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It's Time to Protest your Property Taxes

Dated: 05/16/2019

Views: 170

Today is the day...

It’s just you against them. Today, the appraisal district must go down.

All around you an endless sea of disgruntled allies waiting for their opportunity on the battlefield.

You hear their battle cries...

“If they think my house is worth this much, I’ll sell it to ‘em today!”

You realize they have no chance. They’ve lost the fight and they haven’t even seen the enemy. But not you. You’re mentally prepared, calm and focused. Your evidence is in hand and you’re ready to go. Good thing, because your name just got called.  It’s showtime!

The purpose of this article is to give you some perspective on a proper approach to a successful protest. Too many property owners go in without a plan.

Why We Fight

Protesting your property value should be maintained every year whether it moves up or down.

While you may not save a fortune in any given year with a successful protest, you should always protest your property’s value. With a yearly effort you could end up saving several hundred to several thousand dollars in property taxes over time.

It’s just a hunch, but I’ll bet you could find a more effective use for your money. 

Most Common Misconceptions

First and foremost, understand that when you are negotiating with an appraiser at the appraisal district, you are protesting your property value, not your property taxes! If your strategy for winning your protest is to give the appraiser a sob story about how your ever increasing taxes are a huge burden, your story will fall upon deaf ears. The appraisal district has absolutely no control over your taxes; they simply determine property value.  I can not stress to you enough the ineffectiveness of that argument- Don’t do it.

Another common misconception is that protesting your property value will hurt your resale value, this is not true. I actually witnessed a property owner protest on the basis that his property value was too low!! He wanted the appraiser to raise the value so that he could sell his house at a higher price. Although we are all guilty of referring to the appraisal district’s value as the “appraised value”, the truth is that it is not a true appraisal at all, but is instead what’s referred to as the “tax assessed” value. In most cases, an appraiser will not physically visit your property to assess the value. The counties simply do not have the manpower to cover the entire county on a yearly basis.  Your tax assessed value is not indicative of your true market value. 

Here’s another tip: Your purchase price from five year ago is no longer valid.  Each year stands on its own and the current comparable sales can and will affect your value. And by current, I mean last years sales. 

Finally, the appraisal district will not retaliate if you protest. It is your right to protest by law, and again, they simply do not have the manpower to pick on everyone who protests each year.

Texas Property Tax Appeals

Steps to Protesting and Reducing Your Property Value Annually

Step 1. File a Protest

Texas property tax appeals can be filed using the form provided by the appraisal district, or click here to download the form to file a Texas Property Tax Appeal .  You should indicate the basis is both assessed value over market value and equal appraisal. The deadline to file a protest is May 15, or 30 days after notice of your assessed value is mailed to you, whichever is later. Protest annually to minimize your property taxes.

Step 2. Research the Central Appraisal District’s Record Card

The appraisal district in your county has a record card for each property assessed. This card contains information such as lot size, building size, amenities, and much more. You will need to go to the district office to obtain the complete record card and there may be a nominal charge. ( In Denton county, it’s .10 per page) However, you can review much of the basic information on the appraisal district’s website. Errors in the record card are a sound basis for a protest, so check the information listed for your home.  Hers's a direct link for my area, Denton County.

On the main page, enter your address and you’ll be directed to your properties detail page. From here, scroll down to Real Estate Sales to search for comparable sales. If you need help, call the district at 940-349-3800

Step 3. Establish Property Value

Texas appraisal districts typically recognize one of three different approaches to determine market value when granting reductions in property tax assessments. Those approaches are Sales Comparison Approach, Income Approach, and Cost Approach. In addition, recent court rulings have paved the way to encourage more districts to also recognize the Uniform and Equal Approach (unequal appraisal) to valuing the property as provided in the Texas Property Tax Code. For a full description of these approaches, click here The Approaches to Establishing Property Value. Analyze both market value and unequal appraisal when preparing for your Texas property tax appeal.

Step 4. Journey through the Legal Avenues

Informal Hearing

After filing a protest you will be notified of a date and time to attend a hearing. This meeting is conducted with a staff appraiser at the appraisal district office. It typically lasts 15 minutes. At its conclusion, the appraiser will either indicate he cannot make an adjustment, or he will offer to settle by establishing lower assessment. In Texas, most residential property tax appeals are resolved at the informal hearing.

Appraisal Review Board Hearing

This is sometimes called a formal or ARB hearing. Participants include three members of the appraisal review board, a staff appraiser from the appraisal district, a hearing clerk (in some counties) and the property owner or their agent. The property owner or his agent and the district’s appraiser will separately present the evidence to support their opinions of the market value and unequal appraisal for the subject property. Have your evidence printed, as the board members will not accept anything on your phone or computer. Afterward, the board members will announce its conclusion, which is not subject to negotiation. However, their decision can be appealed in a Texas district court if a lawsuit is filed against the county appraisal district to further appeal the property taxes.

Litigation

While the results of informal hearings are final for the tax year and cannot be appealed through a lawsuit, the results determined at the appraisal review board hearing can be appealed to district court. Before making a decision to do so, the owner should consider the amounts of any potential tax savings, legal costs, and expert witness costs. 

Proper Preparation Prevents Poor Performance

Pictures are worth a thousand words – Take pictures of any disrepair on your property and of any “negative influences” surrounding your property. Qualified negative influences could be busy streets, water tower looming over your house, sewer plant nearby, commercial property bordering your residential, etc. Your noisy neighbor’s junked out car and overgrown grass probably will not qualify.

Google Earth is a wonderful thing. I would recommend printing a satellite view of your property and the surrounding area. Probably 85% of the time you can find something negative to talk about on the image! It could be anything. Get creative and add support to the rest of your presentation.

MLS Sales – If you have a Realtor who is willing to help you with your evidence gathering, you may want to ask them to email some of the SOLD properties you find in the Real Estate Sales section. The MLS contains years of vital information compiled by real estate agents, the pictures and agent’s descriptions will help you compare your home to sold properties. Comparing the properties will help support your adjustment.

Have an opinion of value ready when you meet with the appraiser and then support that value with the evidence you have prepared. Saying you want a lower value without knowing what that lower value should be suggests to the appraiser that you have no idea of what you are doing.

Appraisers respect property owners with opinions of value.

The shorter the story, the better. Appraisers may sit with 20-40 property owners every single day. Limit your stories and stick with the evidence. The appraiser will appreciate it and will hopefully return the love in the form of a value reduction!

Hopefully I have shed some light on how you can go about protesting your property value in an effective manner. I hope you will feel more comfortable in knowing that you have the ability to stick up for yourself with a solid case.  There is definitely a human element involved when negotiating a reduction, and angering the appraiser is no way to be productive. Stick to the hard evidence, remove all emotion and personal feelings and you will greatly increase your odds of saving yourself some money.

 Good luck!

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Sandy & Bo Bolinger

If you’re looking for a North Texas real estate team to help you negotiate the details of buying or selling a home, then look no further than Bolinger Realty Group. As knowledgeable local REALTORS....

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