As North Texas homeowners get their appraisal notices in the mail, some are in shock over the sharp rise in the valuations of their homes.
“People aren’t taking it well,” Robyn Price, a Realtor with Coldwell Banker Realty, tells Local Profile.
In the red-hot Collin County market, the median home price jumped more than 37% from a year ago to $540,000, according to the MetroTex Association of Realtors. The Collin Central Appraisal District, the agency responsible for assessing property values, expects an average year-over-year increase of 28-30% for Collin County.
Why Protest Your Appraisal?
Before you grab your pitchfork, take a deep breath and remember a big jump in your home’s appraisal won’t necessarily lead to abnormally high property taxes.
“Considering for many of us our home is our largest investment, an increase in market value can be considered a blessing,” said Alvin Lankford, president of the Texas Association of Appraisal Districts, in a statement. “However, many people equate an increase in market value to mean an equal increase in property taxes which is not always the case.”
Any Texas homeowner can protest the actions of an appraisal district. If you believe the district’s estimate of your home’s value is simply too high or out of proportion with comparable properties in your neighborhood, that’s grounds for a request to reduce your appraised value. Other reasons to protest your assessment include the appraisal district’s failure to provide notice that the valuation of your home has changed; incorrect information in the district’s records; and if the chief appraiser fails to grant exemptions.
But protesting might not even be a viable option. What Price does, for example, is compares sale prices and appraisals to determine if the value is accurate and if there’s even enough breathing room for a protest.
It’s All About The Exemptions
The Texas homeowner’s best friend is the Homestead Exemption, which caps the yearly rise in your home’s assessed value to no more than 10%. It’s basically a tax break for any individual (as opposed to a corporation) who uses the property as a primary residence. There are also exemptions for homeowners 65 and older, people with disabilities and military veterans. The Collin Central Appraisal District’s deadline for most exemption applications is April 30.
How To Protest Your Property Taxes
If you aren’t happy with how your home’s been appraised and are in Collin County, file an official Notice of Protest by midnight, May 15. (If you are elsewhere in North Texas, check your county’s website.) You can mail in the form sent with your 2022 appraisal, walk it into the district’s office in McKinney, or file an online appeal through the Collin CAD e-Services Portal. “I have found that people are very successful just doing the electronic process,” says Price.
In many Texas appraisal districts, you can request an informal meeting with a staff appraiser. The Collin Central Appraisal District encourages homeowners to request a telephone hearing. According to the Texas Comptroller’s Office, 70 to 90 percent of disputes are settled during this informal process.
If you can’t find an informal solution with your appraisal district, the protest goes to a formal hearing before the independent Appraisal Review Board, a three-person panel that acts like a judge or jury.
But fret not! While this all seems rather intimidating, it’s not. “I find that people are kind of afraid of the process,” says Price. “I think that what they’re afraid of is that they’ll be turned down and that they’ll be rejected.”
“Generally speaking, I find the appraisal district pretty easy to deal with.
Gather Your Evidence
Whether you’re haggling with a district appraiser or going full Perry Mason with the ARB, you’ll need evidence—yours and theirs. When you file your protest, request all the information the appraisal district used to calculate your home’s contested valuation. Check to see if their basic information jibes with reality: for example, claiming there’s a swimming pool in your backyard when no such thing exists.
And the best way to fight the district’s numbers is with some hard figures of your own from an independent mortgage appraisal, real estate listing or closing contract if your home is a relatively recent purchase. Research nearby home prices for properties with comparable lot sizes, square footage and amenities. A real estate agent can provide a list of similar homes in your neighborhood.
According to Price, “When you present them with a well-made-out argument and you present them with the actual evidence and you tell them ‘I think that you are factoring these comps into my value and my home is not like those homes,’ I think that they are willing to hear that.”
For Once, Be Happy Your Home Is Falling Apart
Swallow your pride and document your dream home’s more notable imperfections. If you have a cracked foundation, submit repair estimates like an engineer’s report. Supplement the paper evidence with plenty of pictures. Photograph every leaky, broken, undesirable corner of your property.
If you get through the process all the way to a hearing with the Appraisal Review Board, treat it like a real court proceeding: Be on time and wear a nice shirt.