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Protesting Your Property Taxes in Harris & Fort Bend County

Hot housing market leads to skyrocketing property appraisals across the greater Houston area

Home values increased at record speed throughout 2021 and are currently at ALL-TIME HIGHS across the greater Houston area. This is the first time in our city’s history that home values have significantly increased for every home, at every price point, and in every area across greater Houston!

If you are planning to sell your home in the near future, the rapidly rising home prices are cause for celebration! However, my guess is that you didn’t feel like popping the champagne when you received your Property Appraisal Notice?!

As home prices climb, property taxes follow suit. The rise in property taxes is “unprecedented” and nearly every homeowner is still reeling from the sticker shock of their recent “Property Appraisal Notice”. Below are a few stats to put the county’s appraised values into context:

  • Harris County Appraisal District (HCAD) crunched the numbers on 1.3 million residential properties and found that a jaw-dropping 97% increased in value. The average value of a single-family home rose 21%. And that is just the average! Many homeowners saw an increase of 30% or more! (SOURCE: HCAD.org)
  • According to a recent report from the Fort Bend County Central Appraisal District (FBCAD), the total notice value for residential property in Fort Bend County is up 31%, from about $76.5 billion up to $100.5 billion.
Why is the county’s appraised value important?

The county’s assessed appraisal value of your property multiplied by your tax rate is what determines how much you are going to owe in property taxes. The value is based on what the county appraisal district says that your home could sell for as of January 1, 2022.

5 reasons to protest your property taxes:
  • It’s your right as a homeowner: One of your most important rights as a taxpayer is the right to protest your home’s assessed value to the appraisal review board (ARB). Texans have the right to uniform and equal taxes. However, the system is set up to require the property owner to file a Property Owner’s Notice of Protest Form 50-132 to exercise that right.
  • It lowers your property taxes: The county’s assessed value ONLY impacts how much you pay in property taxes. It does NOT impact what your home’s actual market value if you were to list your home.
  • Protesting this year’s assessed value could keep next year’s assessed value down: If you have a Homestead Exemption, there is a 10% cap on the amount that the Appraisal District can increase your assessed value. This is meant to protect homeowners from rapidly increasing values like the ones we are experiencing this year.
  • There is no cost to protest.
  • Your value can not be increased if you protest: The 2019 Texas Legislature passed Senate Bill 2 which prohibits the ARB from increasing your home's assessed value at a hearing. So you have nothing to lose!!
Why is the difference between "market value", "assessed value" and "taxable value"? 

The market value is what your county believes your property would have sold for as of January 1, 2022. The county attempts to set its values at market value. However, they do not perform an individual market analysis on every home they assess. They also have never been inside any of the homes that they are determining the assessed value of.

Texas is one of a handful of states that are considered “non-disclosure” states. This means that the law does not require that you disclose your sales price to the local government, including appraisal districts. The only parties that are privy to exact sales prices are Realtors, if the home was listed in MLS, and the bank that is loaning the money for the home. This adds to skewed values from the county appraisal district.

In reality, the actual market value could be different from what the county thinks it is.

The assessed value is the value of your property based on the benefits provided by the various exemptions that you are entitled to such as the Homestead Exemption.  

The taxable value is the assessed value minus any exemptions amounts. This is the amount used to calculate your property taxes.

When is the deadline to protest my property’s assessed value?

Since the typical May 15th deadline falls on a weekend, this year's deadline to file your Notice of Protest is Monday, May 16, 2022 or 30 days after the notice of assessed value is mailed to you (whichever is later).  

How do you protest property tax appraisals in Texas?

There are two main methods for protesting your taxes; you can do it yourself or hire a tax advisor specializing in property tax appeals to do it for you. Most companies do not charge any fees upfront. Typically, there is only a fee involved if your appeal is successful. The fee is usually a percentage of the amount they saved you on your property tax bill. Just make sure to read the fine print!

Bettencourt Tax Advisors and O'Connor Tax Reduction Experts are two popular companies that specialize in protesting property taxes. Personally, I have never used either so don't have a first-hand testimonial to provide. Do your research! 

Whether you decide to do it yourself or hire a company to do it for you, it is important to understand the process so you can make an informed decision. 

Steps to appealing your property values in Harris County & Fort Bend County

Review your property details on your county appraisal district’s website. You want to pay close attention to the following when reviewing this information:

  • In the “Owner Information” section, make sure that any exemptions that you filed are listed (I.e. Homestead Exemptions).

Check for the property tax breaks that you are entitled to. You may be eligible for credits based on your income or status as a senior citizen, Veteran, disabled person, or Homestead Exemption. You can find a list of available exemptions on the Texas Comptroller's website HERE.

  • Check the details in the “Property Improvement” section for accuracy. Does it have the correct square footage, accurate lot size, and the correct number of bedrooms and bathrooms? Does it show that you have a pool, spa, and covered patio when in reality you only have a pool?

If the appraisal district shows that you have more of any of these features, file a protest to have them correct the information as this could result in assessed value reduction and in turn lower your property taxes.

Gather evidence to support your appeal. This can include the following:

  • Have a Realtor run a Comparative Market Analysis (CMA) of recently sold homes that directly compare to your home. This is where I can help!! 

**I am not a property tax expert. I strongly believe in adding value beyond the transaction by providing quality resources to help my clients enjoy their homes, ensuring they maximize homeowner benefits, and in helping make their house a home while saving money in the process. Make sure you do your research, carefully review the information provided in the “resources” section below, and/or contact a tax professional. If you would like me to run comparables specific to your home, please email me at jenny.becker@compass.com. Don't hesitate to call me at 832.594.1265 to discuss in more detail!**

  • Research the assessed values of homes that are similar to yours. Homes should be located within close proximity and in your same neighborhood. This information is public record that can be found in the property search section of your local appraisal district’s website. You can find the “property search” link for Harris County HERE and for Fort Bend County HERE. If you find similar homes with assessed values that are lower than your home's assessed value, save the home’s “property details” record from your local appraisal district’s website.  

Document repairs needed on your home that would negatively impact your home’s value if you were to put your home on the market. The goal here is to devalue your home’s condition!

Take pictures of every flaw in your home and get estimates from contractors for ALL of the items that need repair. These items can range from peeling wallpaper and chipped paint to a rundown HVAC system, to a major defect such as a structural or foundation problem. Compile it all! The Fort Bend Central Appraisal District put together a "property Owner Information" guide that covers the documentation needed for submitting estimates of repair. You can access that information HERE

Here’s the thing, most homes are “prepped” before they go on the market. Prepping a home to put on the market can include fresh paint, new appliances, a new roof, etc… It also includes taking care of your home’s deferred maintenance so that it is shown in the best light. All of these items cost money and increase the home’s actual market value. When the appraisal district compares your home to the home down the street that just sold, be prepared to argue that the home, they are comparing it to, had upgrades that your home does not and point these differences out!

Other documentation: Did you purchase your property or refinance in 2021? If you purchased your home last year, you can submit your Closing Statement as evidence to lower your property value to, at least, your purchase price. The Closing Statement must be signed, dated, and must include the legal description of your property. If you refinanced, you can use the Appraisal that your lender ordered as part of that process. The Appraisal must have comparable sales that occurred within six months of January 1, 2022, to be considered.

Make sure that the amount on the “Closing Statement” or “Appraisal” is LESS THAN your home's current assessed value. If the value is higher than your home's current assessed value, I do NOT RECOMMEND including this documentation!

Completing Property Owner’s Notice of Protest Form

When completing the Property Owner’s Notice of Protest Form 50-132 make sure carefully read the form and fully complete all applicable sections. Pay close attention to the "Reasons for Protest" section. Per the Texas Comptroller's informational materials, the reason you choose will influence the type of evidence you may present. The "incorrect appraised value and/or unequal appraisal" will allow you to present the widest types of evidence. 

File your protest with your local appraisal district by Monday, May 16, 2022

Harris County and Fort Bend County allow you to either file your Property Owners Notice of Protest online, by mail, or in person. You can find detailed information on how to file in Fort Bend County HERE or in Harris County HERE.

Additional Resources

Click on the links below for more information on appealing your property taxes

HCAD video series with detailed information on protesting property taxes and exemptions

Video presentations created by the Office of Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts

Guide to Understanding the Property Tax Process

Fort Bend Central Appraisal District's "Property Owner Information" guide

Additional resources on protesting property taxes from the State Comptroller

 

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