Skip to comments.Protesting Your Property Taxes in Texas
Posted on 06/16/2006 3:48:06 AM PDT by YouGoTexasGirl
Can anyone tell me their successful method for protesting their property taxes before the county appraisal board in Texas? Thanks!
Just don't pay.
Yeah, move to NY and see how fortunate you really are.
My experience is that the judges don't really know anything about it and if you throw up enough arguments they will give you half of what you ask. BTW, if you are dead on right with irrefutable proof of value, they'll still give you half of what you ask. Still, half a loaf is better than none.
Go every year, it can't hurt....they would never raise to more than they have already appraised.
Photos, get estimates on the home and any improvements made, the assessor has the neighbor's home; see if she'll print out their assessments for you. Ads of local homes for sale.
Be sure, if qualified, you have Homestead Exemption.
Here in Travis county, they actually dropped the value of the "improvements" on most property, but raised the "land value" by 150%. That was done to keep everyone from having the total evaluation under the 10% maximum allowed by law. We got several other property values in our neighborhood for comparison. All the "unimproved" (not cleared) lots were valued at half of the ones with homes already built.
I raised the question if that meant the could go up another 10% each following year. The leftover 60s hippie said that would probably happen. She gave no relief whatsoever. We left in disgust and will have our formal hearing in the near future.
We have some new ammo now. Some of the appraised land values are as much as 20% above what the lots actually sold for, and we are getting all that info from a real estate agent for the formal hearing. Good luck. Ours has been bad so far, but we'll see how the next step turns out.
Thanks for posting this. I can use some help myself. First time ever to go protest my appraisal.
I protested my property valuation last year and not only had the increase thrown out but it was reduced even lower. This year I expected to see the "mandatory" 10% valuation increase but to my surprise it was lowered again! Meanwhile some neighbors (including the ones that also protested last year) had their valuations go up. I'm beginning to think there is a random valuation generator involved.
Basically my approach was to prepare a professional looking presentation showing my property valuation was higher than it should have been (my area north of Houston has not experienced the real estate bubble and actually had a decrease in home prices that year).
The steps I took:
A realtor neighbor was able to provide me with a listing of all homes that sold in my area within the year the new appraisal was based on. It is important to only consider homes for the year in question - do not include homes sold earlier or later. You will need to weed out the homes that are not similar to yours (house square footage should be similar). This will help you prepare a valuation goal.
I prepared a graph showing a decrease in home sale prices in the prior year. On the graph I displayed my property value as a straight horizontal line that was higher than the other home sales.
Since my house is on a larger piece of property than some of the comparison homes I broke out the land valuation from the home valuations to normalize everything. This was my second graph in case the appraisal person noticed the differences in land sizes.
I took photos of all the homes represented on my graph to show that they were similar to mine. These were included in the presentation.
I discovered my home's square footage was actually 200 feet more at the appraisal district. That was noted in my presentation.
Finally I met with the appraisal district and presented my material. The important thing here is to be as friendly and non-confrontational as possible. I started out with the square footage inconsistency issue to see what impact that would have. The woman typed in a few things in her computer and came back with a figure and actually said "how does that look?" Immediately the valuation came down dramatically but I said she could do better and pulled out my first graph. She typed a few more things in her computer (I was watching and she didn't really look like she was typing anything relevant) and came back with another number that was my goal. I was done at that point - never had to use the second graph or the photos. The whole thing took about 30 minutes.
Go to CLOUT's website in the upper right hand corner you will find a helpful tax protest spreadsheet. Here's the direct link:
One of our Clout Members - John Rivard - offers this comprehensive guide to protesting your appraisals. John should know - he served on one of the Appraisal Boards - and is an active supporter of CLOUT! So - print this out - keep it - and let's learn how to do this together!
Remember - if you don't get the value you want in the appeals process before the full board - you can bring suit in district court and take your CAD to mediation! It worked for me.
AT THE HARRIS COUNTY APPRAISAL DISTRICT
To be successful you need to understand the process, have well-organized information to defend your opinion of value, and most of all, be prepared! These hints on protesting the value of your property may be helpful.
You will receive your notice of appraised value in the mail, usually sometime in April or May. It will give you last year's value, the current year market value, and the appraised value. It is essential that you understand the difference between these terms.
The market value is the value that your property should have on the open market between a willing buyer and a willing seller. The market value is the value that you will be protesting. It is the value that - by state law - the Appraisal District and the Appraisal Review Board are required to determine. It can be higher than your appraised value.
The appraised value is the value that will be used by the taxing authorities to determine your taxes for the current year. It can be less than the market value, if your property has been increasing rapidly in market value. This is because the current state law limits the increase in your taxable value to 10 per cent per year. This is the 10% cap rule, and results in the terminology of your value being "capped." It applies only to residential properties, not businesses.
In review, your appraised value for tax purposes in the current year cannot be more than 110% of last year's value for a residential property. If your market value exceeds 110% of last year's value, you will have a market value, and an appraised value, which is lower. Remember that the appraised value is determined by arithmetic based on last year's appraised value and the 10% cap law.
You cannot protest the appraised value, precisely because it is determined from last year's appraised value, which may increase (under current law) by up to 10%.
But you can protest the current year market value, and should do so if it is out of line with comparable properties in your neighborhood.
If your property is not capped by the 10% rule, a successful protest will directly reduce your appraised value (hence taxes) for the current tax year. In this situation your market and appraised values will be identical.
If you property is capped by the 10% rule, a successful protest may or may not reduce your appraised value for the current tax year, depending upon how much reduction in market value you achieved in the protest.
For example, suppose your property is noticed at a market value of $100,000 and a capped (appraised) value of $95,000. In case 1 you protest and get the market value reduced to $90,000. Your new market and appraised value becomes $90,000, and your tax liability is reduced accordingly. In case 2, you protest and get the market value reduced to $95,000, which becomes your new market and appraised value. You have successfully reduced the market value, but not your tax liability. In case 3, you protest and get the market value reduced to $97,000. Your appraised value remains capped at $95,000, and you have not reduced your tax liability for the current year. You have however, obtained a lower market value, which could result in limiting your tax liability the following year.
You should always consider protesting market values that are out-of-line high because it is important for future years to keep your market value in line with comparable properties.
The Appraisal District comprises paid personnel working under the direction of the Chief Appraiser. These are the staff personnel that do the year-round work of setting market values for all properties in the County. You will interface with appraisers and clerks.
The Appraisal Review Board (ARB) comprises citizens who live in the county. They are responsible for hearing complaints by property owners (you) or by taxing authorities. The Board members are appointed by the Board of Directors that oversees the entire Appraisal District, and are term-limited to three 2-year terms. They are not employees of the Appraisal District, and are independent, being supervised by officers elected by the ARB members from among their group. In Harris County the ARB functions as three-person panels to hear individual protests by property owners. ARB members view property owners and the taxing districts as their customers and as the public that they serve. ARB members do the best job they can with the info presented to them by the property owner and the district to determine the fair market value of a property.
When you file a protest, you will be notified of the date and time for your appearance at the Appraisal District offices.
You will report to an assembly room, and then wait to be called for your appointment with an appraiser. This meeting with an appraiser is called the informal conference. It will take place in the appraiser's office or cubicle, one on one. This is your first opportunity to reach agreement on a satisfactory market value for your property. Many cases are settled during the informal conference.
You will present your information and opinion of value to the appraiser in an informal give and take. You should state your opinion of value, present supporting information, and then give the appraiser time to consider your information and check against their own data on comparable sales. (It's a good sign if the appraiser is busy at the computer and making calculations. Stay quiet, and let them consider if an adjustment is indicated.) The appraiser will advise you if, in his/her opinion, a lower value is indicated. If you reach agreement, you can sign the papers right there, and go home.
If you cannot reach agreement with the appraiser, you have the right to take your protest before a three-person panel of the Appraisal Review Board (ARB). This is called the formal hearing. It will take place within a short period of time the same day, in the same building. You will return to the waiting room to be called to the formal hearing, which will take place in a small room.
All formal hearings are open to the public, but the usual players in the room include an appraiser from the Appraisal District (not the same one who conducted the informal), a clerk who does paperwork and records the hearing, a three-person panel of the ARB, and you. The hearing will be conducted by the Chairman of the ARB panel, following a standard protocol. The protocol includes introductions of the persons (so that you know the players), a brief description of the process that will be followed, exchange of information (during which time you provide the ARB three copies of your information packet), and a legal description of the property by the district.
(Note: Any major dispute about the description of the property - for example, square footage off by more than 10% - will be resolved at this point. If unable to resolve a dispute that may significantly affect the market value, the Chairman of the ARB panel has the option of recessing the hearing for field check by the District. In this event, the hearing would be continued at a later date after the field check. This occurs in a small number of cases.)
During these preliminaries, the ARB members will be examining a packet of information on your property provided by the District. This allows them to become quickly familiar with the property. You will be given the same packet. It includes a fact sheet about your property, and a listing of comparable sales.
The formal hearing will continue with the property owner's presentation. When you begin your presentation, the ARB members will be following the info in your packet. When you have completed your presentation, they will ask you questions.
Then the appraiser will make a presentation on behalf of the District, citing information in support of the District's opinion of value. When complete, the ARB will ask questions of the appraiser, and perhaps of the property owner to clarify any issues raised by the appraiser.
After final comments, the ARB Chairman will close the record, and the panel will reach a decision on their opinion of market value, right in front of you. The ARB's determination will be read into the record, and the hearing is over. The entire process will take about 20 minutes.
Note that the ARB panel is not bound by any offers made by the District in the informal conference. ARB members are independent, and reach their own conclusions. In a few cases, the ARB panel may determine a market value higher than offered by the District for settlement in the informal. Not often, but it happens.
The ARB determination of your property's market value is final, unless you choose to litigate in court.
Preparation is the key to a successful protest. Here are some hints.
1. Assemble a packet of information that includes a summary sheet, photos, a comparable sales analysis, and perhaps an analysis of the noticed market values for similar properties on your street. Other supporting info could include a plot plan of the properties on your street, a copy of your notice of value from the Appraisal District, and a listing of the comparable sales that you used as the basis for your comparable sales analysis. Prepare five identical copies of this packet, one for the District, one each for the three panel members, and your own copy. (Photos can be one copy only, passed around at the hearing, but photos reprinted from a computer as part of each packet are even better.)
2. The summary sheet should include a brief description of the property, date purchased and amount (if within the past 10 years or so), proposed market value, your opinion of market value, the basis for your protest (over market value), and a listing of the contents of your packet.
3. Photos should be recent (within the last year), including a front view from the street, and perhaps a back yard view. The purpose of the photos is to quickly satisfy the ARB's need to understand "what does the property look like?" (Present photos even if the house looks spectacular. ARB members appreciate photos.) Also, if you intend to argue that there are significant deferred maintenance or structural problems with the property, detailed photos to support your claims are necessary. (Example may include photos that show significant overall deterioration, structural problems due to foundation problems, termites, or other damage.) Label all photos.
4. In most cases, your analysis of comparable sales is the most important part of your package. It is best done in an Excel-type spread sheet, using sales of comparable properties in your neighborhood within the past 12-18 months. The idea is to show that your property is appraised too high on a $ per square foot basis compared to actual recent sales of similar sized properties in your neighborhood. You can get a limited number of sales in your neighborhood from the Appraisal District web site, for your property. A more comprehensive list of sales for your neighborhood (called a "Transaction Report") can be obtained at the Appraisal District Office in advance by going to customer service. You should do this several weeks in advance, and select recent comparable sales from this report. The District will also provide to you a listing of the comparable sales they intend to use in the hearing, but you need to begin your preparation long before they provide this to you. Keep in mind that you have the advantage of being able to out-prepare the District. This is because you have only one property to prepare while they have thousands. You can come in with a completed spreadsheet while the District assessor will pick sales off their list on the spot during the hearing. Keep in mind that comparable sales selected for analysis should be about the same size (both land and main structure) as your property, and in your neighborhood. If land sizes vary significantly from yours, prepare your analysis by deducting the land value for each comparable sale (from the District's web site for each of those properties), so that your $/sq. ft. analysis is for the structure only. Similar adjustments can be made for swimming pools. One additional note on the process is that some Appraisal Districts adjust the actual sales price of properties upwards to project the price to Jan. 1 of the current year. The older the sale, the bigger the adjustment, but both actual and adjusted price are shown on the District's sales info. You can deal with this straight up by using both adjusted and actual prices in your comparable sales analysis (thus out-preparing the District by having both an inflated and un-inflated value for your property), or by choosing only the most recent sales for your comparables. ARB members are accustomed to dealing with either set of numbers.
5. In many cases, your property may be above market value because it has serious problems that affect its market value. In this case, you still need the comparable sales analysis to show what the market value would be if it were a typical property. Then, you start presenting the evidence of significant deducts for deferred maintenance or deterioration, foundation, termite or other damage, with $ price tags assigned to each. Documentation is essential. For example, if your house has a foundation problem, have at least one estimate from a reliable firm for the cost to repair. Likewise for termite or structural damage, or substantial deferred maintenance. Photos of such problems are essential. (Note: Don't try to nickel and dime on deferred maintenance. Items like overdue painting, an aging roof, bad fence and cracked driveway are common. The District doesn't increase your value when you get a new roof or replace the cracked driveway, and you can't count on a decreased value prior to repair. But if you can show an aggregation of problems and deferred maintenance that definitely would impact what a buyer is willing to pay, you can make a case.) Also, be aware that the date of record for determining the value of your property is as of Jan 1 for the tax year in question. If the property had a significant problem on Jan 1, and it has since been repaired, you can present your actual cost as a basis for adjusting downward the value on Jan. 1. Conversely, if significant storm or fire damage occurred after Jan 1, you're out of luck for the current tax year. That's the law. (But you need to notify the Appraisal District so they can make an appropriate adjustment to value for the following year.)
6. An "unequal appraisal" analysis is also a basis for protesting your market value. But unequal appraisal is a complicated and difficult case to prove. (If you are determined, the Appraisal District has information of preparing an unequal appraisal protest.) However, an analysis that shows that your property is out of line high on a $/sq. ft. basis compared to the noticed market values of other properties on your block (assuming they are similar), can be useful, in support of your contention that the value is too high. This analysis is also best done on an Excel-type spreadsheet. But use it as supporting information that the market value of your property is out of line high. In most cases, the ARB members are more likely to be influenced by this information than the District. In short, if an appraisal analysis of all the properties on your street helps make the case, use it, but in a supporting role. Do not use the phrase "unequal appraisal" unless you do the homework necessary to protest in accord with the District's guidance on unequal appraisal.
7. Practice your presentation. Be able to make it in four minutes or less. The ARB panels are very good (practiced) at reviewing the written information and listening to you at the same time. They appreciate a well-prepared, documented, concise presentation. The better prepared, the more concise you can be.
8. Never lie. First, you are under oath. Second, if a panel member catches you in a lie (or avoiding a direct answer to a question) you have lost your credibility, and probably your case, not to mention your integrity. Your integrity is the most important asset you have in the protest process.
Do not expect the ARB to change things that are a matter of law. For example, if you strongly believe that the 10% cap rule should be reduced, you must work through organizations like CLOUT to change the law.
The information and suggestions presented here may be useful and relevant information for protesting taxes in Harris County. They may be applicable in other Appraisal Districts as well, but local procedure may differ. They are the opinions of the writer, based on serving four years as a member of the Harris County Appraisal Review Board, 1998-2001. They do not necessarily represent the views of the Appraisal Review Board or The Harris County Appraisal District.
The writer, and CLOUT, make no warranties or claims regarding the accuracy or usefulness of the information presented above. Use of this information is no substitute for professional or legal advice, or for your own common sense.
Whoopeee!!! It's time to protest your Property Tax Appraisal! This is easy - but the deadline is Tuesday - May 31 to get your protest form postmarked! Don't delay any more - mail it in today. You should have received your 2005 Tax Appraisal in the last few weeks and the form to fill out to file a protest should have been included in that envelope. If you haven't received your notice yet - call your County Appraisal District (CAD) and check on your property appraisal. If they haven't mailed it out yet - you have 30 days from the date of the notice. But you don't want to wait - and I'd suggest you send in your protest form the moment you get it - or download one from your CAD website and send it in! Oh yes - contact your neighbors and encourage them to protest too - your collective efforts can make a huge difference in lowering the values of your entire neighborhood.
OK - this is really pretty easy. You get your protest notice filed and then begin to research other homes of similar age, construction, and size in your area. You are not limited to your street or neighborhood. Do some research on line - take some pictures - and get your examples all lined up. Now download the Excel spreadsheet that is on www.lonestartimes.com - link is below - and begin to enter in examples. Follow the instructions and talking points in the spreadsheet and you will be successful!
Also - visit Paul Bettencourt's website: www.hctax.net for more tips on protesting your tax appraised value. Those tips are good for anyone in the State of Texas.
Good luck - let us know how you are doing!
You demanded it- now it's here:
It almost makes wasting your valuable time to try to convince the government you deserve to keep more of your own money fun!
UPDATED- Tom Bazan is a force of nature when it comes to fighting the good fight on taxpayer issues, and offers these insightful comments:
I looked at what Edd has made available, and it should be helpful to most folks trying to argue in front of the ARB. I wish you well. I am a long-time broker, state certified appraiser, and hold a B.S. degree majoring in real estate, and have annually protested the HCAD value nearly every year. It seems that half of the time I have failed to get any significant reduction, outside of filing in the Civil County Court-at-law.
The ARB typically holds the line, and falls back on the excuse that they rely on the HCAD appriser's testimony. It does not matter that the HCAD person likely never has seen your home. As Rube Goldberg would say "no matter how thin you slice it, it's still baloney!"
First verify all the physical data. Many times HCAD will pick up the square footage from a home builder's floor plan. Not every house, especially 2-story custom homes, have the same square footage as what HCAD has recorded. A difference of a mere 100 square feet of dwelling, at $100.00 per sq.ft., with an overal tax rate of $3.00/$100.00 of valuation calculates to $300.00 annually in taxes.
Be selective as to the repairs you list. If it is deferred maintenance, you will get no sympathy. If you have a cracked slab, flood every year, or documented damage from wood-destroying insects, that is worthy of consideration.
It is important to have several copies of all documents, photographic exhibits, estimates from contractors (ie, foundation repair bids), etc.
Do your homework. You have a right to ask for the sale comparables that the HCAD will or did use in your neighborhood to determine values.
Go look at each one. Take photos. There is no law preventing you from calling the homeowner and asking them questions about the transaction. Did it sell below the list price? Ask them if they think they paid too much? Were there incentives? Did the seller throw in personal propertry, pay part of the closing costs, etc. Did the buyer pay extra because the spouse had to but that house no matter what the cost?
What about buyer's remorse? After they bought it, what deficiencies were discovered that would have affected the price? Those rail road tracks were quaint, but the noise (nuisance) from twenty-trains passing each day gets old quick. They may not have paid what they paid had they realized. You need to make notes of the conversations from each homeowner.
You will be under oath, so do not mislead because they may follow to confim what you have testified to.
Thanks weef and all for your information! I'll keep you posted on my outcome. I wrote this and then fell back into dreamland that my taxes were reduced to where I wanted them, ha!
Again, thanks to all for your help.
First of all the deadline to protest was May 31st. Secondly they access taxes by the sales of homes in your neighborhood. Go to your country web site and start pulling information on how much homes sold for. You will go befor a board of 4 people. Bring any photographic evidence that you may have to prove your point that your house is not worth as much as they say. Then you will need 5 copys (including the deed of sale) and then tell them why you think it should be lowered. In my case we buried our pool so I got mine knocked down $5k. Freepmail me if you need anymore information on what to do.
In Texas most appraisals for property and other property information are on-line. Check to see if your county has a web page. It will tell you how to access the tax office. Select properties similar to yours, then go online and check out their apraisals for comparison.
This tax business in Tesas is the biggest scam going on here. The correct answer is to go to the tax appraisal office and plead your case. Bring up such things as obsolesence of the house, other negative things that would impact on the value. But the ultimate answer is to Texas to enact a state income tax. Then our real estate taxes would be 1/3 of what they are now. I should know. I paid less total taxes in Missouri where we did have an income tax. And our sales tax here in Texas is twice that in Missouri. Welcome to the Republic of Texas where the rich get richer and the poorer get poorer to support the ones who hold the levers of power. This is why I am voting for Kinky Friedman. I've had enough of this bulloney.
And one of the bigger scams is running cattle on the land and getting a big tax break. Guess who gets that break. It is the same ones who are ripping the rest of us off.
Duh!!! LOL! Yep!
Had to fight them guys Tues. Got them to lower the bill by 15-20% cuz I'm so good-lookin'.
I simply went to the tax office at the proper time and they dropped my evaluation by 25%.
In Texas, inflated property taxes is a clever way to circumvent having the taxpayers vote for tax increases. The CAD or central appraisal districts are designed to never win for the taxpayer. One can have all the CAD appraisers on the taxpayers side, but as the CAD only has two votes in a group of tax fund receipients which include the Schools with two, hospital district with two, City budgets with two and County budgets with two, the taxpayer will never win.
True reform will come when the providers of tax funds are equal with those who receive those funds. Local tax increase elections is the only way to equalize this form of secret tax fraud.
I am a trained and tested appraiser, thus the opinion I have is my own. Inflated values does not serve the community, economy, or our future. It is at the root of the current sub-prime mess, because the appraisers did not take into account living expenses, fuel expenses, raises in taxes and insurance to make the total picture of the properties.
When the CAD values a property, it must be based on today’s use as well as the use for the last three years, not a projected value for the purpose of justification of an inflated value.
Lastly, CAD appraisers must be elected and not appointed by cities. This is a gross conflict of interest. Appraisers must also be young enough not to have their taxes frozen due to age. If these reforms are done, cities will have to work within their budgets. Cities will no longer get a blank check to spend money that comes from inflated property values.
In Europe, politicians who vote for a project and there is a cost over-run, must make up the difference out of their own pockets. If we had a similar standard for accountability, taxes could be used with a great deal of care, lest the politician have to pay for the extra costs?
I hope this can be of help.... winstone
We have protested each year and had good results each time.
1) Get the comp. pkt. from the appraisal district
2) Visit each comp. address, take pictures and make notes (business, trailer, etc.)
3) Take pictures of the negative things about your home (disrepair, etc.)
Last year we noted that they were comparing our home to homes of the amount they originally taxed us and not the revised. reduced amount (after our meeting). They noted their error and quickly asked what we wanted.
One time, they had a signature from their appraiser saying he had visited our home. We knew he hadn’t because we are on private property and had to let him in. They asked what we wanted out taxes changed to because he had no notes of the visit.
I asked if businesses are taxed differently than ours. They said, “Of course!” I sighted several of the comp. properties that we found were businesses when we drove to the property.
The first meeting will reduce your taxes a little. We always go to the 2nd meeting (board of 3) and have had success every time. My husband and I both go each time! Have your wife dress attractively .......