Why should you appeal your property taxes?

Every state has a different process for assessing property values and therefore, collecting property taxes. In some states, your value is set when you purchase the home, increases a set amount every year, and you have no ability to alter it. However, in Texas, your property value is assessed yearly by your county appraisal board. In theory, your assessed value is equivalent to market value. However, since market value is a moving target and isn’t really know until you actually sell your home, there can be a wide variation in the county’s opinion of your property’s value, and yours.

The Process

There are four steps to the property taxation process in Texas.

1. Appraisal or property valuation – this usually occurs between January 1 and April 1 each year.

2. Equalization or value protests – usually, the owners of single family residences have until April 30 to file a protest, unless they receive their appraisal late, in which case they can request an extension

3. Taxation or rate setting – this process does not involve the homeowner and happens behind the scenes at the taxing authorities

4. Collection – this is when you pay!

 

Equalization (otherwise known as Protesting Your Property Taxes)

Protesting your taxes is a complicated and frustrating process, but it is easier when you know what to expect and arrive at the tax office prepared.

When you decide to protest your taxes, you can not make an appointment. You show up at the tax office, sign in, and sit. And wait. And if you are lucky, the wait won’t be too long. Obviously, the closer you get to the deadline, the more crowded the office will be, and the longer you will wait. In many counties in Texas, you can now file your protest online. On a personal note, I highly recommend protesting your values in person. I have protested my own values both in person and online and have always been more successful in person.

Your name will be called by an appraiser who will introduce him or herself and take you back to their “office”. You will sit on one side of their desk and they will sit on the other. They will have a computer and your property information ready. Once they have your information on display, they will want information from you. The best advice I can give you is BE NICE. This is just like playing on the playground when  you’re little, and just like interacting with others in any public place. Only this time, the person you are interacting with has a LOT of power to help you. Or not. So remember. BE NICE.

The best way to approach the appraiser is to have solid information to share with the appraisal district. A Realtor can provide you the information you need to rationally and respectfully negotiate with the district. Of course, a Realtor cannot guarantee a reduction in your taxes, but the information should help you with your goal.

What information should you bring with you? Comps, comps, comps.

In my experienced opinion, the most critical part of protesting your value is to be certain that the properties you are using to value your home make more sense than the properties the district is currently using. The problem for homeowners is that you don’t know what properties the district is using until you sit and talk to an appraiser. This means you must be prepared to negotiate and accept a little, to get a little.

You need to know your neighborhood and understand whether there are homes nearby that are valued higher and why, etc. It could be there is new construction nearby. It could be there are custom homes nearby and yours was semi-custom. It could be the homes across the street are on the golf course or have lake views and you do not. You need to be prepared to explain the differences between your property and the properties the district is using as similar sales.

The appraiser will review the information you bring. He or she may be able to replace one or more of the properties the appraisal district originally used as comparative properties, with properties you bring to their attention. They will then recalculate your value and you can agree or disagree with the value. If you agree with the new value, you will sign the form and you are done.

If you disagree with the value, you will let the appraiser know that you want a hearing. The appraiser will make note, you will leave, and a notice of the hearing will be mailed to you with instructions. Hearings are not difficult, but they are not any more pleasant than the rest of this process. The hearing is generally comprised of three community members who will listen to your information and make a decision. In about five minutes. If you can come to an agreement with the appraiser during your initial protest, you will be much happier and seriously less stressed with this process. But if you can’t, the hearing process is there for you.

I hope this introduction to appealing your property taxes was helpful. If there is anything we can do to help you with your property tax appeal, don’t hesitate to let us know. We want to be your personal real estate company. Call us for anything and we’ll try to help.