Property taxes are enormous expenses for homeowners. Every year, along with mortgage payments, homeowners write checks for thousands of dollars based on their property tax assessments. What you might not know is that the government likely based your tax payment on an overassessment of your home’s value.
Appealing your property tax assessment could save you thousands of dollars – especially in Texas, where tax rates can match up to 3 percent of your home’s value. The process is simple with the right online tools. Here’s what to do.
1. Check the Accuracy of the Assessor’s Description of Property
Often, an overvalued property comes from an inaccurate legal description of the land. If the issue is something to do with the description of property, property records, or even the assessor’s math, you can base your appeal on the grounds of misinformation. Here’s how to tell if your assessor’s statement is correct:
- Get a copy of the assessor’s records. This is easy with an online property records search. Simply enter the name, address, or tax number of your property and select the correct one. You’ll unlock the legal description, lot size, year built, and assessed value of your home in seconds.
- Verify an accurate description of your property. Check all the facts of your property information to see if there are any mistakes that could have contributed to the overvalue. For example, if your description is outdated and includes a detached shed that is no longer on the property. Legal description mistakes can easily be at the heart of an inaccurate assessment.
- Check the assessor’s math. Something as simple as a math mistake on the assessor’s part could lead to a property tax assessment that’s too high. Using your copies of the assessor’s records, do the math yourself and check for errors. If the assessor made a mistake, base your appeal on this fact using the records and your own math.
In many cases, assessors do not have the most recent information about your property. They make unfair assessments that lead to you spending thousands of dollars you shouldn’t really owe. Doing a bit of research yourself can uncover the true value of your home, as well as mistakes on the property assessor’s part.
2. Learn the True Value of Your Property
Property tax amounts stem from an “equalization rate,” or a percentage of your home’s market price. The problem is, the assessors don’t always have the most recent market value information on your property. Experts at the National Tax Union estimate that the government over-assesses as much as 60 percent of taxable properties in the U.S. Estimates of your home’s value could be a few years old, and inaccurate regarding it’s worth today. A bit of research on your part can result in much smaller tax payments. Here are a few ways to find the true value of your property:
- Perform an online public records search. A history of your home’s tax liens, abstracts of judgment, mortgages, land map, acreage, previous sale dates, and its legal description can help you prove that the assessor made a mistake or has old information.
- Look at comparable properties. Find at least five properties similar to yours in your neighborhood. Conduct a Sales Comparable search online and immediately see a list of property sales in your area that are comparable to your home.
- Consult with a real estate agent. If necessary, bring in professionals to help you more accurately assess the value of your property. Call your real estate agent and request an updated report on your property’s value.
It may surprise you to find that the assessed value of your home used for property taxes is much higher than the actual current value of your property. This can be the basis of your tax assessment appeal in Texas. The more research and information you have on your property’s value, the more likely you are to have a successful tax appeal.
3. Make an Informal Appeal to the Assessor
Once you determine your property tax assessment is indeed too high, it’s time to start the appeals process. First, make an informal appeal in the form of a letter to the Tax Assessor’s Office. In the letter, explain why you believe the assessment is inaccurate. You will need to provide evidence – namely, the documents, records, and proof you collected in the first two steps. Your evidence can include:
- Legal description of your property
- Property value history and sales records
- Proof that the assessor’s math was wrong
- Current appraisal of your home’s value
- Comparable home sales in your neighborhood
- Photographs of your current home and property elements
You only have 30 to 45 days from the time you receive your tax assessment letter to file this appeal, so act quickly. Remember, the more research you have, the stronger your property tax assessment appeal claim.
4. File a Formal Appeal
If your assessor disagrees with your appeal and does not settle your claim during the informal stage, it’s time to take it to the next step. You can find the exact appeals process information on your local government’s website. There will be instructions and forms you can download to file an appeal. You will need to schedule an appearance in front of the County Board of Commissioners for a final decision if the assessor continues to stand by the original assessment.
5. Prepare Your Appeal Case
A judicial hearing can be a daunting experience, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Just show up with the above-mentioned pieces of evidence for the strongest case possible. Bring bulleted lists of why your assessment is inaccurate, with proof to back up your claims. Thanks to online public records searches, you can access and print many records about your home at little to no cost. Use these records as proof that the assessor made a mistake that’s unfairly driving up the cost of your property taxes. With indisputable evidence, you have a good chance of swaying the vote in your favor.
If your appeal is one of the many that are successful, you could be looking at saving hundreds to thousands of dollars on your property taxes this year. The effort is well worth the reward when appeals succeed, especially when you do the research on property value yourself instead of hiring a third-party company. Thousands of dollars could be on the line – take action to appeal your property tax assessment today!