For owners here in Texas, the counties just mailed the tax assessments. Most of our hearts skipped a beat as we reviewed the valuation. Face it: our property values are going up in Austin and most of the state and with that, so is your tax value and thus your taxes.
What is a tax assessment?
Realize that a tax assessment is not a fair market appraisal; It is the county assessor’s best estimate of value. (For more information on Austin Metro tax rates, see this Austin Chamber of Commerce 2015 Property Taxes Rate Table.) Texas is a nondisclosure state. What does that mean? Tax authorities do not gather sales data unless it is volunteered to them.
This causes assessments to vary widely, even among neighbors. Nevertheless, ff you don’t agree with your assessment, you can do two things: Hire a professional to protest or protest yourself by making an appointment at the county’s tax assessor’s office.
Hire a pro or go it alone?
It should be noted when hiring a professional, they typically charge a nominal fee and the split the tax savings difference with you if they can lower your assessment. If going it alone, you should hurry up and make an appointment but do not go unarmed. Most urban counties have spent a lot of resources updating the assessor’s software, and assessors don’t like to come off their value.
Steps to help protest your taxes.
First, ask them for the comparable sales which they have to provide upon request. Your protest should compare/contrast those sales versus your house. Are their comparable sales newer homes, bigger homes or homes with other amenities like a pool, a view or backing to a greenbelt.
Second, review your house. Sometimes their data is incomplete. Sometimes it is just wrong. One of my customers bought a home, which at one time, was the builder’s model home. The builder finished the garage and used it as the sales office. The county assessed it including the finished garage in the measurements. After completing the neighborhood, they turned the sales office back to a garage; however, the county didn’t change their measurements to reflect that. Note: non-air conditioned rooms are not included in measurements. My customer was buying a house that was being assessed bigger than it actually was.
Finally, ask your real estate agent to supply comparable sales. Review those versus your assessment. With the county’s data, your agent’s data and your research, decide to protest or not.
Ultimately, each homeowner must take the time to evaluate their situation and make sure to their property valuations are fair.