Apr. 25, 2012
The other day, I opened my mailbox and there it was: my property tax appraisal. Just a standard size envelope like so many others, yet this one causes me a little trepidation. Only in my third year of homeownership, managing my property tax obligations is still a relatively new experience for me and not one I look forward to with much enthusiasm.
Last year, property tax time didn’t go very well. The envelope that year was, let’s say, optimistic. It asserted that my home had increased in value almost 30% compared to what I’d paid for it just 18 months earlier. While I would have loved to believe that was true, market conditions indicated otherwise, so I protested. Sadly, my protest was unsuccessful, but the experience was an educational one and it prompts me to share this advice about property appraisals.
The most important element in property tax appraisals is comparables, or “comps.” These are properties near yours that are in a similar situation and have similar features. If you find that your home is appraised significantly higher than comparable homes, you may want to appeal. When I protested my appraisal last year, I contacted the Texas REALTOR® who helped me buy my home and he provided some comps to help me prepare.
Does your home currently have any problems, such as a leaky roof, or has it undergone any major repairs in the last year, such as those from termites? You can bring this to the attention of your county appraiser to adjust your property appraisal accordingly. Ask yourself, “If I were to sell my home, would this issue affect my asking price?” If the answer is yes, consider an appeal.
Property tax exemptions are offered to homeowners 65 years old or older, disabled individuals, disabled veterans, and surviving spouses or children of veterans. Also, any taxing unit in your area, such as a school district, city, county, or special district, may offer exemptions for up to 20 percent of your home’s value. You can find out which exemptions are offered and how to apply for them through your county appraisal district website.
If you decide to appeal your property appraisal, you only have 30 days to do so. An appeal form should have been included with your appraisal with instructions regarding the process. The process typically includes an opportunity to settle your protest informally with the appraisal district first. If unsuccessful, you can then go before the Appraisal Review Board and, if you’re still not satisfied with the outcome, you can appeal further. For more detail, you should consult your county’s appraisal district website or contact your Texas REALTOR®.
As a homeowner, tax time no longer ends on April 15 for me. However, armed with my experience from last year and relationships with industry professionals I trust, I’m confident I can tackle anything.