went up. Considering home prices in Austin, I didn’t even try to convince them that my improvement value should go down. Instead, I found two empty lots for sale nearby that, when averaging the sales prices as well as averaging the county appraised values, brought my overall property appraised value down below what it was last year. Using they county’s appraised values actually gave me the lower of the two valuations. Here’s hoping they buy my well-reasoned argument.

The Drake Equation

Information is Beautiful has an excellent interactive chart up at the BBC covering the Drake Equation. I remember studying the equation, which estimates the number of civilizations that might exist in our galaxy, in an astronomy class called “The Search for Extraterrestrial Life” at the University of Texas. Why wouldn’t I take that elective? It was actually less fun than I thought it would be, but it was still very interesting. Apparently they no longer offer the course, or at least not this semester.

New Development East of Austin

I thought this new development was interesting. On the one hand, I generally bristle at anything that might generate urban sprawl. The last thing I want Austin to look like is Dallas or Houston. But on the other hand, this will probably eventually mean good things for my inside-the-loop property values, and they’re building green and with large green spaces in an area that was formerly a gravel mine, so that’s nice. I do think it’s funny, however, that they allow the phrases “15 minutes from downtown” and “8,000 houses” to exist in the same story, as if those two things could exist in the same universe. A large suburban area 15 miles from downtown will only be 15 minutes from downtown on Sundays after 10pm. No matter how green you make a community, sprawl equals traffic, and traffic decreases air quality and overall quality of life. Or maybe they’ll have a MetroRail line going out there. That’d be cool.