Property value protests forum

Property tax consultants Will Wiggins (left) and Glenn Goodrich share the latest information on property value protests for 2021 at a forum sponsored by The Dallas Morning News Rewards program.

More than 1,700 people signed up to watch The Watchdog’s 4th annual property value protest seminar. As moderator, I felt as if we received 1,700 questions.

We crammed so much information into one hour that one viewer complained in the Zoom chat that we were talking too fast. Watch the complete video at DallasNews.com.

For many Texas counties, the deadline this year to file a protest is May 17. Denton County’s deadline will likely be in mid-June. (This lack of standardization across the counties is one more annoyance of a very unfair taxing system.)

The most common question asked is this: I’m over 65 years old, and my school taxes are frozen. Should I still file a property value protest?

The answer: “Sometimes,” said Will Wiggins of North Texas Property Tax Services.

Not all tax entities freeze their rates for seniors, he said. All school districts are required to, and most counties do. But that still leaves about 20% of your taxes susceptible to an increase, depending on what your city, your hospital district, your college district and any other taxing entities listed on your property notice do.

In that case, he added, you would file a property protest and keep that part of the tax bill down. “You’ll want to investigate that.”

My second panelist, Glenn Goodrich, owner of propertax.io — a website that uses algorithms to predict your protest success — said: “If you are wanting to pass your house on to your children, you might protest it every year to keep the taxes low on it to limit their tax burden.

“The ceilings and the exemption will be taken away when it’s passed on to them, and they might be stuck with sticker shock and a really high tax bill. So for estate planning purposes, you might want to pursue a reduction every year.”

Question: My appraised value is the same as last year. Should I file a protest?

Goodrich: “As an agent representing people, I have obtained reductions for people who’ve actually had value decreases. The goal is to produce evidence that gets you a reduction.”

Can land value be changed through the protest process?

Wiggins: “In the appraisal review board (where protests are held) they tend to stay away from that. That’s one of the tougher arguments to make.”

On the Dallas Central Appraisal District website, I show two exemptions. The first is labeled “homestead,” the second is labeled “other.” Is that my over-65 exemption?

Goodrich: “Most likely. A new state law was passed that an appraisal district could not publicly show over-65 exemptions on their website to prevent people from targeting over-65 people for marketing. That ‘other’ could also be for disabled persons.”

Explain what the 10% cap is?

Wiggins: “If you have a homestead exemption, the homestead cap would prevent you from anything more than a 10% increase on your taxable value. The terminology for taxable value in Dallas is capped. In Collin County, it’s assessed. In Tarrant, it’s appraised. There should be one name for it.”

Goodrich: “The homestead cap goes away the year after you purchase a property, just for that one year.”

Wiggins: “Those homestead exemptions are tied to the owner, not to the property.”

I’ve used Zillow in the past to gather recent selling prices of houses near me. But sometimes they are not disclosed. What other data sources can I use to get comparable properties?

Goodrich: “I would not trust Zillow for sales prices. You can get them from a Realtor, someone with access to the MLS (Multiple Listing Service). Also, you can do an open-records request from the appraisal district, and they have to tell you the sales they are using to value your property.”

If you are having 2021 home renovations done by a general contractor, should you supply a copy of the contract and ask for a reduction equal to the contract value?

Wiggins: “It’s not relevant.” The key date is the property’s actual condition as of Jan. 1. “If you’re plumbing is bad, and you have to get it repaired, well, the bigger question is, was your plumbing bad as of Jan. 1?”

If the appraised value is substantially below the market value of my home is there a reason to protest my valuation?

Wiggins: “You’re looking at longevity for the basis of next year. You don’t want to let that market value run rampant. If it’s wrong, it’s wrong. You need to fix it. If it doesn’t help you now, it could very well help you in the future, and save you money.”

My house does not have a garage, but all the comparable properties around me do have a garage. I continue to fight my appraisal every year. How can I get past this annual difficulty?

Wiggins: “Are they making the appropriate adjustments? Make sure they’re aware that you don’t have one.”

Are property tax laws different from county to county? Or are they the same all across the state?

Goodrich: “They are vastly different in counties. In Collin, for example, they have a cutoff for comp sales that they won’t consider after Jan. 31, 2021. You go to Dallas, just south of that, and you can get sales in for May or June of that year. That’s just one example. We could have a whole hour seminar on how different they are. But they’re vastly different. And that’s a frustration about offering general advice on property tax.”

When it comes to protesting my property value does it make a difference if I go into their office or do it online?

Wiggins: “To me, it makes a difference. Don’t cut yourself short by doing it on Zoom. Get in there. Make sure you’re making eye contact with people when you present the evidence, and make sure they’re looking at you.”

How do swimming pools affect this?

Wiggins: “It’s an improvement. When you add a pool, the district has the right to capture that.”

If you did not get a blue property value notice in the mail what does that mean?

Goodrich: “An appraisal district does not have to send you a notice if your value didn’t increase.” The deadline is still May 17 for most counties, but not all.

You can watch the full seminar video here. On YouTube, search for the title “New information on filing your 2021 Texas Property Tax Appraisal Protest. Save money on your taxes.”

You can also find it on my social media streams on Twitter (@davelieber), LinkedIn, Facebook at my activist group DallasNews Watchdog Posse — and on The Watchdog’s main story page at dallasnews.com/watchdog.

Final note from The Watchdog: Go to your appraisal district’s website and search for your property. Poke around and see what information is available. If you have questions, call your appraisal district. Don’t be shy contacting them with questions.

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