To Protest or Not to Protest?

Protesting in the age of Pandemics

Posted on April 19, 2020

Soooo... the 2020 appraisals are officially out and they are not pretty. Given the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the stay-at-home order in Williamson County, property value increases certainly feel like adding insult to injury. We are not alone -- property owners throughout Texas, at least in counties of strong economic growth in 2019, will see their property values increase. Remember, your January 1st 2020 appraised property value is based on property sale prices that occurred in 2019.

Silver Lining

According to WCAD press release dated April 13th, the appraisal districts throughout Texas requested Governor Abbott to suspend the law that requires appraisal districts to reappraise properties as of January 1st in the current year, effectively freezing 2020 values to what they were in 2019. This request was denied. Furthermore, Texas Law requires that appraisals should be at a median level between 95-105% of market value, and failure to meet this requirement may result in the loss of state funding to local schools.

But here is the silver lining -- fortunately for us, WCAD made a decision to send notice values at a level below the 100% median, whilst still staying within 95-105% requirement. Based on public WCAD data, I was able to confirm this to be true throughout the county. In one sample neighborhood the noticed values were approximately 5% lower than they would have been if not for the COVID-19 pandemic. This brings me to my next point...

Should You Protest?

Your appraised market value is calculated using a technique called mass appraisal for a given neighborhood. The key word being 'mass' - it's not unique to your specific house characteristics. Because of this, some properties will be under-appraised (lower than comparable sales), and some will be over-appraised (higher than comparable sales). When you protest with proper evidence, you show the appraiser (and the ARB) that according to comparable sales uniquely chosen and adjusted for your property, your appraised value should be $X which is lower than the mass-appraised value $Y. When comparable sales show that X is higher than Y, protesting fails and your value remains unchanged.

Considering the county wide reductions, it will be difficult to get even lower property values by protesting. This will be true for both homeowners and agents alike.

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