Appraisal notices for property taxes for the Clear Lake Area of Harris and Galveston counties arrive in the March/April timeframe and include the proposed market value and estimate of new property taxes for your home. The central appraisal district (CAD) uses market values of comparable properties (or comps) minus exemptions and other reductions (like appraisal caps for boom markets). However, this process is a mass not individual home approach and thus may not be accurate. When you get your appraisal, check to see if your square footage is off, the number of rooms is incorrect, or the age is incorrect. If any of these are true then you may have a case for protesting your property tax. Even if these are correct you still may have a case if your home has unique features among the others on your street and neighborhood. Also, appraisal districts use the actual age of your home as the effective age for tax purposes and thus may need adjustment depending upon the condition of your home. If your home is not well-maintained then the effective age could be less than the actual age. Be careful of the opposite, however, as a well-maintained home has a lower effective age and it will tend to make your taxes higher. If you think your appraisal is incorrect then you may want to file an appeal:
- you have 30 days from the date of your notice or May 31st whichever is later to schedule an interview with an appraiser. (check your local CAD site for exact procedures).
- request a copy of the comps used by the CAD to determine your home’s market value.
- gather your documentation and opinion of value including photos of your home and properties on your street (to set the context of your home in your neighborhood) and any descriptions of maintenance or structural problems the home may have along with repair estimates since these reduce your value (fences, paint, roofing, etc. do not add value so they cannot be used).
- At the interview explain the differences between your home and the comps.
- if after presenting your information at the interview, you are not satisfied with the result, you may appeal to the Appraisal Review Board (ARB).
- if you are still not satisfied you may request binding arbitration if your home is less than than 1 million in value unless the property is homesteaded, in which case there is no limit.
Refer to your local CAD office and/or web site for more info and help on reading appraisal notices (such as CAD codes)