How to Protest Your Property Taxes and Win

How To Protest Property Taxes

Victory: Send the Tax Man Crying

It’s 8:15am on a Tuesday morning and you couldn’t be more irritable. You woke up earlier this morning 30 minutes late to the tune of Jimmy Buffet’s “Cheeseburger in Paradise” and it’s still stuck in your head. You loathe “Cheeseburger in Paradise”. There was no time to eat and your dog ran out the door. Nothing could get worse. But wait, there’s more…

Today is the day you go to battle. Like a true warrior you’ve studied your enemy, you’ve intercepted their intelligence and you’ve planned an offensive that would make even Geronimo tremble in his loin cloth. Today is the day you take a stand.

“Enough is enough!” you say.

It’s just you against them. Today, the appraisal district must go down.

All around you sits an endless sea of disgruntled allies waiting for their own opportunity on the battlefield. You can hear their war cries, spiked with anger yet underscored with doubt and fear.

“If they think my house is worth this much I’ll sell it to ‘em today”, exclaims your left flank.

You realize these amateurs have no chance. They’ve lost the fight and they haven’t even seen the enemy. But not you. Minus the grumbling stomach and the less than ideal drumbeat in your head you are nearly invincible. You’re mentally prepared, calm and focused. You’re evidence is in hand and you’re ready to go. Good thing, because your name just got called. It’s showtime!

The purpose of this article is to give you some perspective on a proper approach to a successful protest. Too many property owners have no plan.

Why We Fight

Protesting your property value is like Joan Rivers’ plastic surgery; it needs to be maintained every year whether it moves up or down.

While you may never save a fortune in any given year with a successful protest, you should always protest your property’s value. With a yearly effort you could end up saving several hundred to several thousand dollars in property taxes over time.

It’s just a hunch, but I’ll bet you could find a more effective use for your money than giving it to a highly inefficient, often misguided institution such as the government.

Most Common Misconceptions

First and foremost, understand that when you are negotiating with an appraiser at the appraisal district, you are protesting your property value, not your property taxes. If your strategy for winning your protest is to give the appraiser a sob story about how your ever increasing taxes are a huge burden, your story will fall upon deaf ears. The appraisal district has absolutely no control over your taxes; they simply determine property values. As a former property tax consultant who’s handled more than 5,000 protests, I can’t stress to you enough the ineffectiveness of that argument. Don’t do it.

Another common misconception I’d like to share is that protesting your property value will not hurt your resale value. I actually witnessed a property owner protest on the basis that his property value was too low!! He wanted the appraiser to raise the value so that he could sell his house at a higher price. Ridiculous.

Although we are all guilty of referring to the appraisal district’s value as the “appraised value”, the truth is that it is not a true appraisal at all, but is instead what’s referred to as the “tax assessed” value. In most cases, no appraiser will physically visit your property to assess the value. The counties simply do not have the manpower to cover the entire county on a yearly basis. Harris County, for instance, has approximately 150 appraisers who are required to attribute value to more than 750,000 property accounts. It simply can’t be done. Do not consider your tax assessed value to be indicative of your true market value. As investors, do not purchase or even evaluate a property based on the tax assessed value.

Here’s a good one: Your five year old purchase price is no longer valid! Each year stands on its own and the current comparable sales can and will affect your value.

Finally, the appraisal district will not retaliate if you protest! It is your right to protest by law, and again, they simply do not have the manpower to pick on everyone who protests each year.

Proper Preparation Prevents Poor Performance

Preparing for your hearing is most crucial. The following ideas are some that I followed for every property I represented. As a property owner representing yourself you can greatly increase your chances of getting a value reduction if you apply the methods I’m listing here. Appraisers will actually appreciate your due diligence.

The deadline to file your protest for the 2009 season is June 1st. When filing your protest, you want to fill out that you are protesting based on market value as well as “unequal appraisal”.

Request the House Bill 201 Evidence packet. This is the most important step you can take towards ensuring a successful protest. The HB contains all of the information which the appraisal district used to arrive at your property value. The information within this packet is also your main source for ammunition in getting your value reduced. For Harris County property owners, this packet will be made available online 14 days prior to your hearing date. Call the appraisal district for instructions on how to access it.

Pictures are worth a thousand words – Take pictures of any disrepair on your property and of any “negative influences” surrounding your property. Qualified negative influences could be busy streets, water tower looming over your house, sewer plant nearby, commercial property bordering your residential, etc. Your noisy neighbor’s junked out car and overgrown grass probably will not qualify!

Google Earth is a wonderful thing. I would recommend printing a satellite view of your property and the surrounding area. Probably 85% of the time you can find something negative to talk about on the image! It could be anything. Get creative and add support to the rest of your presentation.

MLS Sales – If you have a Realtor who is willing to help you with your evidence gathering, you may want to have them print some of the SOLD properties you find in the House Bill neighborhood sales page. Often times you will see that the appraisal district’s evidence will suggest that a house built in 1965 which sold for $150,000 never had a remodel done to it.

This “never remodeled” house is jacking up your value. However, you may be able to find the property on MLS and see that the pictures and agent’s description suggest the exact opposite! It sold for a higher price because it actually had a complete remodel just two years ago and yours actually is in original condition. Therefore, your value should be adjusted downward from that sale.

If you see that the district’s evidence is not up to date on a house in an older neighborhood, check the Neighborhood Profile page (HCAD) and see what date is listed as the last time someone physically visited your property. I’ve seen some where no appraiser had been to the property in 15 years. This is an excellent way to weaken the credibility of the appraiser’s opinion of value in a board hearing.

Have an opinion of value ready when you meet with the appraiser and then support that value with the evidence you have prepared. Saying you want a lower value without knowing what that lower value should even be suggests to the appraiser that you have no idea of what you are doing and you are likely to go on and on begging like a child until you get a reduction. Appraisers respect property owners with opinions of value.

The shorter the story, the better. Appraisers may sit with 20-40 property owners every single day. They hate protest season and they hate people in general by the second week. Limit your stories and stick with the evidence. The appraiser will appreciate it and will hopefully return the love in the form of a value reduction!

The House Bill Nitty Gritty (HCAD Specific)

There is no way for me to completely train you on how to effectively use the appraisal district’s own evidence against them in a short article such as this. However, I would like to point you in the right direction as far as what you need to be looking at as the HB is extremely powerful. I never personally visited any property I represented in Harris County, yet had a high success rate at getting values reduced simply by learning to read the story provided in the HB.

There are four main pages I want you to look at in the HB. The “ISD”, Neighborhood Sales, “CPA” (Comparative Property Analysis) and the Neighborhood Profile page.

On the ISD page you will find a small sample of neighborhood or surrounding area sales which the appraisal district has used in order to come up with your value. In the past, there were five sales used and the three with the least amount of adjustments needed to make it “equal” to yours were averaged together. On the bottom of the page (in past years) you should see the Noticed Value, the Indicated Market Value and the ISD Ratio. If your Indicated Market Value, which is based on the three averaged sales, is less than your Noticed Value, multiply the IMV by the ISD Ratio (if less than 1.0) and you should get a reduction in value. For example:

    Noticed Value – $100,000
    Indicated Market Value – $97,500
    ISD Ratio – .98

    $97,500 X .98 = $95,550

In this example, the district’s own evidence suggests that your property should be valued at $95,550 rather than the current $100,000 they have you on the tax roll for. Neat, huh?

On the Neighborhood Sales sheet you will see what should be each and every property that sold in your neighborhood within the last year. Find the most similar ones to yours and break them down on a price per square foot basis. Take the average $/sf of at least three sales and apply that to your square footage. If the resulting number suggests a lower number than what you are noticed at, you have a reduction!

The CPA, or Comparative Property Analysis, shows what other properties just like yours are assessed at on the tax roll. Based off of these sample properties there will be a suggested value at the bottom of the page. If it suggests you are overvalued, you win! NOTE: If you did not protest based on “unequal appraisal” as I suggested earlier, you will not be able to use the results of this page.

The last page you should review, which is also the least effective of the bunch, is the Neighborhood Profile. On this page you can find what the typical property is in your neighborhood. You can see how many properties there are in the neighborhood, the typical year built, the typical build grade and quality as well as the typical size. Notice that I used the word “typical” over and over again. If all else fails with the other approaches you may be capable of giving the ole standby argument that your property is atypical for the neighborhood.

For example, if the typical property in the neighborhood is 1800sf and your property is 2400sf, explain (not argue) that your property is at a disadvantage because you are overbuilt for the neighborhood. In other words, your property’s resale value will be negatively affected due to the smaller houses selling throughout the neighborhood. Also, if you’re property is a “B” grade and the others are “C+”, the C+ properties are lowering your value. On the other hand, if you are a “B” and the others are “As”, you are at a disadvantage because your property is of lesser quality than the typical in the neighborhood. Hopefully you get the point that regardless of what’s different about your property than the typical for the neighborhood, you are at a disadvantage!

The key to using the House Bill information is simply familiarizing yourself with the information provided and creating a storyline which you can clearly and effectively explain to the appraiser or Appraisal Review Board if you end up going that far. Unless you are in a newer cookie cutter style neighborhood with a lot of recent sales you can almost always come up with a little something which can persuade your foe to nudge your value down. Never argue, complain or whine. Present the evidence at hand and speak with confidence.

Your Other Option

Hopefully I have shed some light on how you can go about protesting your property value on your own in an effective manner this tax year. For those of you who simply don’t have time, are terrible negotiators, are afraid of talking to people or perhaps just don’t care; you can always hire a professional to represent your property on your behalf. Most property tax companies will charge a fee based on a contingency agreement. If they don’t save you any money, they won’t charge you a fee.

There are many property tax companies out there. However, if you are a Lifestyles member, I would recommend (always talk to three) O’Connor and Associates. O’Connor is a long time Lifestyles vendor and offers a discount on their services to Lifestyles members (woohoo!). They have excellent training for their consultants and are highly successful at saving their clients money.

Whichever way you decide to go, whether on your own or with a professional, I hope you can feel more comfortable in knowing that you have the ability to stick up for yourself with a solid case. Too often property owners think that they can walk into the appraisal district and gripe or bully their way to a reduction in value. There is definitely a human element involved when negotiating a reduction. Angering the appraiser is no way to be productive and reflects poorly on your character (ouch!). Stick to the hard evidence, remove all emotion and personal feelings out of your case and you will greatly increase your odds at saving yourself some money.

For those of you fortunate enough to be Lifestyles members with unlimited question and answer, I will be at your disposal as always. Good luck and good hunting!

Comments

  1. Jeff Smith says:

    Very helpful Trent, Thanks.

  2. Stephen Davis says:

    I protest the taxes on all of my properties every year. O’conner and associates (listed in the vendor list that comes with the free Radio Show listener kit) will teach you how to do it yourself or they can handle it for you.

    Thanks,
    Steve

  3. This is without a doubt the MOST INFORMATIVE article I have ever read on this subject. I protested all eight of my properties using the iFile process, and have already received a couple of proposed adjustments from HCAD.

    The proposed adjustments are nearly the same as the previous appraised values; most within a few percent of the current appraised values.

    I can now use the information in this article to play HCAD’s game when I personally go to protest.

    Thanks, Trent for this timely article. What you wrote will no doubt save me a bunch of money.

  4. Damon Janis says:

    Well written and very informative, thanks!

  5. THAT’S A GREAT, PRACTICAL ARTICLE!! Very informative. I protest the value of my property every year and I use O’Connor for that. I have experienced a reduced value EVERY YEAR!!

    I appreciate the detail you’ve given about the documentation needed to be successful.

    is there anybody out there that does not protest their value?

  6. Michelle Usry says:

    I am a big promoter of “protesting your taxes”. I protest every year and advise that all property owners should. This is an excellent article and very informative. I learned about 2 additional negotiation tactics that will be very helpful. Impressive Trent!

  7. Manuel Olivas says:

    Trent, I called the Tarrant County Appraisal board today. To “settle without a protest”, they are asking for the appraisal. How should I respond? I may go to the appraisal office tomorrow. Thanks for the article.

  8. A recent fee appraisal is always the best indicator of true market value. The appraisal district realizes that their CAMA (computer assisted mass appraisal) system is by no means perfect. If you have a recent appraisal from the past year or so that you feel is a good value, go ahead and provide it. If you purchased the property last year, they will almost definitely hold out for the appraisal in the informal hearing. If you tell them you can’t provide it (because you don’t want to!) they may automatically set you up for the Appraisal Review Board regardless of what other evidence you provide. You DO NOT have to provide your appraisal if it’s going to hurt your case. If you feel that you want or deserve a larger reduction, implement some of the ideas I mentioned in the article.

    Summary: If you have an appraisal that helps, give it to them. If not, wait for a hearing to be scheduled and give ‘em all you got!

    Trent

  9. Christopher DiMarco says:

    The two things that I had going for me when last I did this were:

    1) Several photos taken in January of the house under renovation. In Dallas, I was told that the appraisal should be contingent upon the condition of the house in January of that year. Even though much of the work was further along by May, they can not base the appraisal on the 1/2-year condition of the house. The pictures of bare studs, unpainted walls, and unfinished floors were very helpful, coupled with the remodeling estimate.

    2) Know how much you paid for the house in that condition. The agent at DCAD, after seeing the pictures, agreed to lower the tax appraised value to the pre-repair sales price that I paid for the house the previous year, which took the taxable value down about 10% (even though the ARV appraisal was about 25% higher).

    I also have 2 friends who work(ed) at DCAD that told me that the appraisers are trained to be very reasonable and non-combative with home owners that come in and sit down to review their appraisals. If the home owner comes in with a large amount of documentation and photos, and their case is reasonable (i.e. more than just “I don’t wanna pay that much”), they are to instructed to give them the benefit of the doubt rather than fight it.

  10. You’re absolutely right, Christopher. The values are set based on the condition of the property on Jan 1 of each year. If your house gets picked up by a tornado on Jan 2, technically you are out of luck until next year!

    I’m glad you brought up the remodeling estimates. Estimates and pictures are golden when negotiating with an appraiser.

  11. Do you have any idea how they valuate the properties with similar square footage and different land’s size?

    Thanks
    John

  12. Natalie Pilkinton / Trent Yeo says:

    http://www.window.state.tx.us/taxinfo/proptax/index.html

    Susan Combs State Comptroller

    Additional information for protesting taxes through out the Great State of Texas. The also have a web video that you can view that is 2 minuters long. Thank you to Helen who called in and gave us this information on the 700 KSEV radio show.

  13. Larry Blake says:

    I will have a hearing in a couple of weeks. I have sent them 2 appraisals, 1 from 2/1/09 and 1 from 5/1/09. I had these because I was working with 2 lenders refinancing my house. I also have some comps to bloster my case but from your article I assume that I can not present valuation much past January because that is supposed to be the benchmark valuation. The second appraisal done in May was significantly less than the one done in February. Can I still use the February appraisal and then use the May appraisal for protesting next year? Thanks for the information.

    Thanks,
    Larry

  14. Trent Yeo says:

    John – Harris Co will separate the land from the improvements in their calculations. So if you are trying to come up with a value based on sales in the neighborhood, split out the improvement value from the land and the extra features. Once you figure the AVG $/SF on the improvements of your comps, multiply that $/SF by your total sqft to come up with the new (lower!)improvement value, then you simply add your land value and extra features back into the total.

    Their is a complicated “land table” that they use to arrive at land values. Don’t worry about how they come up with the number, the appraisers don’t know either. There’s one guy who sits in a cubicle in a dark corner deep in the confines of HCAD who sets the land values.

    When protesting your land value, all you need to know is what the “typical” size lot is for your neighborhood. This can be found on the summary sheet of the House Bill. Most often, they will have a “base” and “residual” already split with the residual getting a modifier of some percentage of value. If your land is atypically large and they haven’t given you a discount for the residual, then protest on that basis in your hearing. How much of a discount would be up to you, just make it reasonable.

    ie) “I believe my residual land should have an .85 modifier attached to it”

    That would be asking for a 15% discount on the residual.

  15. Trent Yeo says:

    Larry,

    Since they’ve already seen both appraisals it’s likely that you will have to use the one from February. The later appraisal should be sufficient for next year, yet I would still bring it up in your hearing for this year. You never know what kind of mood your appraiser will be in that day. All they can say is No!

    Good luck

  16. Joe Bryson says:

    Last year I protested 5 properties purchased at the same time in November of 2007. These five were built in the 1981 timeframe. The seller was another investor and thus these were not foreclosure sales. I advised the board that these are rental properties. I then simply provided the board my HUD1 during each hearing and respectfully asked that they consider the contract sales price on the HUD1 as the value of the property. That was the extent of my evidence. The board whispered amongst themselves about the number of foreclosures in the subdivision and then agreed. They merely rounded the contract sales price up and declared it the tax assessed value.

    What is your opinion on this approach for the first year protest after acquisition of a SF property? I have two like this going in front of the HCAD ARB next week. One is a normal sale and the other is a foreclosure. Difference now is that these are more modern homes in 2004 time frame. Should I be concerned about using this approach with a more modern home? Or with a more modern home that was a foreclosure sale?

    Thanks,
    Joe

  17. Trent Yeo says:

    Joe,

    That is exactly the way you should protest in the first year unless you could get a lower value by protesting on “unequal appraisal” rather than on market value. (sales comps/purchase price)

    If you can get a better reduction using the unequal appraisal approach, simply state in your hearing that you are “conceding the market value and basing my opinion on unequal appraisal only”.

    At that point, they have to consider the Uneq App regardless of what you paid for the house.

    Hope that helps…

  18. Joe Bryson says:

    Trent -

    1) Should I provide additional evidence with the HUD1 during a year 1 protest when the subject property is a foreclosure?

    2) When I pass the HUD1 document over to a Board member at the hearing and recommend the contract sale amount for the tax assessed value, is there a line of testimony that you can recommend that will support my position given the property was a foreclosure?

    I appreciate the feedback. Your article has been extremely helpful in focusing my protest analysis.

    Thank you.

    Joe

  19. They’ll likeley say that the foreclosure was not an arms length transaction and unqualify that sale. This is where the amateurs tuck tail. What you are going to do is:

    1. support that sale with pictures of the deferred maintenance which shows why it was discounted to begin with.

    2. contact your realtor and have them print the Property Archive Report off of MLS. If the property was on the market for a while, and especially if it had some price reductions, you will explain to them that the property had plenty of opportunity to sell on the open market. Therefore, it is an arms length transaction. On foreclosures, their assumption is that they get discounted and scooped up immediately because they are overly discounted. The Archive Report could prove otherwise.

    3. if the neighborhood your house is located in has a large number of foreclosures, have your agent print the recent sales (Feb ’09 and older). Communicate to the appraiser/ARB that your neighborhood is a depreciated market due to the large number of FCs. Also give them a quick class on how underwriters are currently forcing you to include FCs in the appraisals when you purchase a house.

    Any of these methods will back up your HUD1 beautifully, but if you can provide all three you should have a slam dunk case. That, of course, depends on which appraiser/board calls your name! Good ole HCAD..

  20. Joe Bryson says:

    Trent -

    1. In this case, the foreclosure was not distressed and required a very minor make ready. It would seem that the pictures would still work in my favor. I can use the pictures to show that the property had no deferred maintenance and did not require discounting. That said, it is reasonable to assume that the property sold at market value.

    2. I have requested the Property Archive Report. The DOM value that I have seen was 41. Hopefully there will be additional information in this report to support my contention that this was an arm’s length transaction and that the property had plenty of time to sell on the open market.

    3. There is a high number of foreclosures in this subdivision. I checked the 2008 sales and a little over 50% of the sales were foreclosure sales. I also have trend data for this neighborhood. It shows the avg sales price and avg $/sqft declining each year for the last three years. So yes, I would say this subdivision is a depreciating market based on the number of foreclosures.

    Thanks,
    Joe

  21. Most counties have a deadline for accepting reduction requests. Unless your request is accompanied by a new appraisalby a certified appraiser you probably will get no-where & wasting your time. May cost your $300-400, but it’s worth it if you can save $1,0000-2,000 or more per year. Log on to your counties website to get the current forms required to mail in with the appraisal and be sure to meet the deadline.

  22. Trent Yeo says:

    ***DEADLINE*** If you plan to protest your property taxes this year the deadline to file is 11:59 PM tonight.

    KWR,

    Two points:

    1) “Unless your request is accompanied by a new appraisal by a certified appraiser you probably will get no-where & wasting your time” – I respectfully disagree. I’ve handled more than 5,000 protests, only one of which was accompanied by a fee appraisal. My success rate was over 85% just using the House Bill inforamation, MLS Sales, pictures and maps.

    2) The average price of a home in Harris County is $150,000. At a 2.8% tax rate you would pay $4,200/yr. To save $1,000 you would have to get a value reduction of 24%, or $36,000. That is not a typical reduction at that value.

    A good $10,000 reduction in value would produce a savings of $280 at the 2.8% tax rate. This would not cover the cost of getting an appraisal.

    I don’t want anyone to get the wrong idea that you can expect a larger reduction if you pay for an appraisal.

    Trent

  23. Great Article. Thanks.

    I have a unique situation here.

    HCAD sent me a notice of appraised value of:
    Land Value – $129,712
    Improvements – $ 242,830
    Total – $372,542

    In HCAD’s Real Property Account Information Database, I noticed that the listed market land value of my home did not add up to $129,712. Listed value was:
    Res Improved Table Val SF1 – $63,000
    Res Improved Table Val SF3 – $15,840

    The total land value was listed at & 129,712 instead of $ 78,840. This seemed like an error because:

    1. At $129,712, my land value is way higher than my neighborhood value
    2. My neighbor’s house is identical to mine and was appraised the same ($372,542). On protesting and I assume after pointing out the total land value error, his appraisal was changed to $321,670 (Land value of $78,840)

    I purchased my home on Jan 31, 2009. When I pointed out the land value error at my informal hearing, the appraiser’s stand was that regardless of the error, my home purchase price ($350,000) is the best indication of true market value and therefore the appraised value cannot go below the purchase price.

    My argument is that
    1. HCAD appraised my improvement value ($242,830) based on recent sales and comparative property analysis. I am not disputing that value. However, I am protesting the clerical error in the land value.
    2. My purchase value is not the only source for true market value (the USPAP states that a sale price is not an absolute test of the value). I can prove this by using the comparative sales analysis provided by HCAD as evidence but using the correct land value. This brings the median adjusted sale price to less than $350,000 Same thing for comparative property analysis.
    3. I found at least 3 homes sold from Dec 2008 to Jan 2009 that have an appraisal value of less than the sale price.

    How can I convince the board that my purchase value is not true market value? Any feedback is much appreciated. Thanks.

  24. Trent Yeo says:

    Here’s the thing,

    You have a point based on a technical error, but only on a technical error. The property tax code states that the burden of proof is on the District. They already came up with a value for your Imps but made an error on your land. I would pitch that “I have no problem with the District’s opinion of value for the improvements; I’m simply here to correct an administrative error for the land value”.

    Technically (there’s that word again), they should have to honor the current improvement value and adjust the land down. However, the ARB is not a court of law and the board members ultimately have the power to set your value at the purchase price. The purchase is what’s making this tough.

    All you can do is pitch the “I’m just here to fix an admin error” and ignore the purchase price, but that’s going to be a long shot. You’ll have to get a very understanding board.

    Good luck,

    Trent

  25. My house is identical to another house except for the fact that my house was built in 2007 and her house in 2005. Her house is appraised at 370,000 and mine at 498,000. Can I contest on the grounds of unequal appraised value?
    Thanks!

  26. Also, I don’t understand what the “Adjusted Sales Price” means. There are homes with a sales price of 198,000 and then have a net adjustment of 316,868 that bumps the price up to 514,868. Why?

  27. Hi Bertha,

    Absolutely, you should protest on unequal appraisal. If it’s identical, hold up pictures of each house and ask the Board if they can tell which one is newer than the other! Tell them that it is your opinion that a willing buyer would not attribute that much additional value to a house just because it’s 2 years newer.

    The “adjusted sales price” is when a house which is not identical to yours sells, for say, $500K. The District will then adjust that sales price to make it “look” like yours with the different features. ie) if yours is larger, they will adjust up for the sf difference. If yours is older, they should adjust the value down, etc, etc.

    Whatever value they come up with after making these adjustments is the adjusted sales price. This is what they say that other house would have sold for if it had all of your features. It’s a very imperfect system; perhaps even flawed in some cases.

    Hope that helps

  28. Penn, Jennifer L says:

    ok im attempting to follow your instructions. However, my NMV is listed as $175.506// the IMV is $194,337 and SAP Ratio is $0.90 the ISD $0.97. Since my NMV IS HIGHER THAN MY IMV what do I do should i still protest this?

  29. Hi Jennifer,

    Since your IMV (Indicated Market Value)is much higher than your NMV (Noticed Market Value) that particular report is not going to help you. If you look up those sales and see that they were not in the condition the district has them listed, you may be able to discredit the report. Check the CPA report (Comparitive Property Analysis) to see if that helps. Finally check the individual sales to see if there are some that help your case there.

    Other than that you always have the option of bringing in pics showing deferred maintenance or estimates for necessary repairs.

    Trent

  30. We live in a brand new section of an existing neighborhood (which we are connected to). Our entire street was appraised at much higher than anyone actually paid and significantly higher ($40-100K) than section 1 – for the exact same houses by the same builder. I was first to purchase and paid much more than some of my neighbors. Four of them have had their values reduced through protests nearly $100k. Will I have to use my purchase price or can I argue that the values used for our street are unequal and use their prices? There are virtually no comps in the neighborhood because all sales went through the builder so HCAD used another neighborhood. My first meeting is 8/14

  31. I would use the new appraised values that your neighbors have received. State that you are conceding the market value (purchase price) and simply basing your opinion of value on unequal appraisal. The appraisers/board members may tell you that you can’t use changed values from this year, but I’d do it regardless.

    The tax code states that the most recent value should be used. The District simply doesn’t want you to use the new lower values for your benefit.

    Also, talk to your neighbors who already had a successful hearing and ask them how they got the reductions. That would be proof positive of how you should approach your hearing.

  32. Thanks! I have confirmed that neighbors reduced with their actual settlement statements. Do I need copies of their statements to use as comps or will what is on the hcad website work? Some of these same properties were used in my “packet” from HCAD.

    Also, am I legally bound to give them my settlement statement or tell them my purchase price? I’ve searched everywhere for that answer and can’t seem to find it. My neighbor went today to her informal and was told that they would not lower it below the purchase price because that was market value for that property. They also immediately requested her settlement statement.

  33. If you offer your neighbors’ closing statements and not your own, the board members will see that as fishy. I would just go with the newly reduced values of your neighbors’ properties.

    These new values won’t be in the HB 201 evidence packet, you’ll have to print them out individually from HCADs records on the public site.

    Informally, the appraisers won’t reduce your value on unequal appraisal when you just purchased it (and rarely ever in Harris Co). You’ll most likely have to take your case in front of the board.

    Finally, you are NEVER required to show what you paid for your house. Texas is a non-disclosure state and that is your business only unless you volunteer that info.

  34. Andrea Kyle says:

    My hearing is tomorrow. Early last week I requested the HB packet from Tarrant CAD. They said the only info they use to determine my home value is recent sales and I was able to get a copy from the TAD website. I did that, but all it is is MY property sale in Feb 08 and seven other sales throughout 2008.
    #1 Are they holding the HB packet from me?
    #2 Is it required to be 4 pages with CPA, ISD etc?
    Also
    My home was built in 1988, has 1823 sf, and I paid 134500 in Feb 2008. The other properties included range from a. Living area 1544 to 2685 sqft (-279 sf and +862 sf) I do not think it is fair to compare
    my house to one with 2685 sf like TAD did, so I limited my search for homes +/- 320sf)
    b. Year built range: 1978-1988 (-10 years)
    I managed to find 7 more prop sales that were closer to my criteria.
    C. The lowest SP on TADs valuation is 127500 and the highest is 170000. My search found me prop sales as low as 73000 with most of them being around 112000.
    #3 It is for my 2009 taxes, should some 2009 sales be included?

    I just feel like they are not giving me everything they used.

  35. Andrea Kyle says:

    Dear Trent, as noted above, my hearing was today. They barely looked at my numbers and kept the value the same. Even though I asked for the HB packet before the hearing they never gave me the info you stateed regarding the HB. All I got from them is 7 highest priced sales and when I countered with 7 lower proced sales, they just ignored mine. Then we discussed the unequal section and they invited me to have a “ratio study” done for the area. The TAD is a racket. I want to appeal but I need you as my attorney. can /will you do it?

  36. Even though this thread has been inactive for some time, I thought that I would post my experience since it may help others.

    I live in a planned community in north Fort Worth, Tarrant County. All of the homes in the neighborhood are less than 5 years old and were constructed by two builders with similar lot sizes, exteriors, and finish.

    My home was valued at a higher amount relative to recent sales that I have seen. However, when browsing through the 2010 TAD statements, it was comparable. Even so, I decided to protest based upon market value and unequal appraisal.

    I found 10 comps that sold within the last 15 months, 9 of them were within the last 90 days, that made my case. The mean avg. of these properties was $10 less than what my property was valued at. I formatted these properties in a spreadsheet showing the following: address, year built, sell price, sqft, $/sqft, and value ration vs. my property. I summarized the values as a mean average, then weighted my property since I have a larger lot. I also presented a satellite map with all of these properties marked on the map along with photos of each property to show comparability. Additionally, I included a MLS print out from a realtor showing the selected properties that made my case. Finally, I included photos from my house showing a nearby gas well that was a visual and aural nuisance.

    Even though I felt that I was prepared, I learned a great deal from the hearing. To begin with, the board was very professional and non-threatening. It consisted of 3 members (one of them the chairmen with whom I interacted with) along with a representative from TAD who sat at her computer and made her case when given the opportunity. When it was time to present my case, I reviewed the comps, made the case that age was a non-factor since all homes are comparable, and when asked provided a value that I was seeking for my home (it is critical to know this before going into the meeting). The TAD rep made their argument pointing out that most of my comps were not valid since the sales occurred after the first quarter of the year. She proceed to highlight a single property that was most like mine to make here case that my property value was fair and even lower than the closest comp.

    Prior to my rebuttal, the chairman explained to me that only comps from the previous year and the first quarter of the current year are valid for consideration. Fortunately, I had two qualifying comps in my list. I proceeded to make the case then based upon my two remaining comps verses the comps TAD was using, and countered TAD’s argument that age of my house played a role. The 3 committee members worked on their calculators for a few minutes, discussed their finding among themselves, then offered me an adjusted value that was about 60% of the discount I was requesting. The chairman explained to me that this was based upon comps and that if I wanted to pursue unequal appraisal then I could do so, but with a warning. I provided 10 or so existing comps in the neighborhood with a lower value, but she told me that unequal appraisal would be based upon properties throughout the county and not just my neighborhood. Obviously, in my case I felt that this could harm my case rather than help. Therefore, I declined pursuing unequal appraisal and accepted there offer.

    Overall, even though I didn’t get the full discount I was seeking, I was pleased. I feel that if I would have had age appropriate comps then I would have been even more satisfied with the results. On the bright side, however, I already have a great start when it comes to mounting evidence for next year’s protest!!!

  37. Katie McDonald says:

    I have been going through all properties within my neighborhood number, and what I find is that about half the properties have a listed SF1 and SF3 with SF1 equal to the actual square footage of the lot (based on my deed) and the SF3 perhaps being land that is in excess of that. Does anyone know what that SF3 is about and if it can be protested? The other half of the neighborhood has only SF1 and I suspect that is probably all I should be getting taxed on as well. I think the excess may be right of ways that do not actually belong to me.

  38. francisco says:

    Hi I bought my house last year on october 2010 for 200,000.
    It was in the market for a long time first at 270,000 and and went down all the way to 230.000 whenI bought it for 200k. I’m protesting my apraised value of 377,000
    Is my hud1 with the sale price of 200,000. will be enough to lower it to the purchase price be enough or should I take more evidence.

    thanks
    Francisco

  39. Hello, we bought our house march 31 2010 for 187.000. Our house was the model and is five years old. They have it valued at 194.000. On dec 30 2008 the exact model sold for 171.000 was built 2008. And on sept 3 2010 the exact model sold for 169.400 built 2009. These houses are older but the exact floor plan model and builder. Can I use these comps since one is from a sale in 2008? And do I have to use the other sales in the neighborhood since it should be comparable comps and these houses are the exact match? Thank you

  40. Staci Miller says:

    Love the article. My problem is that my home was custom built in 2010. I live in a rural area and most of the homes around me are smaller and older. The other issue is that there are not alot of homes for sale or that have been sold recently, so how do I get comps? Thanks!

  41. Hello Trent, do you know the definition of an “extensive” remodel vs a “total remodel” is? We are currently protesting our taxes and have been classified as being a total remodel.

  42. Linda Jones says:

    I would like to know why do we (innocent taxpayers) “have to fight city hall” on the appraisal protesting issue? If the assessed values were accurate in the first place, we would have no need to protest. Isn’t this stealing from the public and especially poor people who know nothing or protesting, nor can afford to pay a big firm like O’Connor? This is an outrage that our government is taking advantage of their citizens.

  43. A member of lifestyles recommended a company to me this past year called Jubally Solutions (jubally.com). I think they’re a vendor at lifestyles or something. They gave me information tailored to my home and neighborhood, and sent me on my way. I was tired of paying half of my savings to O’Connor, so I went out on my own. Jubally was super cheap, and it worked without a hiccup. Their information really shut down my appraiser in my informal hearing. I didn’t even have to go to my formal hearing. Had it not worked, they would have given me my money back. Who can’t like a business like that???

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