Owning a Home & Property Taxes
The Harris County Appraisal District has probably either sent you a “Notice of Appraised Value” or will in the near future if you own property in Houston. In Texas, tax appraisals are conducted during spring and the taxes will be due in the following year. Although this notice isn’t a bill, you need to be familiar with the procedure with which appraisers calculate your tax. More importantly, in the event that you don’t agree with the numbers, it is essential to know your rights.
Compared to other states, Texas tax rates on property are higher on average – which is somewhat balanced out by the absence of state income tax. The state doesn’t determine tax rates here; instead, collection and spending of property taxes happens locally. Property tax rates for the locality are set by individual taxing units, which encompass cities, school districts, MUDs, counties etc. Property value is then assessed by County appraisal districts (CADs) to determine its tax amount.
Before we explain how appraisers in Houston figure out the worth of your home, you should know what the time frame for property taxing is. The basis for all appraisals is the value of the property on January 1. All property is appraised from January till April. In April and May, you are notified of the appraised value by mail. You can dispute the valuation within the next 30 days, and the hearings are usually held from May till July. From October 1st, tax bills start getting sent, which must be paid by January 31 in the next year.
Market value is mostly used to appraise property, which simply means finding the selling price of comparable properties. Since it is impractical to appraise every single property separately, appraisal districts conduct mass appraisals, which involve the assignation of values on groups of properties that share characteristics like structure style and size. This property value is then adjusted to account for different locations and year of construction. However, this mass appraisal can easily result in inaccurate valuations, so it is always a good idea to understand the process and check the figures.
According to the Constitution of Texas, properties with the same values must also have identical taxation to ensure uniformity. If you can prove that comparable homes within your locality were appraised at lesser values, you can cite this clause to make an appeal. Tax documents of similar homes can easily be obtained as they are public record.
Your tax assessment should also include any exemptions you are eligible for, such as disabled veterans, over 65 years of age or homestead exemption if it is your primary residence. With an exemption, the taxable worth of your property is lowered, for example a home worth $100,000 will be taxed on $85,000 if there is a homestead exemption of $15,000. You need to file a claim for this, however, since it isn’t granted by default. The Appraisal District should receive the relevant paperwork as soon as you qualify for any exemption.
Another thing that needs to be double-checked is the description of your home in the property documents. The appraisal value of a home is sometimes miscalculated due to the wrong number of bedrooms or other areas stated in the property detailing.
Upon finding evidence that your home’s appraisal is erroneous, you can either return the
“protest” section of the appraisal form to the appraisal district or visit their website and file an appeal using the available protest form. The appraisers will first endeavor to solve your grievances with an unofficial meeting at their office. If that doesn’t work out, a hearing will be held by the ARB (Appraisal Review Board).
There is no reason to be intimidated by the notion of ARB, as this board consists of ordinary residents of your community whom the appraisal district selected for dispute resolution. Make sure you back your claim with solid evidence and have documents to prove it. These could include an independent appraisal, photos of the property in question or tax records from your area’s comparable properties. If you aren’t well equipped to handle all this, you can get help from a property tax reduction specialist. In most cases, issues are resolved without needing a hearing and do not take up much time.
It should be evident by now how important it is to carefully check the notices of appraised value you receive, and speaking up for your rights is equally important. Knowledge of taxation laws in your locality is essential. Paying your taxes is undoubtedly necessary, but there is no need to allow yourself to be overtaxed.
So many of us are busy that we simply do not have the time to prepare and protest our property taxes. So we toss it to the side and never look at it again. Many property owners think, “Why put forth the effort? We’re not likely to win anyway!” However, truth is most property tax appeals are successful and can result in several hundred dollars in savings and yet less than 7% of property owners ever appeal their taxes.
Helpful Tips Below:
- For most entities in Texas, tax rates are generally set in the month of November just before tax bills are issued.
- In Texas the relevant date is January 1st for valuing property for property tax purposes in most circumstances.
- An effective tool in protesting and winning an appeal when valuing real estate is the sales comparison approach which involves compiling information on recent sales of comparable properties.
- Considering an appeal? The deadline for filing an appeal is usually May 31st. The deadline is either May 31st or 30 days after the appraisal district mails the notice, whichever is later (i.e. 30 days after the notice was mailed by the appraisal district NOT 30 days after the property owner receives the notice)
- If you intend to protest, online services are now offered by many county appraisal districts. By filing your protest online you can save time and money. Another benefit to an online protest is that you will not need to appear before the review board for a property value hearing if the matter is resolved online.
- If you have a case pending, taxes should still be paid by the delinquency date to avoid penalties and interest. You will receive a refund, if an appeal is found in your favor.
- Should you be granted a reduction and currently have a mortgage, it is the mortgagor’s responsibility to notify the mortgage company of monthly escrow adjustments. Whether the savings will be applied towards reducing your monthly payments or your principal is based on each mortgage company. Each mortgage company has its own policies how the savings will be applied. Be sure to check with yours.
Other Helpful Property Tax Resources:
Guide to Understanding the Property Tax Process
Important Information about the Protest Process
Fort Bend Appraisal District
Application for Homestead Exemption
Harris County Protest Form
Fort Bend Protest Form
Fort Bend ABR Procedures & Rules
Property Tax Binding Arbitration for Property Owners
Jeff & Whitney have helped many people move in and out of Sienna Plantation – Missouri City, TX and surrounding areas.
HARRIS & FORT BEND COUNTY PROPERTY TAXES
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