DALLAS — Are you ready for a fight? You in one corner, the appraisal district in the other? If so, calm down and consider an emotion-free, fact-based approach to protesting your property tax appraisal.
Experts, including Dallas Realtor Ben Lauer, say part of a successful effort is how you approach appraisers (for informal protests) and appraisal review boards (for formal protests).
“They don't want to deal with contentious people, so when you're talking to them, be nice. This is a human being," said Lauer.
With so many appraisals increasing by so much this year, keeping a level head may be especially crucial this time around. There could be a record wave of protests in Texas this year, so those hearing the challenges will likely already be getting an earful.
How to make your case for a lower property tax appraisal
So, the latest installment of ‘How to in ’22: How to make your case for a lower property tax appraisal. And you should think of it as building a case and gathering evidence. You want to tell them the story of your individual home’s value.
Remember, mass appraisals are done with computer programs. Appraisers didn’t exactly study your individual house in detail. Lauer points out that they used sales of ‘comparable’ homes around you.
“They say, well this area went up X amount and so your house went up X percent," he said.
Many homeowners might feel intimidated about protesting
Probably not long after you received your appraisal, more mail started arriving from firms offering to fight your appraisal for you. Some of them offer the service in exchange for a fee. Others offer to fight your appraisal and only collect a percentage of the amount they get it reduced.
Before signing up with any firm, look online for ratings from others. If they have a Better Business Bureau profile, check that. It will include a complaint history.
Also, ask around on neighborhood social sites and ask friends, family and neighbors. You likely know quite a few people who have protested in the past and can recommend a company or warn you about their prior experience.
Realtor Ben Lauer is, once again, offering a free service to help homeowners who are considering a protest.
“We just make sure that you're not being over assessed," said Lauer.
He is concentrating again on Dallas County, and this year, he is also expanding to include homeowners in Collin and Rockwall Counties, too. Click here to go to the site Lauer has set up to walk homeowners through the process.
Important note: Lauer expects many people will take him up on his offer, so he insists anyone who is interested must go through the instructions on the site prior to May 1.
More helpful information about property tax appraisal protests in my full interview with Ben Lauer here:
Realtor Chandler Crouch, who has become notorious for helping tens of thousands of people protest their appraisals each year, is also offering his services free of charge again, but only for homeowners in Tarrant County. Here is the site he has set up to assist homeowners with the protesting process.
Things to keep in mind if you protest your appraisal
- Remember, any realtor can help you find sales of nearby homes comparable to yours.
- Make sure they are looking at sales that go all the way back to Jan. 1 of 2021, since your value is based on all of 2021. Since prices consistently escalated as the year went on, some of the sales prices from earlier in the year may have been lower. And lower prices for homes around you benefit you when you are trying to convince appraisers that the value is not as high as the one they assigned to your property.
- If you protest, you are entitled to know from the appraisal district which homes they’re comparing yours to. Ask for that information. It may already be on the central appraisal district’s website when you look up your address and your appraisal. Go look at those homes to see if they are substantially different from yours. Maybe they are situated on a greenbelt or a golf course, and your house is next to a loud, busy highway and a huge radio tower.
- Lauer and Crouch say you want to explain your flaws. Lauer said, “Things like if your fence is falling over and you've got deferred maintenance or there's cracks inside."
- Take pictures of any worn out or damaged parts of your home.
- If you have expensive repairs that need to be done, you might consider getting estimates to prove that your home needs costly work. Or if you have recent estimates or estimates that were made last year, those might suffice, too.
- If you made major repairs this year, but the damage was there even part of 2021, find the receipts and make that part of your case proving that in the year your home was appraised it had damage or flaws that would have reduced its value.
- You have limited time to appeal. As the Texas Comptroller pointed out, “In most cases, you have until May 15 or 30 days from the date the appraisal district notice is delivered — whichever date is later.” See more info and read the FAQs about that here.
Why this may be the best year yet to protest your property tax appraisal
Realtor Chandler Crouch shares more of his expertise on best practices for protesting your appraisal. He joined us on our Y’all-itics Texas political podcast this week and offered a lot of valuable insight. Listen here:
Crouch said that it's often the case that you can do a lot less work and get the value down with just an informal meeting with the appraiser. That may be especially true this year if we see the record deluge of protests some are predicting.
Lauer noted that the more people who file protests, the more pressure it will create for reviewers to work expeditiously since they have to meet deadlines.
“So, there is that motivation for them to just get it through and get it done," said Lauer.
Crouch has the same take: “I think your odds of winning this year are higher than ever before just because they are trying to churn through the numbers. They want to make you happy so they can get you out of their office and get to the next person.”
How often do protests succeed? And how much do they typically knock off?
Not all central appraisal districts are very responsive when I ask them for exact figures on this, but let’s get to two that are: Collin County and Denton County.
In Collin County last year, 27,195 protests made it to the appraisal review board. Almost half of them (13,068) resulted in a change in valuation. In Denton County, they say that out of about 90,000 total protests, 70-80% had a reduction in value.
Lauer, who has helped many homeowners with their protests, said, “I think we knocked about $40,000 off (the originally assessed value) on the average person that we disputed last year."
One easy thing you can do to lower your property tax burden
Your property tax appraisal value will eventually be multiplied by the tax rate set by the various taxing entities where you live to determine your property tax bill. Homeowners have an easy and unique way this year to lower their property taxes in the future. On the ballot for local elections on May 7, there are two propositions. Here is a plain English explanation of what they would do.
One proposition would allow for a reduction of property taxes for elderly or disabled persons. The other would increase the homestead exemption from school district taxes, which would be an added savings in property taxes for all Texas homeowners who have gotten a homestead exemption on their property.
If you haven’t gotten your homestead exemption, it could save you a lot of money year after year. Click here for the application from the state.