When it comes to saving money on property taxes, making sure your home is appraised correctly by the taxing authority is one of the most important things you can do. If you feel the appraisal value on your home is too high, you have the right as a homeowner to protest the value. The deadline for filing a protest in Travis County, Williamson County, and Hays County is May 31st, so take some time to read this post and decide whether to take action.
What Can You Protest?
There are several reasons you may choose to protest your home’s value. Here are a few of the most common:
- Excessive Value - You believe the value the appraisal district has placed on your home is too high.
- Incorrect Square Footage - You believe the square footage the district has on file is too high, resulting in a higher appraisal value.
- Unequal Appraisal - You believe the value the appraisal district has placed on your home is unfair compared to other homes in your neighborhood.
- Failure to Grant Exemptions - The appraisal district has denied an exemption on your home.
- Failure to Provide Notice - The appraisal district failed to provide you notice that your home value changed.
Check out the FAQ page of the Texas Comptroller’s Office to see more reasons you may want to protest the appraisal district's value.
Steps to Protest Your Appraisal Value
1) Review Your Appraisal Notice, Data, & Determine Whether to Protest
Over 395,000 appraisal notices were sent to Travis County residents in 2014. When you receive your appraisal notice in the mail, it will include all the information about your home’s appraised value, as well as a Notice of Protest Form you will need if you decide to protest the value. Before you file a protest, be sure to:
- Determine If It's Worth the Effort: Before you go through the effort to protest your tax appraisal, make sure you have a case and that the tax savings you anticipate are worth going after. Even if the savings are small, it may still make sense to protest since each year the taxing authority has the right to increase a home's assessed taxable value up to 10% of the previous year's value.
- Prepare Your Case: If you decide to protest, be sure you are prepared to present the taxing authority with data to support your case. You can search for property values online at the website for your county appraisal district (Travis County, Hays County, or Williamson County). If you purchased your home within the last year and the appraised value is more than your purchase price, your HUD or CD showing what you paid is sufficient to protest the value - and usually works for the first year you own the home. If you built a custom home and kept great records on your costs, a stack of receipts and bills paid for the construction may be all you need. Otherwise, you can start by looking at recent sales in your area - your Realtor can help with this. If the comps support your case, that's enough to file a protest. If none of these options apply, you may need to do a bit more digging to find data favoring your position. You can use surveys, deed records, photos of your home’s condition, damage reports, and any other documents related to your claim as evidence. Lastly, you can also review all the data the appraiser used to assess your home’s value by requesting copies from the district or asking someone from the district to review the valuation with you.
2) File a Notice of Protest with the Appraisal Review Board
Over 95,000 protests were filed with Travis County in 2014, and the district expects the number to keep growing over the years. If you decide to move forward with a protest, follow the instructions on how to file your protest form that were included with your appraisal notice; you may even be able to file online. The deadline to file your Notice of Protest is May 31st, or 30 days after your appraisal notice is mailed, whichever date is later. Get more tips on filing your protest in this handout from the Texas Comptrollers Office.
3) Attend an Informal Review
In most districts, informal sessions are held where protestors can meet directly with an appraiser to discuss their home’s value. Be sure to bring any documentation supporting your case to this session. Many disputes over home values are solved at this time, though in some years we have seen districts require formal hearings for almost all cases.
4) Plan for your Formal Hearing
If the dispute is not resolved, a formal hearing will be scheduled with the Appraisal Review Board (ARB). This governing body is made up of local citizens appointed by the appraisal district’s board of directors or local administrative judge. The ARB will send you notice of the time, date, and location of your formal hearing 15 days in advance. Your hearing notice will include information to help you understand the ARB’s procedures. Note: If you have not already received data supporting the district's case, you have the right to receive this information 14 days prior to your hearing.
5) Present Your Case to the Appraisal Review Board (ARB)
Arrive early for your hearing and come prepared with all supporting documentation. Also, be respectful! Members of the ARB are people, and your demeanor and presentation style can influence their decision. The ARB will first hear your case, then a representative from the appraisal district will present their case. After all the evidence has been presented, the ARB will discuss the information and take a vote. Once a decision has been reached, the ARB will announce their decision. The results of the hearing will also be sent by mail.
6) File an Appeal if Necessary
If you are still unsatisfied with the decision made by the ARB, you may file an appeal with the county district court or the State Office of Administrative Hearings. You may also request a Binding Arbitration. For more information, visit the website of the Texas State Comptroller.
So that's the process! While it may seem overwhelming, most appeals only take about three hours of your time from start to finish, and our agents are willing to help. If your appraisal doesn't seem right, it's definitely worth investigating - you could save money in taxes year after year with one successful protest! If you have any questions about your home’s property value, contact us - we're happy to assist.