Protesting your property value or 'tax assessed value' is something you should consider doing on a regular basis. The method of assessment used in calculating your property's tax value is quite arbitrary and does not take into account many factors that are specific to your home. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, around one third of local government revenue comes from property taxes, so they are not keen to give you a lower value even if it is deserved. Protesting regularly can keep your property tax where it should be and minimize your annual tax bill. O'Connor & Associates can help you with this or you can follow these steps to personally take to protest your property's tax assessed value.
Make sure that you know your deadline as if you miss it, you will have to wait another year before you can file a protest. Property Tax Deadlines are stated at the bottom part of the preliminary tax assessment that you receive each year, and if you are still not sure, give your county appraisal office a call to double check the date.
To file a protest, you need to complete a property tax protest form which you can either download from the local government website or obtain in person from the county appraisal district office. Complete the form and either mail it with a return receipt or hand deliver it. Once the tax protest form is received, you will be given an informal hearing date which you'd be obliged to attend.
Obtain the Evidence Packet
The evidence packet is a collection of documents compiled by the county appraisal office that details the steps taken to come to the value of your property for tax purposes. You can only obtain this information after you have filed a protest. There are three ways to get the packet, ask for it in person when you deliver your form, download it from the county appraisal website, or request it to be mailed to you. This is an important step as not only does it provide you with the information that the appraisal office used to determine the value of your property, but it also limits the information they can use at your informal hearing to only the information that has been disclosed to you.
Do Your Research
Contained in the evidence packet are the criteria that the appraisal office used during the assessment process, including details such as the amount of square feet, number of stories, age and class of the property. Bearing in mind that the appraiser only assesses your property from the outside rather than doing a full internal assessment that a real estate assessor would do, you need to create a list of similar properties in your neighborhood. Try to find a selection of properties listed in the packet that are within a short distance of your home and are close to the same size and age.
Once you already have your list, you need to find properties in your immediate neighborhood that are similar to the ones in the list you have compiled but are not included on the list. Once you have their addresses, you can research the tax records of these properties from the appraisal office's website and add their details to your list.
The saying, "A picture is worth a thousand words," holds just as true with a house as with a painting. There are several types of pictures you need. First, you need a photo of every house on your list including your own. Next, you need to start finding negative aspects around your property and the surrounding area, and, of course, you need them photographed. For example, is your street busier than others nearby or is there a particular eyesore that stands out when looking out of your windows? Use Google Earth to get a top down view of the area surrounding your property to highlight any negative aspects of the premises. Keep your picture portfolio with your property details ready for the hearing.
Look For Others
A couple a days before your hearing, go to the appraisal office to use the computers there. They contain data about previous protests and their outcomes, which are pieces of public information, but they can only be obtained from the terminals in that office. Input the addresses of every property on your list to see if any of them have gone through the hearing process and what the end result was. Add the outcome and any missing data you may have on the properties that were not part of your initial list that was compiled from the evidence packet.
Attend the Informal Hearing
As part of the process, you will have a date for an informal hearing and another date for the formal hearing. Do not miss the informal hearing as not only can the case sometimes be settled there, but it also severely hampers your chances at the formal hearing. Make sure all the information you have collected is well organized, labeled and that you have formulated a clear argument for your case.
When presenting, use your research to support the value that you think your house should be assessed at and not just that it should be lower than its current assessment. Try not to talk too much about anything other than the facts and photos that you have collected and keep your presentation as straightforward as possible. Remember that the people listening to you have to go through this process all day long and will appreciate a clear, concise and well-researched presentation.
If you do not get the outcome you were looking for at the informal hearing, find out why at the end of the hearing from the appraiser and use their comments to improve your presentation for the upcoming formal hearing.
Consider Hiring a Professional
If you still aren't confident about fighting your case at the hearing, consider getting a property tax consultant to represent you. A company such as O'Conner and Associates regularly deals with the appraisal office and most property tax consultants work on a contingency basis so they will only get paid a percentage of the savings that they are able to achieve.
Contact O'Connor & Associates today if you have any questions regarding your property tax protest!
Posted in: Protest Property Taxes Keywords: Houston Property Tax Protests, Property Tax Deadlines