Congratulations, you filed your protest with WCAD before the May 15th deadline, so what now? You are one of 45,000 homeowners that filed protests this year, with 22,000 filed in the last week leading up to the deadline. It is now the time to start thinking about the strategy you will employ to get a reduction. I have put together a few DO's and DONT's of protesting that I learned in a couple of years of helping folks successfully protest their property values. I hope you will find them helpful. Let's begin.
DON'T Bring the Sales Comparables (Comps) from Your Realtor
This is one of the most popular things that homeowners do to attempt to bring their value down, and in fact, many realtors offer to do this for you for free hoping that eventually you will become their client. And while these MLS spreadsheets do show sales prices and dates, they don't tell the full story and very often the lower sales price does not mean it will result in a reduction. Why? Because the appraisers take the sales price and adjust it for the differences between your house and the sold one using very specific formulas and techniques, so while comp A may have sold for 20k less than comp B, when comp A is adjusted for the differences, it may actually result in a higher final value vs if you had used comp B.
DON'T Use Your Neighbor's Lower Appraised Value
I understand the frustration that a lot of homeowners experience when they look at their neighbors' appraised values and see that those homes that are "almost" identical are appraised for thousands less than their own. There are a lot of factors that are used to calculate your appraised market value (age, construction quality, presence or absence of patios, decks, porches and their sizes), that may seem insignificant at the first sight. However, when those differences are accounted for, the result is a large difference in the appraised value.
DON'T Use Your Neighbor's Lower % Increase
This is another point of contention. Your neighbor's appraised value went up by X% and yours increased by Y% which is higher than X%. Again, many factors affect this calculation. Perhaps you protested last year and got a good reduction, but your neighbor did not. Upon reappraisal, your two houses are close in the appraised value, but of course yours increased by a larger percentage than that of your neighbor. Another factor affecting this difference is you could be in different sections of the neighborhood, even though you're literally across the street from each other.
DON'T Use Price per Square Foot
Per the Texas Property Tax Code Section 23.01(f), "The selection of comparable properties and the application of appropriate adjustments for the determination of an appraised value of property by any person under Section 41.43(b)(3) or 42.26(a)(3) must be based on the application of generally accepted appraisal methods and techniques. Adjustments must be based on recognized methods and techniques that are necessary to produce a credible opinion." Yes, your neighbor's $/SqFt may be less than yours, but consider this, the $/SqFt to build a smaller house is higher than that of a larger house. So this argument will not be considered by the appraisers.
DO Show Up On Time
This one should be a no brainer, but you'd be surprised how many people don't show up for their hearings. In 2019 for example, 6,303 protests were denied because homeowners did not show up for their hearings, or showed up late. You should plan to arrive at the WCAD office at least 15 minutes prior to your scheduled hearing to allow the time for checking in.
DO Bring Contractor Quotes for Major Repairs
If you have quotes from the contractors for major repairs to the foundation, the roof, etc that will materially affect what you could sell your house for, take them with you to the hearing. The only catch is these quotes must be dated prior to January 1 of the tax year, in this case, 2020. Quotes for minor cosmetic fixes such as paint touch-ups, re-sodding of the grass, cracks in the driveway, and the like won't be considered.
DO Show Respect
The appraisers have a difficult job. Nobody likes paying taxes, and especially higher taxes every year. The appraisers don't set your appraised values, the mass-appraisal computer algorithms do, based on prior-year sales. And yet, they have to defend this value. The appraisers can lower your appraised value only based on three things - contractor quotes as described above, adjusted sales comps, and adjusted equity comps. If none of these show a reduction is justified, there is no chance of a successful outcome.