Wednesday, May 21, 2014

How to Successfully Protest Your Property Tax Appraisal

With the real estate market in Austin absolutely exploding in 2013 everyone is experiencing a dramatic shock to their mortgage payments due to the enormous jump in the tax appraised value of their homes for 2014. I have gotten at least 30 calls from past client's asking about how to protest their tax appraisals because they've gone up significantly with the market. I have successfully protested my property taxes on all properties every year. It is usually not difficult and a pretty straight forward process, which I will go over here, but do NOT hesitate to call me with questions because as you all know.... I'm pro-style with negotiating life.

First, by having a homestead exemption it caps the increase in appraised value by 10% any one year. So if you filed a homestead exemption and your tax appraised value went up more than 10% from what it was last year, you need to call your county's appraisal district and ask about the status. You can back file it, if you did it incorrectly somehow (Which is hard. It's like 2 pages that you write your name and address on and what exemption you're requesting) and the county will send you a credit of the overpayment once homestead is applied.

Ok, now to file your notice of protest you must do so BEFORE May 31st. In Travis and Williamson County, you can usually file the notice online. Always do this first because it's faster and easier online than mailing it in. Your appraisal should have come with instructions, if not you can find it on the county's appraisal district website. You log on and type in the code it gives you and it asks you what you think the value should be. Aim low, but not unrealistic. Don't say $120,000 on a $300,000 house. I usually just say like $10,000 below the year it was before. Then it asks the reason. "Value not equal", "Value over market value", etc. I don't even think this really matters. I usually just check one or both of them. Then submit.

A couple days later, you'll receive a proposed settlement number from a computer re-analyzing numbers. Sometimes it's decent and you can accept. Sometimes it's still too high. If you decline you're going to formals, unless you just want to keep what you got. If you go to formals, you will need comps to take to prove value is lower. Do NOT go in unprepared and with nothing figuring you will do it all on the spot with the appraiser. This frustrates them immensely. At a formal protest you will go and sit in a cubicle with one appraiser and give them comps and evidence for why your home value should be lower. Williamson County is generally a little tighter, but it's quite subjective based on which appraiser you happen to get. Some are easier than others. Travis County usually accepts more in terms of broader amount of sections of the same neighborhood. They take 5 comparable properties and drop the highest and lowest and average the remaining 3 and that's the value you get. So if you can find 5 really low VALID comps, you're usually good to get them down some. To be valid they can't be foreclosures. They will sometimes take short sales and usually estate sales. Don't look at just price, price per sqft is better. Find as low price per sqft as possible, because computer takes into account size, lot value, etc when it makes adjustments. Bring as many comps as possible that help your case. If you roll in with 1, don't expect anything to happen.

ALSO, if you have done large repairs to your home, such as foundation, roof, etc. Or had mold, termites, or any of that. Bring receipts and invoices and cite that telling them your home is the biggest piece of junk in the neighborhood. If you have the case of purchasing in the year being analyzed and they argue that, you state that this is a current market evaluation. You say, "Sir (ma'am), it doesn't matter what I paid for the property. Let's focus on what the market says it's worth. This is supposed to be an independent, unbiased appraisal process."

If you decline the formal, in person protest number, you go to Appraisal Review Board (ARB). You wear a suit, dress nice. You sit down in front of 3 appraisal board members (regular citizens) and you sit next to a county appraiser at a computer. You bring ALL EVIDENCE you can, comps, repair invoices, etc and you be super polite to the citizen board members. Shake hands and say, "yes sir" "no sir." You act like it's court. Bring 3-4 copies of all evidence. You essentially debate the price with the appraiser, only one of you speaks at a time and you get rebuttals back and forth. At the end, the 3 board members give what they think the price should be and the lead one decides. I have been to the ARB only once and I won pretty good. I have to say, it sounds intimidating, but it was an amazing rush to have a formal debate. I didn't tell them I was a Realtor though. So they weren't expecting a Matthews Whirlwind of FACTS!! CHECK IT FOOLS! Anyways, you more than likely won't go to the ARB unless you have a huge disagreement. The formals is made to root out and settle with the 90% that make it that far.

ALWAYS PROTEST YOUR PROPERTY TAXES. It pays off every year for me. If you have rental properties they will try to destroy you every year because there is no homestead cap. Don't let them. This year I got them down on one property $41,801 which was the equivalent to $1,200 in property taxes. I prevented them from taking $100 extra from me every month on my mortgage payment. It is extremely worth it when you think of the 10% cap and the growth Austin is projected to have. Get it as low as possible every year!