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I Protested My Property Appraisal and Won…Sort Of…

The Harris County Appraisal District thought my life wasn’t busy enough and gifted me with a HUGE problem.  They sent me my property appraisal for 2014 and it boggled my mind!  My new home, built in 2012, had apparently went from being worth $259,500 to being worth $315,000 over the last 18 months!!!  Wow, that’s more than $55,000 in a blink of an eye!  This $315,000 would have been capped at $286,000 for tax purposes since they couldn’t actually go past a 10% increase, but I thought $286,000 was ridiculous too.  Plus, if you give them an inch, they can keep hitting you with a 10% foot every year.  I considered calling them and offering to sale at $315,000 immediately, but then my sense of humor died away and I was just frazzled.

How I Protested My Property Appraisal

  1. First I took some deep breaths and looked into my options based on the forms they included with my appraisal.
  2. Then I used search engines to verify my options like an online iFile protest and the formal Appraisal Review Board (ARB) hearing.
  3. I used the Harris County Appraisal Disctrict’s (HCAD) website to look up my neighbor’s new appraisals and verified that mine was WAY off the mark.  My home was being appraised at $85 a square foot while everyone else’s was between $63-$70 per square foot.
  4. I used their online site to submit the iFile protest to see if they would offer me a realistic settlement offer and save me a trip to a formal ARB hearing.
  5. A month later, they offered a settlement at $280,000 instead of the original $315,000.  But I thought my $259,500 was still more realistic, so I asked for a formal hearing.
  6. I used the “evidence” that they sent me to find the sales prices of homes like mine and in my subdivision.  I combined that info with my own home appraisal research and came to the conclusion that my home really should be valued at $258,000-$269,000 (I obviously went for the lowest number).  This breakdown was shown on an Excel sheet that contained the addresses, market values, appraisal values, price per square foot, etc. of the properties that I was comparing to my own.  This was my “Comp Sheet”.
  7. I took pictures of my home and the comp homes and pointed out that I have the worst lot that is surrounded by power lines.

    My Home's Front

    This was the picture from the front that clearly shows the power lines.

  8. I made 4 copies of all of my “evidence” since they said I needed a copy for each of the 3 ARB members and the HCAD representative.
  9. I showed up to my ARB hearing date on Tuesday 15 minutes before my scheduled 3:05pm time.
  10. I was hustled back to the hearing at 4pm.
  11. The ARB members pretty much ignored me and took the HCAD guy’s assessment completely.
  12. Luckily, the HCAD guy wasn’t a douche and I was re-assessed at $262,000.
  13. I walked out simultaneously pissed that I had wasted so much time getting my “evidence” perfect yet was completely ignored, but happy that my 2014 property appraisal is at $262,000 instead of $315,000.

The ARB Hearing

The hearing was short and freaking frustrating!  Especially after waiting for more than an hour to be seen.

I was asked to sit and was sworn in that what I was attesting was true.  They made a point to tell me that the three ARB members were not associated with HCAD in any way.  Then they asked for me to present my case.  One of the members was obviously ignoring me – to the point that he asked me “So, did you add on anything since the home was built?” about 7 seconds after I finished presenting my case with “And there are absolutely no additions to the house since it was built in late 2012.”  Grrrr…

Then they asked the HCAD guy to present his case.  He flashed up two sheets of comps – one that was realistic, one that wasn’t – and an aerial view of my lot.  He then said that based on that info, my home was probably worth $262,000 in total market value and suggested that the appraisal value be left at $314,000.  In my rebuttal, I asked why the appraisal value should be so much higher than what I could sell it for and he flashed up the non-realistic sheet again.

They accepted his case word for word, and then stated that the taxable value is the lower of the two prices that he set forth.  So I walked out with a “receipt” that said I would be taxed on the $262,000 amount.

I steamed a little on my drive home in commuter traffic.  I am 100% sure that the ARB members are worn down by a job that involves handling ticked off people all of the time.  I just wish they would have at least attempted to act like they actually cared about what I was saying.  My hubby thinks that they may have ignored my actual evidence, but the HCAD guy might have made the realistic settlement offer because of all of it.  That’s a nice thought – that I had made some difference.

Now I’m moving on.  Except I still have an outstanding protest waiting for an iFile settlement offer for our rental home…GRRRR…

Have you ever protested your property appraisal?  How did it work out?

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8 comments to I Protested My Property Appraisal and Won…Sort Of…

  • We went through a similar fight right after we bought our place and they tried to jack up our taxable valuation. The big difference was that the magistrate who ran the case that day was soooo super nice. We still met in the middle, valuation-wise for that year, but it was definitely worth the money to fight it.

    http://www.plantingourpennies.com/how-we-fought-our-real-estate-tax-appraisal-and-won-part-1/

  • Never been through something like this, but I am glad you fought. Even though the event wasn’t thoroughly satisfying, it’s great that you’re not paying more than necessary.

  • Christie

    I’m going a little nuts just reading this !!! : )

  • Hi, Cyrstal I admire you that you fought for your right. I’m planning to protest for our property appraisal too, they appraised a very high value in our house and lot compared to our neighbors that obviously have a bigger house and lot!

  • “being worn down by the job” is no excuse for them not looking at your evidence….although I’m sure there are many people that they have come before them just complaining that their taxes are going to be too high. They need to remember that they’re (especially in your case) talking about a significant amount of money out of someone’s pocket depending up on where the assessment comes in. The housing market in my area hasn’t seen much of a rebound in prices, so my home is still assessed less than what we built it for 10 years ago. Doesn’t really matter to me…I don’t plan on moving and it keeps my taxes low. :)

  • Kathy

    I’m not trying to make you feel bad but in my county it was surprisingly easy to protest the assessment….and win! My mom and step-dad had a bunch of rental properties and after he died, I started helping her with some of the responsibilities. We felt that they had been hugely overpaying their RE taxes for YEARS. We hired an appraiser, paid him $1000 and started the process. The hardest part was adhering to a strict timeline but beyond that easy-peasy. The hearing was quite informal and polite. And we walked away with $14,000 decrease in the taxes on her properties. Of course, by now, those numbers have started going up again, but this time the increase is based on that new lower baseline amount. If you are willing to do your homework, which you did, you are likely to come out successful.

  • retired

    You lowered it by $26K from the original appraisal hike and $18K off their online offered amount. You did good for the day’s worth of work involved. Talk about a good long term investment of time! And you did not pay anyone anything to lower the assessments, so it sounds like you actually saved a 10% fee of $1800 or even the $1000 Kathy paid. Good for you.
    We have owned this house 24 years and fought the appraisal raises 19 times. I guess we “won” every time and never paid anyone else anything to help. We figure we have saved about $12 K over the years or more if you include interest. Depends how you figure it. Seeing that you pay an average of $2,500/year where we live (we have 6 taxing entities, including the navigation district and the drainage district), for a whopping 3.4% annual tax rate now. Most of the tax and appraisal hikes occurred when Bush and Perry have been governor, so it wasn’t that much before 1998. So how much we saved is a bit more complicated formula than you would think. But it has been definitely worth fighting. hang in there and give yourself a pat on the back.
    What is funny is when your neighbors think you are depreciating the resale value of your house when you keep the appraised amount low. Guess it depends on how wimpy of a seller you are, but I am not going to pay you the appraised amount for your home. I will pay what I think it is worth. So, as a seller, I will offer the house for what the market will bear, despite its appraised value. As we look for a new place we are seeing a lot of homeowners who think their unmaintained houses are worth more than their appraised values. They de-list them and keep putting them up over and over, but I have seen some of these on the market for the past 2 years. Its made me very upset with realtors for wasting my time lately (they always assure me they are new listings).

  • They will do anything to increase the towns tax revenue at the expense of the homeowners. Probably only 10% of the people fight the town tax increase. The whole system is flawed because the people who decide are benefitting from the increases. Glad you were able to negotiate.