May 2009 – By now you may have received your 2009 Notice of Appraised Value from the McLennan County Appraisal District. And by now some of you are back home from the emergency room after having a mild heart attack! No kiddin’!
I was told that there was some sort of ‘glitch’ that caused well…. the total market value on some home appraisal notices to ‘sky rocket’! Straight out of the ionosphere bouncing off the moon and headed out of the milky way at faster than the speed of light, to put it mildly. Heck, MCAD (McLennan County Appraisal District) had my own home appraised value at over $94,000 higher than last year! My first thought was…. “?!*%!” I’ve talked to other Wacoans whose home values were appraised way too high as well. One home owner in Western Ridge said that his value went from $195,000 to $308,000! – talk about hyper speed.
I called the next day to the appraisal office and was told at first (by whoever answered the phone), that my value would be readjusted down by $56,000. Wow! Thanks but no thanks, you’re still about another $44,000 too high. After wrangling a little, I was finally able to talk to someone else there that could help me. Since I’m a Realtor, I had the comps in front of me and was able to get my value down to where it should’ve been to begin with. Some folks may not be as lucky to have that info front of them.
Note: If you plan to protest the appraised value of your house, this article will contain helpful information. Also, if you live in McLennan County (Waco, TX area) and you need comps of recently sold homes in your neighborhood to use as evidence when trying to get the value of your home lowered by the county, I’ll have a form at the bottom of this article that you can fill out and I’ll get you the comps via email as soon as I can.
Hey, this isn’t about ‘cheating’ the county out of tax revenue. This is about fairness. It’s only fair that your appraisal be as accurate as possible. That’s what the Appraisal Review Board (ARB) is for!
Under Texas law, you have the right to protest the appraisal district’s actions concerning your property. The ARB is an impartial panel made up of citizens to resolve any disputes between home owners (taxpayers) and the county appraisal district.
If you feel that your home’s value is too high and you can’t resolve the issue with the appraisal office directly, then you can take your case in front of the ARB. In addition, the ARB will hear testimony from the person who actually did the appraisal of your home’s value.
Recognize that the Appraisal Review Board acts as an independent judge:
The ARB listens to both the taxpayer and the chief appraiser before making a decision. It is not a case of taxpayer against the ARB and Chief Appraiser. Appraisal district staff must take an oath to tell the truth. The ARB will ask you to take an oath as well, either by swearing or by affirming, before you present evidence. The chief appraiser has the burden of proving your property’s value. If he or she fails to meet the burden of proof, the ARB must determine in your favor.
There’s a recent addition to the law that adds another tool for the owner of property under protest with a market value of $1 million or less. If the property owner submits to the appraisal district a properly conducted, recently completed and certified appraisal of property value at least 14 days before the hearing, the appraisal district must provide evidence that clearly refutes the independent appraisal. If the county appraisal district fails to do so, the ARB is required to rule in favor of the property owner.
If you believe the value of your home is too high, then by all means CALL THE DISTRICT APPRAISAL OFFICE FIRST! Typically, the folks there would rather not go through the time and hassle of a hearing in front of the ARB and are sometimes more than willing to try and resolve your dispute over the phone.
I’ve had to protest my home’s appraisal a few times and I’ve never had to present my case to the ARB. Only once, did I have to go down to the district appraisal office. Every other time, we managed to iron out our differences over the phone
“Okay, so now what? I got my appraisal in the mail, it was too high and we can’t come to an agreement.”
For McLennan County, you must file a written notice to the Appraisal Review Board if you want them to hear your case. File your notice of protest by May 31 or no later than 30 days after the appraisal district mailed a notice of appraised value to you, whichever date is later. Note that the deadlione is 30 days after mailing the notice, not its receipt. If you are an off-shore worker or on full-time military duty, you may be entitled to file a late protest.
The hearings will begin on June 15th, 2009 and be held at: 315 South 26th Street in Waco, TX
You should’ve received a protest form with your notice of appraised value. If you did not, then send a letter with your name, property address, and the reason you’re protesting. If you have any questions, the phone number for the McLennan County Appraisal District is (254) 752-9864.
Okay, now that you have filed the written notice, you need to start collecting evidence to support your protest.
Here are a few tips and other things to know when protesting your appraised value to the Appraisal Review Board:
- Collect information about recent home sales in your neighborhood. If you need comps for your neighborhood, I have a form at the end of this article that you can fill out and I’ll be glad to get that information for you. Make sure you use sales data of properties that’s comparable to your own. Year built, square footage, locations, type of construction, etc… The comps will be of recent sales. Typically, going back the last 6 months. If necessary I can broaden the area or use sales going back a little further.
- Be sure to weigh the costs and time it may take to prepare a case! If it’s only going to save you a couple of bucks, then take that into account!
- Take photos of your house that will support your claim of a lower value. For example: cracked slabs, bad plumbing, etc…
- Make note if you don’t have some of the ‘extras’ that other properties in your neighborhood may have:tile, wood floors, granite counters, storage shed, swimming pool, etc…
- Think about using an independent appraisal for evidence. Have you recently refinanced your house? You may have a copy of your appraisal in the packet of information you got after closing on the new loan.
- Be sure to ask the appraisal district for records of similar properties in your neighborhood
- Check to make sure that the county has the right square footage of your house. If the county has your square footage higher than it actually is, that will skew your value. If you don’t know how to measure your house, you can call an independent appraiser to do it for you. The cost will probably be $50 – $100.
- Present a simple and well organized protest based on clear evidence. Stress key facts and figures. Write them down in a logical order and be sure to give copies to each ARB member! You’re required to give a copy of your evidence to the appraisal district before the hearing as well.
- Stick to the facts. The ARB has no control over the appraisal district’s operations, budget, tax rates, or local politics. Trying to address these topics will waste time and will not help your case.
- Most important of all – BE ON TIME TO THE HEARING!
If your property value is too high and you’re not comfortable going in front of the ARB, you can have someone act as your agent. The person that you appoint as your agent just needs to bring a written notice signed by you giving that agent a right to act on your behalf.
Here’s a few downloads that you may find useful:
Texas Property Taxpayer’s Remedies: How to Protest Your Property Value for Property Taxes
Appraisal Review Board Manual – 2009
Property Tax Info – From the State of Texas Website
If you’re protesting your property tax appraisal and need comps of recent homes sales for your area, please feel free to fill out the form below and I’ll be glad to email a CMA to you. You may be able to use the comps to help get your appraised value lowered!
Important: Please fill out your name, email, and the address of your property. I need the address to make sure that I pull the right info for the right neighborhood!
As always, if you have questions or need more info, just give me a call.