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Putting Zillow to the Test:
Stop Pulling Your Real Estate Numbers Out of a Hat:
Disputing Your Tax Assessed/Appraised Value
April 1st begins the period when homeowners start receiving their annual property tax appraisal in the mail. If you have not received one, you can usually go to your county’s website and access the information. Most people have noticed that their home values have significantly risen from last year; I’ve heard some say they have increased in value by 30%, thus their tax liability has also significantly increased. First off, it’s important to note that although your values have increased, the appraisal district cannot raise the tax liability more than 10% from the previous year.
For some, this increase makes a difference of only a hundred dollars or so per year but for others the impact can be thousands which ultimately can increase your monthly mortgage payment if you escrow your taxes with your mortgage payment and your overall budget.
This article is intended to help you understand your tax appraisal and the options you may have if want to dispute your appraised value. This brings me to a very important point I want to make- disputing the tax appraisal to lower your appraised value will NOT impact the sales price of your home when you go to sell your property. A competent real estate professional or bank appraiser does not use your tax assessed value when determining your current market value. I actually heard of someone that went through the review process to increase his tax appraised value because he was concerned it would affect his sale. Please don’t do this!!! Let me briefly explain the difference between the tax appraisal verses a market analysis a real estate agent or bank appraisal uses to assess current value.
1. The Tax appraisal district starts assessing homes around the month of October for that particular year, they finish by January 1st and you are given notice of that value in April…6 months have gone by and the comps are typically too old for current market value. The tax appraiser does not go into your home and likely didn’t even drive by your home to understand the amenities, condition, or location of your property. The tax appraiser uses a variety of methods to assess value including a mass appraisal approach in studying your neighborhood.
2. A market analysis used by a real estate professional or sale/refinance appraisal looks at the current sold comps for your neighborhood (typically within 90-180 days) while assessing the current marketability of your home from current inventory, pending, and sold sales. Unlike the tax appraiser in assessing value, these professionals make a visit to the property to assess the homes finish out, amenities, condition, location, etc. that could all impact the value of your property and make adjustments to price accordingly. They do not take a mass appraisal approach.
Protesting the Tax Appraised Value
The Tax Appraisal District must send out value notices by April 1st for most homeowners (if you have a homestead exemption you fit into this category). You have 30 days after the notice is sent to file a protest. The current deadline is May 2nd.
What can you protest
1. Unequal Appraisal – the appraisal district unfairly placed value on your home in relation to the value of other homes in the neighborhood. Examine the tax assessment of other homes in your neighborhood. If you find other homes uniform and equal to yours who’s assessed value is less than yours, you can use these to dispute unequal appraisal.
2. Failure to Grant Exemptions – You filed a homestead, disability, senior etc. exemption and the appraisal district failed to grant you such exemption. You will find your exemptions on your tax statement or on line.
3. Failure to Provide Notice – the appraisal district failed to provide you notice that the value has changed.
4. Excessive Value – You believe your home was valued at a higher value in comparison with the homes that sold in the neighborhood. I.e. your home did not have the amenities, upgrades, location as the other comparable used. Perhaps you were able to find other comps that are uniform and equal to your home that sold for less than the comps used.
Collecting and Preparing Evidence
1. Log into your account and review any material the appraisal district has on line for your review…this could be comps and calculations. According to the Appraisal District, each property will have a property record card….this is where You can inspect and get copies of the data, comps, formulas, etc., the appraisal district used and plan to use upon the hearing. Make sure you get all this data to use in your valuation (the link to my online property record card is showing no content at this time so you may have to contact them if you have the same problem).
2. Make sure the square footage, bedroom, bathroom, lot size, amenities (if any shown), etc. are correct. I commonly see this information incorrect on tax records. Measure your square footage or consider paying an appraiser to measure the square footage for you (may cost 100-150). If your square footage on tax shows 2500 sq.ft, but it actually is 2300, you have a credible argument. Any inaccuracy that led the tax appraiser to compare your home with other larger home, larger lots, etc. may not constitute an equal and uniform comparable. You will want to pull other comps that are uniform and equal to your home to use to find value for your home. You may want to gather blueprints, deed records, photos or survey as evidence.
3. Review the comps used by the tax appraiser. You can find these online when you log into your account. Again make sure these were the best comps and as close to your home in square feet, lot size, bedrooms, bathroom count, number of garages, year built, amenities, etc. Make sure there are no other sold comps that should have been used. Pull out any that they should not have used and develop your argument to why they should not have been used. Show how they affect the value of your home.
4. Examine the Comps used by the appraiser –
1. Condition- Many times you can go on line to Zillow, Trulia, etc. to view the pictures and details of the home that was sold and used as a comp. Remember, typically homes that were sold have been prepared for selling. Did the homes have new carpet, new paint and yours does not? Did the comps have upgrades that yours does not have (granite counters, remodeled kitchen or bath, energy efficient upgrades, amenities (pool, outdoor living, covered patio, sprinkler system)? Take pictures of all the aspects of your home that have an adverse impact and get estimates on the repairs. Do not include evidence of damage/changes that occurred after January 1st as the date of the tax appraisal is January 1st (i.e. Roof damage, fence, water damage, or any damage that occurred in 2016). Get written estimates to use as evidence along with pictures to fix any items that would need to be corrected to bring your home up to market value as the comps that were used by the tax appraiser.
2. Contact a real estate professional to give you comps you can use in your dispute. Consider contacting the agent involved in the sale for specific questions about its condition.
3. Location/Environmental/Economic Factors – Many times, location can affect the value of your home. Does your home back up to a freeway, a busy road, power lines, industrial zoning? Did any of the comps used by the tax appraiser back up to a beautiful greenbelt? Use google maps or some other way of showing the location of your home and the adverse effects of its location in comparison to the comps that were used.
5. Did you purchase your home for less than the appraised value or have an appraisal done in 2015 that was less in value? Bring the appraisal report or the contract and closing documents showing sales price.
6. Mark evidence with exhibit numbers and make enough copies for the 3-member panel at the ARB Hearing, the appraisal district representative, chief, and yourself.
7. Remember the Tax Appraisal District has the burden of proof to justify its value based upon a Preponderance of Evidence. It’s not who has the most evidence but who has the most convincing evidence. Be precise, well-rehearsed, organized, and short. Don’t make it emotional.
The ARB (Appraisal Review Board) Hearing – What to Expect and How to Prepare
The ARB is a 3 panel board of citizens who are likely property owners as yourself. It is important to be prepared and organized for the hearing with your points and evidence. Please be respectful at all times with all parties. You MUST have evidence to support your value. Announcing you disagree with the assessed value or its impact on you financially will get you nowhere. Again, mark evidence with exhibit numbers to help the panel follow along, use note cards, rehearse, know your points, and be prepared to tell the panel what you think the value of your home should have been. And finally, know the evidence used by the appraisal district and prepare to cross examine/refute the evidence. The following is what you can expect to occur during the meeting.
1. Arrive early
2. Chairman starts the hearing with some formal procedures, identifying the property owner, swears in witnesses
3. Owner/Agent proceeds first, presents evidence, examines witnesses, states opinion of property value. You may use audio visual equipment if appraisal office does
4. Appraisal district representative then cross examines owner, agent, witness,
a. Presents evidence
b. Examines witnesses
c. States opinion of value
5. Owner cross examines appraisal district.
a. Offer rebuttal evidence to refute evidence of appraisal district
6. Appraisal district offers rebuttal evidence
7. Owner then Appraisal District offers closing statements and states the ARB determination being sought.
8. Chairman closes the hearing, panel deliberates issues presented and votes on each matter.
9. Chairman announces determination and an order determining protest is sent by certified mail.
***the purpose of this information is informative but not deemed reliable nor guarantees one’s success in tax disputes. There are companies that specialize in Tax Disputes you can retain or contact the Tax Appraisal District for more information. The information herein was obtained either through personal knowledge and skills in real estate, MLS, various websites, Tax Appraisal District, interviews with Tax Dispute experts, and peers with personal experiences in the dispute process.
Top 10 Reasons to Sell Your Home During the Holidays...
1. Seriously Motivated Buyers are buyers who are willing to take time away from their families and forego holiday vacations to house hunt, thus minimizing the time you waste rushing out of the house for the nosey neighbors, window shoppers, and bargain hunters you find during other times of the year.
2. Less Competition Amongst Sellers with inventory at its lowest around the holidays, meaning more traffic for you! An increase in physical and online traffic can lead to a better price and multiple offers.
3. Your House is Tastefully Decorated and has never looked more beautiful.
4. Families are More Mobile Than Ever and relocate at any time during the year. Some companies prefer a first of year start date and offer relocation allowances, expecting a fairly quick purchase.
5. Internet Searching Surges especially in markets with harsh weather. If your home is not listed, you miss capturing the attention of these buyers...and remember, they are Seriously Motivated Buyers.
6. Traveling Makes Showings Easy as the house is vacant and clean. Not to mention your agent “checking-in” is an added bonus.
7. Buyers are More Emotional around the holidays and tend to be less concerned about numbers and more interested in their feelings, yielding better offers and greater purchase prices.
8. Tax Purposes are a big incentive for end of year purchasers.
9. More Time for Buyers to Shop as a family since children are out of school and many work holiday hours. Purchasing a home can be a family decision and holiday shopping means fewer showings by the same family to ensure all members weigh in.
10. Sell High, Buy Low is possible when you sell during the holidays when inventory is low and buy when inventory is at a peak (think beginning of year and the spring).