I posted previously about my decision to protest my property tax assessment, and my time to present my case to the appraisal district finally came this past week.
Being the obsessive-compulsive accountant type, I diligently put together my protest and evidence for my meeting with the appraiser. My protest for a lower appraisal was based upon three points:
- Actual sales for comparable properties in our neighborhood in were much lower than the appraisal they provided for our property.
- The appraisal district overrated the condition of our home due to previous foundation issues, cracks in our sheetrock, the need for repainting, the age of the roof, and other factors.
- The area around our neighborhood has seen a major increase in crime after Katrina, with a large concentration of low-rent apartment complexes, several of which have now been condemned and are homes to squatters and criminal activity.
So I went in for my meeting with the appraiser armed with a typed summary of my case, a copy of the previous seller disclosure form and pictures to evidence the defects to the property, the listing of recent sales in the neighborhood with what I thought were the most comparable properties highlighted, and a map showing the number of apartment complexes around us and several recent stories from the newspapers discussing the crime issues and the condemnation of these properties.
So what was the result? I was able to get the appraiser to reduce the taxable value by nearly $28,000, which out here where our tax rate is about 2.52% of the appraised value results in a tax savings of nearly $700! The appraiser used the pictures and seller disclosure I provided along with one of the comps to justify the reduction.
So what lessons did I learn from this experience? Let me share a few:
- Take the time to do the protest yourself! I used a third party to protest last year under similar circumstances and they were only able to get a reduction of only $7000, and I still had to pay them a commission of half of the projected tax savings.
- Pictures are worth a thousand words, and probably a few thousand dollars of valuation! Part of my argument was that the condition was overrated, and the pictures I provided definitely helped prove the point. I took about 30 pictures, and the appraiser looked through all of them and retain about 5 for their evidence file.
- Arguments about the issues in the area did not help. The appraiser dismissed this as justification of a lower valuation on the basis that lower values on this basis would be reflected in the comps.
- The comps were important, but the appraiser would not consider several of them. At least in Harris County, they would not consider sales that were related to foreclosures or estate sales. The argument was that these are valid comps since they involve a motivated seller, however I would argue that these properties compete with others on the open market.
- In Texas, house sale data is NOT public information. Realtors can pull the information, however it is not publicly available. However since the appraisal district must provide you all the evidence they had related to your valuation, they will provide a listing of the sales information as part of the evidence package to use in your protest. Because the sales data isn’t public and the appraisal district will provide it to you, I would recommend protesting even if you don’t know what other area properties sold for. There may be great evidence of a lower valuations in the evidence they provide you don’t even know about, and if not you can always just not bother following through on the protest.
- While the appraiser would consider defects to the structure itself, they would not consider defects to items like the fence and driveways. According to the appraiser, the guidelines for appraisals in Texas do not allow this to be considered.
So overall I am very satisfied with the experience. I spent probably about 12 hours filing the paperwork and putting together and presenting the protest, and that time resulted in a savings of $700. It really isn’t that difficult of a process and I would certainly recommend to anyone pursuing a protest.