That collective gasp you heard several weeks ago was Austin area property owners seeing their new tax appraisals for the first time. Overall, Travis County reports that values within the county increased by 15%. Yet, some property owners can attest that some valuations increased by as much as 110%! Inexplicably, the largest increases I have seen have been on waterfront . . . or what had been waterfront . . . on Lake Travis which has had almost zero demand.
The good news is if the property is a homestead, the tax valuation is limited to increases of no more than 10% per the Texas Legislature. This explains the difference that may occur between “market” and “appraised” value on your TCAD notice. If the property is a secondary home, rental, or commercial property, the market value and the appraised value should be the same.
If you have filed a protest and are awaiting the informal meeting with an appraiser, I have some suggestions. First, have the comparable sales information to support your argument (MLS printouts) or take your closing statement and/or appraisal if the purchase was in the last twelve months or so. Hearsay will do you no good.
The tax law is focused on what is equitable. Photos can be very important if you are making the case that the property is of a lesser quality than the neighbors. Ask what the quality rating is and how it compares to the houses nearby. If your lot is just like all the others on your street, then the land value should be similar. If all the huge oaks on your lot are dead from oak wilt, be prepared to show proof. The same holds true for cracked slabs.
Finally, double check to see if the tax records are correct. I built a house for friends years ago. Later they installed a round, white stone patio in the back yard. I suppose it looked just like a pool from aerial photos. In any event, they paid taxes on a pool they did not have for many years. Another time, when I was working as a tax agent, I discovered that everyone on a certain street was paying taxes based on their neighbors’ house to the right . . . seriously. Someone had clearly messed up the spreadsheet in the tax records and no one caught it until I recognized the problem since I had built about half of the homes.
Remember to be hard on the problem and soft on the people! Insulting the staff will not end well. They have a tough job. Give them good information and it will help them help you.
Jeff Stewart, CCIM Broker Associate