Property Tax Appeal Time
Property tax is always a hot topic of discussion in Texas – particularly during this time of year. According to the Austin Board of Realtors, the past year saw an 8.7% increase in median sold prices from February 2014 to February 2015. While that number varies throughout Austin, it is safe to assume that the Travis County Tax Assessor has taken notice of the rising prices as they began their evaluations.
Property valuations were mailed in April allowing homeowners ample time to receive, review and contemplate. If you feel that your taxes are too high, then you should appeal. If you do not ask to have your taxes lowered, there is no chance for a reduced rate.
Even if you are planning on selling your home in the near future, it is worthwhile to appeal your taxes. Consider the fact that you are responsible for paying taxes for the number of months you live in your house before it sells – the cost can be considerable - it makes sense to appeal.
Sellers also tend to worry when a home’s tax appraisal is lower than the asking price of a home. This should not be cause for concern. Most people fight to keep their taxes down and a buyer will not be disappointed to learn that they have lower taxes.
To begin the appeal process, you need to arm yourself with knowledge of the system and acquire the lowest comps possible to reduce taxes. Realize that tax-assessed value is different than market value. Tax-assessed value is what Travis County believes your home to be worth based on the area in which you live. This valuation is done without performing an individual market analysis. Market value however, is based on the: size, location, amenities and condition of your home. Your real estate agent can provide you a fair market value of your home.
If this is your first time appealing, here are some very basic steps:
- File your protest – it may take several months to schedule a hearing date
- Attend the informal hearing
- Present your evidence – comparables, photos, supporting documentation
- Bring extra document copies to leave with the assessor’s office
You can find the Property Tax Notice of Protest Form at www.window.state.tx.us/taxinfo/taxforms/50-132.pdf
A real estate agent can act as your advocate by providing you relevant comps to support your claims and offer tips to help you appeal. If you do not feel comfortable or do not have the time to appeal, your agent can provide you a referral to a trusted property tax advisor who will charge you a percentage of the amount saved. The key to tax appraisal is: when in doubt, protest.
This article first appear in the Four Points Newspaper, Volume 11, Issue 20, page 4A.