Insider's Tips on Protesting Your HCAD Property Taxes

If you own property in Harris County, TX, you should have received your 2014 property appraisal from the Harris County Appraisal District (HCAD) in the mail by now. You may have noticed that your property value has increased. We are so fortunate in Houston to have such a strong real estate market. However, this does not mean that our property value has been fairly appraised by the district. And many property owners believe that we must protest every year to keep the rise in appraisal value under control.

You can appeal your individual property’s market value by protesting to the Appraisal Review Board.The district is expecting a large number of protests this year. Statistically, property owners who appeal their own property appraisals generally enjoy a higher success rate than that of a hired agent. But protesting your appraisal takes knowledge and preparation. Therefore, I am sharing some insider’s tips on how to better prepare your case before the Review Board.  

DEADLINES

The early deadline to file a residence homestead protest was April 30, 2014, however, June 2, 2014, at midnight, is the last day to file all protests.

You can file online at www.hcad.org/ifile,with your account number and iFile number (which can be found in the top right quadrant of the green “Property Tax Notice of Protest” form that you had received in the mail with your Notice of Appraised Value from the Harris County Appraisal District). 

Alternatively, you can send in your green “Property Tax Notice of Protest” with a postmark date of June 2, 2014 or earlier.

TIPS ON FILING YOUR PROTEST

1.) If you are filing your protest online, you will need to create a user account and once you are confirmed and able to log in again to file the protest, in the “What is the reason for your protest?” section, only check off the following two reasons:

(a.) “Value is over market value”

(b.) “Value is unequal compared with other properties”

**Do not provide HCAD with any more information on this form!

2.) I did not select the “iSettle” option so that I do not need to enter an opinion of value at this time. I want to see their evidence first.

PROTEST PREPARATION

1.) After HCAD assigns you a hearing date for your protest, then the evidence that they will use in the hearing will be made available to you at least 14 days in advance of the hearing date. 

2.) You can download it once you log into your account, or contact the district’s information center at (713) 812-5800, or visit the information center at 13013 Northwest Freeway, 3rd floor. 

3.) Study this evidence so that you can refute it. (For tips on how to understand the Appraisal Evidence packet provided by HCAD once you have a hearing date, contact me at [email protected])

4.) A few important items to note regarding the evidence to refute from the HCAD:

(a.) HCAD evaluations operate in the tax year prior, so this year (2014)‘s protest concerns data in the year 2013 (January 2013 – January 2014). Make sure that HCAD does not mistakenly use comparables from the incorrect year in their evidence. 

(b.) Keep in mind that the employees at HCAD may not know your neighborhood very well, if at all, so it’s up to you to educate them with lots of evidence, such as photos (provide 2 sets of photos) of problematic spots in the bathrooms, kitchens, for example. 

(c.) External photographs to take could include traffic, graffiti, standing water, if they pose  a negative impact to your property valuation – basically provide any photographic evidence for why a buyer might skip your house and buy the one next door or down the street. You could even record the constant barking of your neighbor’s dogs, if that’s a major issue.

(d.) If relevant, you can include aerial views from Google Maps to show HCAD where the ‘bad spots’ in your neighborhood are, pointing out the negative aspects of the street you’re on, what’s close to or next to your house, such as the new fast food restaurant that was built AFTER you had moved into the neighborhood.

(e.) Include evidence if your property is located in the 100 year or 500 year flood plain (to verify this, you can enter your property address at http://www.harriscountyfemt.org/).

(f.) If your property resides on a fault line, then this information should be included in your case to lower the property value.

3.) Do not introduce too much of your own comparables (“comps”) or other data, such as news articles. Focus on refuting HCAD’s evidence. (For more tips on what to focus on and what NOT to focus on in your protest hearing, contact me at [email protected].) 

4.) If you do provide your own comps, make sure that they include sold data that is in the same Neighborhood # as your NBH #, for the correct evaluation year. The NBH # will be cited on the Appraisal Evidence Summary page (in the Property Location box) from HCAD. You can also find this # when you retrieve your property’s account information at www.hcad.org.

 5.) Keep your presentation concise and as brief as possible. It is recommended that you practice your script beforehand to time yourself. (For a sample script to use, contact me at [email protected])

 

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