If you think the market value of your property is incorrect, the appraisal district encourages you to file a protest. First and foremost, understand that when you are negotiating with an appraiser at the appraisal district that you are protesting your property value, not your property taxes. If your strategy for winning your protest is to convince the appraiser that your ever increasing taxes are a huge burden, your story will fall upon deaf ears. The appraisal district has absolutely no control over your tax rates; they simply determine property values.
In most cases, no appraiser will physically visit your property to assess the value. Counties simply do not have the manpower to cover the entire county on a yearly basis. I live in Harris County, where there are 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.
Preparing for your hearing is most crucial. 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.
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.
Google Earth – 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 (i.e. construction, road issues). Get creative as this adds support to your argument.
MLS Sales – If you know a Realtor that can assist with evidence gathering, ask them to print some of the SOLD properties in your neighborhood. Many times you will see that the appraisal district’s evidence will suggest that a comparable house built in 1965 with no remodeling recently sold for $150,000. This “never remodeled” house is jacking up your home value. However, you may be able to find the property on MLS and see that the pictures and description suggest otherwise and it sold for a higher price solely because it actually had a COMPLETE remodel recently. Therefore, your value should be adjusted downward from that sale because your “comparable” home is in original condition and has never been renovated.
Estimate of the value – When you meet with the appraiser you need to have a number in mind and support that value with the evidence you have prepared. Saying you want a lower value without knowing what that lower value should be suggests to the appraiser that you haven’t done your research. Remember, you’re trying to prove your case for property value. It’s hard to prove something when you don’t have a theory built yet.
Short and Sweet – Appraisers may sit with 20-40 property owners every single day. They probably hate protest season and people in general by the second week. Limit your stories and stick with the facts. The appraiser will appreciate it and will hopefully return the love in the form of a value reduction. 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 them to nudge your value down. Never argue, complain or whine.
Chances are pretty good that you’re paying more in property taxes than you should be so present the evidence at hand and speak with confidence.. According to the National Taxpayers Union, as many as 60% of properties in the U.S. are assessed at a higher amount than their current value. I personally bought my home six months ago and recently received a tax assessment $10,000 higher than what I paid. I have already protested and settled with my county and will save at minimum $400/year now on my property taxes. Hopefully you will too! If you decide to protest, let me know how it went for you.