What to know about Austin property tax protests for 2020
If there’s one time of year that makes Austin homeowners cringe, it’s now. Yes, it’s time for Travis County to send property owners Notice of Appraised Value (NOAV), which the becomes the basis for your property taxes each year. While these letters from the County often prompt disbelief and outrage, this year may prove to be a little different.
Because the Travis County Appraisal District (TCAD) did not have enough data* to update its residential appraisal model, about two-thirds of Travis County property owners won’t see a significant increase in their property values in 2020. That leaves around 145,000 property owners that will see a change in their valuation due to new construction, changes in ownership, or changes to property characteristics.
All property owners have the right to protest their 2020 property valuation – even if it did not increase. And considering that many homeowners saw significant increases in 2019, this may be a good chance to give it another go. If you decide to protest your appraised property value, here’s what to know.
Act quickly to file your protest before May 15th
Protests must be filed by May 15th.
The County is in the process of sending out the Notices of Appraised Value. If you haven’t yet received your Notice of Appraised Value you can also find updated property appraisal values posted online. We’re happy to talk with you about whether the County’s appraised value aligns with market value or not.
This year’s protest process appears to be first come, first served so don’t wait until the last minute. You can file your protest online, by mail, or leave it in the drop box at the TCAD office. You’ll need to use Form 50-132 Property Owner’s Notice of Protest.
If you protest online you will also be able to see the evidence that TCAD will rely on. Just be sure you select the “Check this box to receive CAD evidence” on Section 6 of the Notice of Protest when you file it.
Be ready with a cogent argument about the market value of your property
While no one likes paying taxes, arguments about affordability, tax increases, or opposition to taxes in general won’t get you very far. Instead, focus on debating the market value of your home.
- What’s different about your home compared to other comparable home sales?
- Do most of the other homes have a pool? An accessory dwelling unit?
- Is your home in a flood plain?
- Perhaps your home is on a busy street?
- Do the other properties have amazing views?
You’ll need to submit evidence to support your request for a lower market value. That’s where we can help. We can analyze comparable sales and provide you with a market analysis to use as evidence in your protest. Photos, surveys, and floodplain data can also be helpful to support a lower appraised value.
Other arguments might include that your property is unequally appraised; the appraisal district incorrectly denied your exemption application; the appraisal district failed to provide you with required notices; or for other reasons set out in the Tax Code.
If this is more than you want to tackle, there are numerous companies that will handle the protest for you, usually taking a portion of the reduced tax amount for their trouble. Let us know if you’d like the names of the companies we recommend.
The process for protesting your 2020 taxes is different
As a starting point you will have an informal phone conference with a staff appraiser. These informal conferences can be scheduled for a specific date and time or you can wait in queue. You only get one meeting, so it’s best to be prepared.
After your informal telephone conference with a staff appraiser, TCAD will decide whether to lower your property valuation or not and send a settlement offer within 10 business days. You can either accept the offer or decline it. The informal process began on April 13th and ends on May 30th, and the filing deadline is May 15th, so again, it’s important to act quickly if you plan to file a protest.
If you are dissatisfied with the outcome of the informal hearing you may appeal to the three-member Travis Appraisal Review Board (ARB). During the formal ARB hearing, the panel will hear evidence from the County staff and the property owner and may ask questions before deciding what market value to assign to the property. The hearings are short, usually lasting 15 to 20 minutes. The ARB will issue a Notice of Final Order sent to property owners via certified mail. If you don’t like the ARB decision, you may appeal through binding arbitration or file a lawsuit in district court.
Be sure to claim any possible exemptions
Texas offers a variety of partial or total exemptions from appraised property values, including a homestead exemption, over age 65 exemption, disability, and veterans. You can learn more about your eligibility for these exemptions and get the relevant forms here. Homestead exemptions are due to be filed by April 30, so don’t delay.
We’re here to help
Real estate is our business, and we are here to help our past and current clients however we can. We can assist with determining your home’s market value, answer questions, and arm you with information if you decide to protest. Just say the word.
And in other news, things are looking up for the Austin real estate market
We've been working directly with a global real estate advisor, Mike Delprete, to estimate the recovery of the Austin real estate market. Based on new listings as compared to 2019 listings at this time last year, Mike thinks we have hit the bottom for Austin real estate and are beginning an upward climb. That said, we think the true indicator is in the number of pending sales and closed transactions, but that data is harder to track. We can say that we are experiencing more activity in the last week. It seems like people are getting restless and tired of waiting. We've put properties under contract for buyers, and we are getting out and showing homes (safely) to interested buyers. If we really have hit bottom this is a good time for buyers to snatch up a home before competition increases, and it's a good time for sellers to get on the market before inventory (aka competing homes) goes up.
Take good care of yourselves. And let us know what us can do to make your life easier.
* There’s a story behind why the County didn’t have enough data; if you’re curious, we’ll fill you in.
April 24, 2020
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