It’s that time of year! The tourists have started to trickle in, Schlitterbahn is open, school is almost out!!!! AND… you received your 2017 Notice of Appraised Value in the mail from your local appraisal district. Lovely. Now what do you do? Here is our quick overview: How to protest the property taxes on my New Braunfels home.
First, don’t just toss it in the trash. I know that for most of us, the thought of reading this 3 page front and back governmental form is just thrilling! But this is important, the appraised value of your property is a key determination in how much you pay in property taxes and let’s be honest, the Appraisal Districts are entities run by people just like me and you and mistakes are possible. The most important item on the notice is the DATE by which you have to file your protest in order to even challenge the value of your property. The government takes the tax calendar very seriously and if you let that day pass without filing a protest, your pretty much out of luck unless you can prove your neighbors dog ate your Notice of Appraised Value with some rock hard evidence such as bringing the dog to a hearing with the post man who saw him eat it.
So go ahead and fill out the protest form and drop it by the friendly appraisal district, or mail it in timely so if you decide to actually protest, you can. If you file it and decide not to appear, nothing will happen, your value will just stay the same. After you file a timely protest, you will want to read the one page form that came with your notice called the Tax Payers Rights and Remedies. This will explain the protest and hearing process and even what your rights are if you protest and are unsuccessful and feel you need to carry the process further to Arbitration or District Court.
So how do I protest my value?
First you will have an Informal Hearing date where you meet with an Appraiser one on one at their desk to discuss your property and why you are protesting. The Appraisal District’s appraisers are Registered Professional Appraisers, or are on the track to be one and go through years of training and exams to learn how to appraise property so it is best to go into the hearing with a positive attitude and not get defensive or insult the Appraiser that will meet with you one on one. These informal appraisers have the ability to change your value, so it is in your favor to present an organized case to them in a polite manner. Typically these informal meeting appraisers are looking at two things:
1. Is your property value at 95-100% of what it would have sold for on January 1, 2015?
2. Is your property value fair and uniform compared to other similar properties?
If you can present a convincing case with hard evidence to prove it such as signed closing documents, signed Appraisals, photos of the property that show the date they were taken, sales comps from a Realtor or a Comparative Market Analysis, then chances are good the informal Appraiser will change the value and sign a Settlement Waiver with you and you will be on your merry way without a formal hearing. If the informal Appraiser does not feel you have presented sufficient evidence and does not offer to make a change to the value, then you are entitled to a formal hearing.
Keep in mind that per the state tax code, the appraisal date is January 1, 2017 so typically the appraisal is formulated from sales of homes in your neighborhood that occurred in 2016. That’s right, the tax calendar is behind market. In fact, if your house burns down on January 2, 2017…you will pay taxes on the full appraised value for this year. Sounds crazy but it is in the tax code. So if you are using comparable sales as part of your case, you need to try stick to homes that sold 6 months to a year BEFORE January 1, or the appraiser will tell you to bring it back next year.
Formal Hearings are typically at a later date but in the same building. These hearings are held in front of the Appraisal Review Board which is an independent, impartial group of citizens of the community who are there to resolve disputes between the property owner and the Appraisal District. So in this hearing the ARB will introduce themselves and let you present your case, then the Appraisal District representatives will present their case. There is typically an open session for questions or rebuttal and then the ARB will close the hearing and decide on a value.
The process seems intimidating the first time, but it can be informative and painless if you go in with the right attitude. Remember these appraisers are government employees who deal with a lot of negativity all summer, oh and they do field check properties and have pictures and GIS photography flown every year, so it pays to be honest about that swimming pool and cabana you put in last year. They can show it to the ARB on the big screen.
This is a great informational video for homeowners put out by the Texas Comptroller that will help you protest: Texas Homeowner Protest Guide. For more information visit the Texas Comptroller website at Texas Comptroller Information on Protest.
If you would like me to check your home’s value and give you a Broker Price Opinion, I would be happy to. I can also refer you to some great Property Tax Consultants who will protest on your behalf for a small fee. Email me your property address at email@example.com or call me for more information at (512) 922-5282.
Here is a little real estate humor for you that one of my favorite Appraisers sent me: