Property taxes in Texas are always some of the highest in the country, but most people don’t take advantage of the multiple avenues to reduce their annual bills, including protesting their appraised home values. In this blog, the Home Tax Solutions team will take you through the process of protesting your property tax value with strategies to help you win your protest.
Automated Protest (Available in Most Counties)
We all know that county appraisal districts are overburdened with the number of homes they need to appraise each year. Because they rely heavily on computer-generated facts and figures to determine home values, they know that not all appraised values will be 100% accurate. For this reason, the majority of counties in the state of Texas now have automated protesting available. To conduct an automated protest, you’ll need to have your property tax notice or bill available. Then, simply visit your county appraisal district website. If you already have an online account with your appraisal district, log in. If not, you’ll need to use some information from your property tax bill or notice to create an account.
Once you’re logged in, find your property. In most cases, there will be a clearly listed option to protest online, enter automated protest, or other similar language. When you make this selection, you’ll be directed to a page that gives you the current appraised value of your home, the value from comparable sales, and the value from equity in your home. Below this information, you’ll be given an option to enter a proposed value.
After you enter your proposed value, you’ll automatically be directed to a page with your current home value and a “final market value,” which is the number your appraisal district is offering in response to your automated protest. If this number matches your proposed home value, you’ve won! If it’s higher, but you still feel it’s an acceptable reduction, you can also accept the settlement and you’re done. In most cases, if your proposed property value is between 99% and 95% of the lower of the two appraisal numbers (comparable sales or value from equity), your proposed value will be accepted or a number close to your proposed value will be offered, so all homeowners should consider taking at least this step each year to ensure they are minimizing their property tax bill.
If you’re unhappy with the results of your automated protest, you can reject the offer. This will usually direct you immediately to information about how to make an informal protest before your county appraisal district.
At an informal protest, you simply need to present data on your home to your appraisal district. In most cases, you can simply visit your appraisal district office and wait to meet with an appraiser. The number one recommendation for winning an informal protest is simple – be kind. Employees in your appraisal district office, for the most part, understand that the system is flawed, and they’re willing to work with you to adjust property values. Just treat them like human beings and try not to lose your temper. It can be a frustrating situation, but a little genuine kindness can go a long way.
The second piece of advice is to be prepared. Bring all the necessary documentation and be ready to succinctly describe why you believe your home value is lower than the appraised value. Some documentation you can use to win your informal hearing includes:
- Purchase or refinance documentation – if the appraised value is significantly higher than the purchase or refinance price of a home you purchased within the last year, the appraisal district will almost always honor the purchase or refinance value.
- Comparable home sales – if it’s been more than a year since you purchased or refinanced your home, you’ll need to rely on comparable sales. In most cases, you can easily access the basic information about the homes listed as “comparable” to yours on the appraisal district website when you’re going through the automated appeals process. Take a look at these homes online. Most realtor sites will keep images of the home even after a recent sale, and don’t forget to check online maps for images of the area. Look for differences in home quality, location, and appearance that might make these comparable homes more valuable than yours. Take images (or screen captures from online searches) when appropriate. Take photos of your own home or neighborhood as a comparison.
- Home condition – we all love our homes and do our best to take care of them, but even the best kept homes could use a little love. Think of your annual property tax protest as a chance to take a closer look at the little things that need to be repaired or updated. Most real estate offices have home sales checklists available. These can be a good starting point. Remember that cosmetic issues (paint, flooring) don’t offer much change in the value of your home. However, concerns with electrical, plumbing, foundation, brick work, and other “big ticket” items can significantly reduce the value of your home. If you find any areas that need improvement, get a repair quote from a local contractor to use as supporting documentation for your protest.
On the day of your protest, you’ll simply talk to your county appraiser to present the documentation you have. If you’re still not happy with the outcome of this informal hearing, you can move forward with a formal protest. In most counties, the formal protest application forms are included with your annual property value notice. If not, you can request a formal protest form while you’re at the county appraisal district office.
Once you complete and file this form, you’ll receive a notice in the mail before your formal protest date. In most counties, you receive the information 15 days before your formal protest hearing. On the day of your formal protest, you’ll meet with a review board. The specific number of people present will vary from county to county, but you should receive this information prior to your formal protest date. If not, reach out to your appraisal district to find out. You should bring printed documentation for each of the appraisal district representatives to review. In most cases, you only have a very short time to present your case, so make sure you know your time limits, and be prepared to quickly and clearly present the evidence.
After you’ve submitted your evidence and presented your case, the appraisal district will present their side. Then, the panel will discuss the information from both parties and make a determination. If you’re still unhappy with the result of a formal hearing, there are legal steps you can take, so don’t feel pressured to accept an offer from the appraisal district if you are truly unhappy with the outcome. A professional with knowledge about real estate law can help you understand these additional options.
Home Tax Solutions is Here to Help with Your Property Tax Bill
Even if you’re disputing your property tax bill, you still need to pay the undisputed percentage of your bill on time. The undisputed percentage would be the cost of your property tax bill if the appraisal district accepts your proposed home value. In some counties, the full property tax bill may be due even if your property value is being protested. In either case, the Home Tax Solutions team can help you cover the cost of your property tax bill, and there’s no penalty for early payment if you win your protest and get reimbursed for part of the payment. You can get started by filling out our application form online, or contact any of our five conveniently located Texas offices.