Fighting the system: Residents to protest rising appraisal values

Shock and awe were the first two reactions Buda resident Joshua Sosa had when he received his 2017 home appraisal notice in the mail this month.

Sosa, who has been living in his home in the Huntington Estates subdivision since 2014, saw his appraisal rise by $26,000 from last year’s value.

“How in the hell do they appraise my home and add $26,000 when I haven’t done anything to it or declared anything or added equity?” Sosa asked. “I was very surprised and caught off guard.”

Now Sosa, along with many others across Hays County, are preparing to protest their home appraisals to Hays County.

David Valle, chief appraiser at the Hays Central Appraisal District (CAD), said in a emailed response that 1,187 protests have so far been filed as of May 15. In 2016, the CAD received 11,523 protests.

The last day to file a protest is May 31.

Valle said the CAD expects the number of protests to increase this year.

If the “positive trends in real estate and the overall economy continue,” the county could see a continued rise in the number of protests.

Growth is the primary reason for appraisal values rising in Hays County. Earlier this month, the Hays CAD said in a press release the average market value for homes increased by nine percent countywide.

Hays County remains one of the fastest growing counties in the nation, with cities such as Kyle experiencing rapidly rising appraisal value rates.

On May 1, the Hays CAD sent appraisal notices to residents.

Bill Loeb, a real estate agent in the Dripping Springs area who helps people protest their tax appraisals, said the county has been “very aggressive” on raising the appraisals in recent years.

That was due in part to some of the “phenomenal real estate value appreciation.” But he claimed many people who have seen moderate appraisal increases in the past are now seeing the maximum 10 percent increase per year in market values.

“After two or three years, people are getting taxed out of their houses,” Loeb said.

While everyone is equally getting hit with rising appraisal values, Loeb said those who have the least amount of success in fighting appraisal values are in larger neighborhoods, such as Belterra off Hwy 290 toward Austin.

For Sosa, the increase in valuation is seen as “painful” as it could affect families on fixed incomes and affect the elderly.

While he understand how, over time, a house would increase in value, seeing appraisals rise rapidly places some homeowners “not in a good situation.”

Reactions were mixed from residents who spoke via Facebook about whether or not they were going to protest their home appraisal.

Ed Cooke said via Facebook he is fighting his appraisal as he claimed his taxable value is $30,000 more than the market value.

Karen O’Grady said her neighbor might not be able to afford his home if property appraisals continue to rise. She is contemplating protesting as her taxes have increased $2,000 over three years and she now pays more in escrow than in principal and interest.

“Taxing people out of their homes is NOT good for our community,” O’Grady wrote.

Lisa Zambrano wrote there “was not enough improvements to warrant” a $50,000 increase over five years for her home, $20,000 of that taking place in 2016.

Janice Bowden Hardaway wrote on Facebook she wasn’t going to file for protest, however, as houses in her neighborhood are selling for more than $100,000 over the purchase price of her home, which she bought three years ago.

“Which means our value has gone up,” Hardaway wrote on Facebook. “It doesn’t put money in my pocket at the moment, but that appreciation doesn’t come for free.”

Valle said whenever protests come in, the CAD receives and processes them and the appeal is opened and scheduled for a hearing. On average it takes 30 to 45 days for the CAD to handle each protest, depending on the complexity of the issue.

According to Valle, the average reduction from protests is $25,879.

“We request that they please attempt to discuss their problem with a staff appraiser before their scheduled date to avoid a formal hearing with the [Appraisal Review Board],” Valle said in an emailed response.

How are home values appraised?

According to a brochure given to Hays County residents, at least once every three years, each parcel of property in Hays County is visited and reviewed by an appraiser in accordance with Texas Law.

During the visit, the appraiser reviews property characteristics and records any changes from the last review cycle. An example is addition or removal of a shed or a barn. The appraiser also looks at improvements to the exterior of the property. However, appraisers never ask to inspect a home from the inside.

Typically, an appraiser validates size and types of improvements and notes any additions, as well as construction quality and condition of improvements, as well as site characteristics.

The appraisal district determines the market value of a property using three methods, if applicable:
• Sales approach – how much properties have sold for and how much they’re selling for in today’s market.
• Cost approach – How much it would cost today to build an identical strucuture on the property
• Income approach – Determines value through analysis of income and expenses to determine the market value. This is the preferred method when appraising an income producing property.

In addition, a property’s market value can change as a result of the economy, as well as changes to the property. A sluggish economy, slow growth and no demand or buyers can lead to decreased property values. Conversely, rapid growth could cause a rapid increase in property values.

Info: Bill Loeb can be contacted at bill@baymoonproperties.com.

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