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Protesting Property Tax Appraisals
Have you received your property tax appraisal notice? They are mailed out by most local counties in mid-April. You can expect to see more increases, as the market is continuing to flourish. Property tax appraisals reflect the increases going on in the resale market, since taxes are Ad Valorem (based on your property's value). While this might be great news when you decide to sell, it's painful to pay higher taxes when you're staying put. When it comes to property tax appraisals, the lower the value, the better!
If you plan to file a value dispute with the county, you will need evidence to support your case. Here are some tips to help:
1. If you purchased your home within the last 1-2 years, and the county appraised your home higher than your purchase price, include a copy of your contract as evidence. Be sure to include amendments if seller credits were added after the initial contract. Often the county will replace their appraisal with your purchase price. You are NOT required to inform the county of the price you paid or send a copy of your contract, however, if they appraised your property for less than the sales price.
2. If you have previously filed for the General Residence Homestead exemption, or any other tax exemptions, verify they are reflected on your tax appraisal notice. Homestead exemptions cap annual appraisal increases at 10% per year, after the first full year with the exemption in place. New homeowners become eligible for Homestead in Texas as of January 1st, as long as the home was your primary residence as of that date (meaning not an investment or vacation home). There are other advantages as well, but the favorite is that it reduces the amount used by the county to calculate some of your property taxes. (Note: this does NOT impact your true resale value.) The deadline to apply for Homestead exemption is April 30th for most counties. If you were eligible and did not get your application in on time, however, contact your county to inquire about late application policies. Most counties will accept late applications for a limited period of time. If you recently turned 65, or became disabled, you may be eligible for new exemptions as well. Contact your county for details.
3. Contact an experienced, trusted Realtor for a market analysis. Be sure to specify that this is for taxes, not resale, as the analyses are typically prepared differently. (Of course, if you'd like both, ask for that, too! We don't mind.) Due to rising values and strong demand, these comparable listings may or may not be helpful, but it never hurts to review the numbers. (Bonus, you get to say hi to your favorite Realtor!)
GroupWatson professionals are well-trained and knowledgeable about preparing these types of market analyses and are available to assist you. Call us at 214.682.7002 or email us at [email protected] for assistance with comparable reports to be used for tax disputes.
4. Go to your county appraisal district website and search for similar homes in your neighborhood. (If you don't know the address, search your county name and add CAD). Aim for properties in the same community that are no more than a couple hundred square feet different in size (larger or smaller), and within five years in age from your house. The more similar to your home, the better. If you find some that are valued lower, submit those as evidence that your home is being over-valued. If you find that the county has your house listed as larger or with more bedrooms than you actually have, be sure to correct that information. Previous appraisals from your initial purchase or any refinancing would be a more accurate source of total square feet, as tax records can often contain errors. A larger house or additional bedrooms could be increasing your taxes!
5. If you have condition issues, submit photos of these as evidence in your dispute, and include any estimates for repair. Properties on the resale market have usually been fixed up and deep cleaned for showings. Stains on your carpet, fading or peeling paint, and needed repairs could detract from the value of your home for taxes, just as they would deter home buyers on the market. County appraisers don't tour inside of your home and would never know how the condition varies unless you show them.
6. If you have your taxes and homeowner's insurance escrowed (as most homeowners do), shop around for a lower homeowner’s insurance rate as well. Get quotes every year, even if you are happy with your provider. It won't lower your taxes, but lower insurance premiums could lower your overall monthly payment, if you’re able to find a better rate for comparable coverage.
7. Remember that it is FREE to file a property tax appraisal dispute! There are services out there that will do this for you, for a fee, but in most cases, there is no need for them. It is simple to collect your evidence and file. Many counties now allow you to submit your evidence online. If you make a strong enough case, they may approve your claim without requiring you to go before the appraisal review board.
8. Don’t fear the ARB! The Appraisal Review Board (ARB) is made up of county citizens, just like you. They will review your evidence, hear your case and compare it to the comps that the county used to determine your taxable value. If the board fails to prove your value based on their own evidence, they’ll rule in your favor. The stronger your evidence, the better your chances!
We hope these tips are helpful! If you have had success disputing your appraisal and did something that is not listed above, feel free to share your success story to help your friends and neighbors out!
Maggie Hernandez lived in various places as a young child, before settling in Texas. She lived in Carrollton, TX and then attended the University of North Texas, in Denton, TX. Maggie became a full ....