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Your Next Property Tax Appraisal May Surprise You

When homeowners in Travis County receive their next property tax bill this fall, they will likely noticing something different.

The market value of their property will be the same as in 2019. That’s because Travis Central Appraisal District does not plan to reappraise residential properties this year.

Contrast that with the significant climb in values in recent years, driven by one of the hottest housing markets in the United States. The median appraised value in Travis County in 2019 for someone with a homestead exemption was $359,154, up 6.2% from 2018.

TCAD is shelving appraisals for 2020 because of a dispute with the Austin Board of Realtors. The two sides have been feuding since the Realtor organization discovered last year that the appraisal district was using local multiple listing service data from CoreLogic to help appraise homes.

ABOR sent a cease and desist letter to TCAD last May. Now Marya Crigler, TCAD’s chief appraiser, said that letter prevents the appraisal district from using sales MLS data, removing one of the primary tools it uses to calculate appraisals.

“We are doing everything we can to get data,” Crigler said. “We’re pleading with the public: if anybody has data that they will share with us, we’d love to have it. We’re not trying to induce people to violate their agreements, but we’re making a plea for market data to do the job we’re required to do.”

Texas is a non-disclosure state, meaning sales prices for homes and other buildings do not need to be made public.

In an emailed statement, ABOR pushed back on the notion that the cease and desist letter prevents the appraisal district from reappraising residential properties. The statement read, in part: “The cease and desist order that was sent to TCAD called on the appraisal district to stop using the proprietary data of the Austin/Central Texas Realty Information Service (ACTRIS). Unauthorized use of a proprietary data set is not the only means of doing the job by an appraisal district. The cease and desist order should have no impact on TCAD’s ability to reappraise homes. It did so for many years without use of ACTRIS proprietary data.”

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Indeed, there are other means of obtaining data to try to formulate an accurate appraisal: homeowners sometimes voluntarily provide information and some idea of a home’s price can be gleaned from mortgage deeds. But Crigler said the appraisal district has only found limited success using those avenues. She said her office mailed out about 22,000 letters asking property owners to disclose the sales price of their home; so far, about 2,300 have responded.

ABOR’s stance has “really created a chilling effect” when it comes to homeowners and third parties supplying accurate home value data, Crigler said.

ABOR was also angry at CoreLogic for turning MLS data over to the appraisal district. But the Realtor organization and CoreLogic settled in December for undisclosed terms.

So, what does this mean for overall property taxes? It’s complicated and will depend on each individual situation. The taxable value of a property could still increase in 2020. For instance, if a property owner has a homestead exemption that limits the annual increase in the taxable value to 10%, but the taxable value is still below the market value, they could see an increase of up to 10%. Or, if there is new construction in 2020, that would add to the taxable value. New homes will also receive appraisals.

And then the tax rate set by school districts and other taxing entities will need to be considered. School districts rely heavily on property tax revenue for funding, so changes to appraised values could affect their budgets. Nicole Conley, chief of business and operations for AISD, told the Austin Monitor that her staff “is looking at the methodology to determine what effect this decision may have on our operating and debt budgets.” She added: “We greatly understand the need for property tax relief. Though we understand why the Austin Board of Realtors has taken such measures, we also realize this could reduce revenue growth for local school districts. It could also potentially shift more funding burden to the state, and create more instability in public education funding.”

 

  • Austin Business Journal

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