We found an interesting article in The Wall Street Journal (clink this link to full article), dated August 20, 2011. A few of the salient points are summarized below. While we previously covered lowering property taxes specific to Texas property owners (click this link to see that blog), we found this article did a good job of laying out the opportunity for significant savings and the main areas where savings can be found. Here are two key takeaways:
HOME VALUES HAVE DECREASED YET PROPERTY TAX REVENUE HAS INCREASED
According to the article, “Property taxes across the U.S. have increased by nearly 20% from 2005 to 2009…” and the article continues “Over the same period, home prices in major urban centers fared badly, decreasing 31%...”
This is a very significant discrepancy. Keep in mind this article is taking the entire U.S. into account and Texas counties such as Harris, Dallas, Collin, Denton, Travis, Bexar, Tarrant, Williamson, etc. are fairing much better in retaining their home value, but the values have still declined.
The cause is property taxes don’t move in lockstep with home values. Some county assessors don’t review every property every year and the value reductions may not be incorporated into your current appraisal. It’s likely your current property taxes reflect your home’s value when the housing market was healthier. Since, you can’t do anything about the tax rate as this is set for budgeting and is applied to the appraised value of all similar properties in the county; your appraisal value is your only opportunity to reduce your taxes.
THE KEY TO A SUCCESSFUL COUNTY APPRAISAL APPEAL
From the article: “One key to a successful appeal: fact-checking the assessor’s work. About half of all successful appeals come from homeowners pointing out an error in the assessor’s description of their home.” Several methods are employed to assign a value to your home including house-by-house appraisals, computer models, or even aerial photos. This type of cursory review can leave out details that may lower your appraisal. Using these methods, a home in disrepair can carry the same value as an updated and renovated one in the same neighborhood. In addition to condition of property, factors such as square footage and # of baths carry significant weight. Correcting these discrepancies can result in a more representative value of your property and a lower property tax bill.
This seems true and to see more specifics on contesting your home’s value in Texas, see the blog link we posted above.
One of the key takeaways from the article is this: “Local officials say they expect appeals from property owners if it’s warranted, so don’t be shy.” This is especially true in Texas where the appeals window is opened every May when new proposed values are sent out to Texas property owners. So don’t be shy – arm yourself with the knowledge on how to have a successful appeal and then be forceful, yet tactful, in lowering your property’s assessed value.