Appraisal districts use a process called mass appraisal to value hundreds of thousands of houses. In Harris County, they value about 1.2 million houses each year, using a very limited staff. Most of the property inspections mandated by state low (every three years) are now done using aerial photography! Seriously, how much can you tell about the condition of a house viewing an aerial photograph?

In many cases, the computer-generated estimate of market value is within 10% of the true value. However, in about half the cases the value set by the appraisal district is either 10% high or low, because of defects in the mass appraisal process. This applies to Harris County Appraisal District and most other appraisal districts.

We believe about 30,000 homes in Harris County over-taxed by 50% or more in 2014. And about 5,000 homes in Harris County over-taxed by 100% or more. Between 200,000 and 300,000 Harris County taxes are over-taxed by at least 10%.

While this may seem incredible, it is due to the errors in appraisal district property records, inaccurate data regarding cost, depreciation and comparable sales. Further, most property owners have limited knowledge about the appeal process and believe myths about appealing property taxes. They do not understand the HCAD jargon of grade, CDU, level of remodel, land lines, etc. Compounding the problem is a reluctance to revise HCAD records. If an HCAD appraiser agrees a property is over-taxed, he will change the value. However, to correct fields of data such as grade, condition or land value is highly unusual. So the same problems occur from year to year, frustrating home owners and causing HCAD a consistently high appeal value. If Harris County Appraisal District would make updating the records part of the appraisal process, it would reduce the number of annual protests.

Since HCAD targets 100% of market value for their homes, half of all houses are over-taxed and half are under-taxed. The result is there are at least 200,000 houses in Harris County over-taxed by at least 10%. Following is a list of some of the most egregious examples of homes over-valued Zip Code 77449. If you recognize the address, please call the owner and make sure they protest.

Property Zip Code

Property Address

Assessment Ratio

2014 Market Value

Gross Sale Price

Owner Name

77449

19811 Edensborough Dr

179%

$75,000 $134,455 Santoyo Marcos

77449

22831 Beckendorf Rd

154%

$217,350 $335,574 Ryan Jb & Bw

77449

6910 Wide Creek Dr

152%

$124,000 $188,515 Miller M C & Sandra K

77449

6207 E Willow Bluff Rd

141%

$85,000 $119,782 Nolte Steve Andrew

77449

4207 Autumn Meadow Dr

141%

$66,000 $92,751 Corona Pedro A & Gabriela M

77449

5031 Rustling Branch Ln

140%

$108,000 $150,835 Truong Hieu H

77449

22111 Breezy Hill Dr

136%

$65,000 $88,123 Gerrity Robert H

77449

6111 Plantation Forest Dr

135%

$100,619 $135,509 Geranium Holdings LLC

77449

6639 Windy River Ln

135%

$83,000 $111,645 Giering Investments Lp

77449

18140 Twin Creek Dr

134%

$54,251 $72,522 Alnouri Fatima

77449

20146 Raingate Ln

131%

$60,000 $78,625 Wan Jian

77449

6330 Old Hickory St

131%

$108,000 $141,204 Richardson Elaina D & Vaughn B

77449

20833 Patriot Park Ln

131%

$75,206 $98,303 Bltrejv3 Houston LLC

77449

19938 Sand Creek Ct

128%

$84,880 $108,472 Mchugh Sylvia

77449

22319 Unicorns Horn Ln

127%

$190,000 $241,068 Woodall-Faircloth Kristina R

77449

19943 Silver Rock Dr

127%

$120,000 $152,209 Strappa LLC

77449

6419 Mustang Draw Ln

125%

$150,000 $187,571 Nguyen Kevin K

77449

20537 Patriot Park Ln

124%

$73,815 $91,318 Abbasi Asim & Noma

77449

5535 Dunbrook Park Ln

123%

$100,000 $122,970 Housing & Urban Development

77449

22823 Stratford House Ln

123%

$72,000 $88,361 Renderos Mirna

77449

20910 Hall Colony Ct

122%

$96,000 $116,843 Villa Ronald L & Angelita B

77449

6011 Decker Ridge Ct

122%

$95,501 $116,050 Merchant Vishal H & My

77449

20615 Big Wells Dr

121%

$92,500 $112,147 Ortez Arnulfo

77449

20010 Fort Custer Ct

121%

$85,000 $102,686 Guan Xueyong

77449

5119 Gladeside Dr

120%

$100,000 $119,841 Sealy Rhonda L

77449

1510 Brickarbor Dr

119%

$112,000 $133,180 Ruiz Property Investments LLC

77449

21111 Sandy Valley Ct

118%

$109,100 $128,751 Faulkner Margarita O

77449

6810 Eagle Ridge Dr

118%

$127,000 $149,838 Residential Rental LLC

77449

18219 Juniper Crossing Ln

118%

$140,000 $165,145 Gill Martin

77449

4530 Bagley Garden Ct

118%

$123,600 $145,281 Oni Gabriel

77449

22822 Capitol Landing Ln

116%

$94,000 $109,177 Emmert Breanna L.

77449

7026 Sterling Meadow Dr

116%

$115,000 $133,146 Yang Yi

77449

20507 Cocoplum Dr

115%

$75,000 $86,438 Mendoza Ismael G

77449

3123 Amber Meadow Dr

115%

$128,000 $147,408 Freo Texas LLC

77449

19446 Elmtree Estates Dr

115%

$107,500 $123,586 Current Owner

77449

3631 Wild Berry Ct

115%

$127,000 $145,912 Colbert Julian

77449

5102 Blossombury Ct

114%

$152,500 $173,753 Alvisu Eberardo

77449

2006 Vanderwilt Ln

114%

$150,000 $170,514 Tran Anthony

77449

6826 Haven Creek Dr

113%

$90,900 $102,853 Lam Ka Y

77449

6222 Settlers Lake Cir E

113%

$91,000 $102,907 Housing & Urban Development

77449

2803 Mustang Hill Ln

113%

$136,500 $154,236 Hang Xiao

77449

2530 Seahorse Bend Dr

113%

$164,000 $184,804 Valcin Randy & Gertha L

77449

19419 Cypress Bay Ct

113%

$70,100 $78,985 Tirmizi Syed A

77449

21514 Stonecross Terrace Ln

113%

$121,000 $136,316 Vonner Laquinta

77449

6711 Betonica Ln

113%

$55,000 $61,939 Pathak Shalaish

77449

19139 Mossy Hedge Ln

113%

$123,000 $138,462 Spann Renata C & Patrick L

77449

1506 Carters Grove Ln

112%

$160,000 $179,523 Adams Andrew & Emily

77449

20803 Baron Bend Ln

112%

$85,000 $95,331 Ortez Arnulfo

77449

22727 Brafferton Ln

112%

$112,000 $125,300 Engallina Lori A

77449

19730 Cozy Cabbin Dr

111%

$108,000 $120,344 Truong Quoc T

77449

18507 Autumn Hills Dr

111%

$104,000 $115,771 Sfr-Hou I LLC

77449

22339 Unicorns Horn Ln

111%

$197,000 $218,944 Eubank Brandon & Katelyn

77449

19702 Greenside Hill Ln

111%

$130,000 $144,356 Wallace Travis

77449

20058 Little Big Horn Dr

111%

$100,000 $110,896 Alford Bobby G

77449

19722 River Rock Dr

111%

$128,000 $141,794 Dimas Eder E

77449

5423 Gosforth Dr

111%

$105,000 $116,176 Zamora Ana G

77449

20918 Oak Rain Ct

111%

$138,500 $153,154 Wgh Texas LLC

77449

2826 DURHAM CHASE LN

110%

$154,900 $170,780 Henry Michael

77449

19727 Cozy Cabbin Dr

110%

$112,000 $123,346 Truong Quoc T

77449

20410 Eagle Nest Falls

110%

$115,000 $126,514 Smith Gloria

77449

4702 Cypress Dawn Ln

110%

$117,000 $128,597 Geronimo Meliton

77449

19627 Fernhaven Dr

110%

$162,250 $177,996

77449

19214 Terra Forest Ct

110%

$139,500 $152,816 Franco Robinsson E

Since the property taxes are paid by the mortgage company for most home owners, the pain point for the home owner is about one year too late. When they receive the notice their monthly payment is increasing by $100 or $200 or more per month, the appeal deadline has likely passed. The property tax appeal deadline in Texas is May 31, or the following workday if May 31is on a weekend.

The mortgage payment will not likely be increased until after the current year taxes are paid. For example, if your home is grossly over-assessed in 2014, the monthly payment will likely be adjusted in the Spring of 2015. But the deadline to protest your 2014 property taxes is May 31 (actually June 2 since May 31 is on a weekend). Hence, the deadline occurs almost a year before the home owner learns there is a problem.

There is really no meaningful relationship between the methodical work done by an independent fee appraiser and an appraisal district appraiser. The fee appraiser typically inspects and measures the subject property, so he has accurate data. He also personally visits each of the comparable sales to see if they are really comparable.

For homes build before 1980, an appraisal district appraiser has almost never seen the inside of the house. They just guess at the quality of construction and condition. For homes built after 1980, the appraisers attempt to measure them. However, they are often not completed when the appraisers measure them, leading to errors including size (by double counting vaulted ceilings), and level of finish. Curiously, appraisers at Harris County Appraisal District give equal credence to their data on homes built before and after 1980.

The appraisal districts errors regarding your property are compounded by errors in their information regarding comparable sales. The appraisal districts commit several errors systematically that tend to cause them to over-tax home owners. First, properties that sell are typically prepared for sale by putting them in prime condition. Properties that sell have often been recently painted, have new flooring, a new roof, a new HVAC and other similar items. If a buyer was considering buying a typical house not prepared for sale and one that had been prepared as advised by the Realtor, the buyer would certainly pay more for the latter. HCAD terms the cost of preparing a home for sale “maintenance” and does not recognize any difference in condition between a recently sold house and a livable house.

A second serious problem is that appraisal districts tend to use sales that have been remodeled to value houses that have not been remodeled. Incredibly, the insular culture at some appraisal districts, including Harris County Appraisal District, is they require you to prove your house has not been remodeled. This is simply a red herring to cover up the extensive errors in their evidence regarding comparable sales. There is no requirement that the property owner prove the appraisal districts records are correct. If anything, the appraisal district doubting the accuracy of their evidence about your house should undermine their credibility on other issues. If the appraisal district is saying their evidence about your house may not be accurate, why should we give much consideration to any of their other evidence?

In addition to errors regarding the information about your house and the errors regarding the comparable sales, the model used by the appraisal district is imperfect. There is no model that can consistently value houses with precision.

Texas law requires property owners to file a property tax protest to be able to obtain the evidence regarding their house. Protest both market value and unequal appraisal and include a note asking the appraisal district to make their evidence available two weeks prior to the hearing. The protest form is available at http://www.poconnor.com/pdf_forms/41-44.pdf

In many cases, given the large number of substantial errors in valuing houses, the appraisal district’s evidence will clearly show the property is over-assessed. It is critical that you protest prior to May 31, or you will not be able to get the information and determine if you are taxed fairly. Since over 200,000 houses in Harris County are over-taxed by at least 10%, encourage your family and friends to protest, so they at least get to see the appraisal districts evidence.

After you protest and obtain the appraisal district’s information, one of the first priorities is to see if their evidence is accurate for your house. Then check to see if the sales data is accurate.

The data used for analysis was all sales of houses in Harris County that occurred during October 1 2013 to March 31 2014, for which we had a purchase price and a 2014 HCAD market value. The only records that were eliminated were those where there was a major discrepancy between the Realtor MLS data and the HCAD tax roll regarding the size of the land and / or building. Stated differently, this analysis includes all sales except those for which complete information was not available.

For more information, contact Pat O’Connor at 713 822 8613.