NORTH TEXAS (CBSDFW.COM) – Your car is worth less every mile. You replace that innovative phone after two years. Even cash doesn’t get you what it used to. The value of a home in North Texas though, just keeps going up.
For Charles Johnson, it’s just too much. After watching the Tarrant Appraisal District move his homes value up nearly 20-percent in three years, he appealed to a three-person panel to bring it down.
He had a realtor find sales prices for other homes in his area, but it wasn’t enough. The panel gave more weight to comparisons from TAD, that were in Johnson’s neighborhood. The new, higher value, stood.
“I want to know if I’m saying the right thing,” Johnson said afterwards. “Obviously, today I didn’t.”
If anyone does know the right thing to say when protesting climbing home values, it might be Olen Frazier. nThe former businessman was chairman of the appraisal review board — the panels that decide if your house is really worth what county appraisers say it is.
In six years, Frazier agreed he’s seen it all. From owners whose only argument is their home value is too high, to those desperate for a reduction, in danger of not being able to afford the future tax bill.
“It is heart wrenching, and these panels make heart wrenching decisions,” he said.
We asked Frazier to offer advice to homeowners, after hearing from hundreds of them as he sat on the other side of the table.
If you’re hoping for secrets, well, he says there are none. In fact, he says it’s all actually pretty simple.
There are a number of options open to owners these days. You may not even need to speak to an appraiser or go to a hearing. Tarrant County lets owners protest online. Create an account, look at the district’s comps, and make a fair offer of what you believe your home value should be. The online system will give you an answer you can accept or reject within seconds.
You can always call and speak with an appraiser, or visit one at the appraisal district office. It’s possible, your issue can be resolved without a hearing.
If you decide to go through the in-person process though, Frazier said some of the most common mistakes happen before owners even get there, when they are just filling out paperwork.
Most homeowners want to make sure to check two specific boxes on the protest notice: “incorrect appraised value,” and “value is unequal.” Forget to do that, and by law, you can’t compare your home to others like yours, or others sold, even if you’re already in that room.
Once you are in there though, be prepared to do more, than just complain.
“The evidence is, which I’ve heard this many times, is ‘my value is too high’,” he said. “That is the total evidence!”
Frazier estimates he would spend 20 hours gathering sales comparisons, and values for homes that are like yours. Have at least a half dozen for the panel to consider and use recent numbers — nothing older than two years.
“Don’t come in and say ‘I bought that property 10 years ago for $100,000, now it’s valued at $200,000’,” he said. “A 10 year old sale has no value in a hearing.”
Once you have the numbers, show how your home is different. This is when a picture, really is worth a thousand words.
Did hail damage your roof and you didn’t replace it while others did? Does your kitchen pale in comparison to the remodeled one down the street? Prove it with pictures. You can bring in a multi-media presentation, or video. Repair estimates from an outside company, make it more convincing.
You can also bring in as much evidence as you want. You may only have a few minutes to present the most important parts, but the panel can look at all of it and ask you about it. Which leads to one very important thing to remember, when you’re in that room. “Be honest,” Frazier said. “I’m not going to say that the homeowner sitting across the table doesn’t make a difference to some people. It may have a negative impact.”
Which might not be positive for your argument, or your tax bill. But replace emotions, with evidence, and you can walk out with a win.
Frazier wanted us to point out, he’s not an attorney. He isn’t offering legal advice. If you’re not up to making the case yourself, you have the option to hire a property tax attorney or consultant.
The hearings are public though, so TAD encourages owners to stop by and sit in on one to prepare yourself for your own hearing.
The deadline to make a decision on protesting property taxes this year is May 15.