If you're a homeowner in the DFW area, you recently got a shocker in the mail: a 2017 appraisal of the value of your property that probably went through the roof.
The value of homes in Dallas County rose 9.9 percent this year, with the value of homes in the four major counties around Dallas, Collin, Tarrant, and Denton increasing by more than $84 billion. That means nearly all of us got hit with a big increase in property taxes.
"There is a high demand in our area for homes and the supply is low, so many people have been shocked by how much the value of homes have increased, especially over the past two years," says Cheryl Jordan, who handles community relations for the Dallas Central Appraisal District, the organization that sets the rates.
If you're like me, you looked at your statement, balked at the increase, or were confused by the numbers, and set it aside, convincing yourself you'd deal with it later.
Later is now. Your last day to take action is May 31. No, it's not too late to start. The work you have to do by May 31 is minimal.
"So many people wait until the last minute to do this,” Jordan says. “The only thing you have to do is make sure you get your initial form filed by May 31."
You can do it online in every county in Texas, or mail the form, as long as it's postmarked by May 31.
In Dallas County, you do the online protest by using the uFile Online Protest Program on the website of the Dallas Central Appraisal District at dallascad.org. Go to your property listing and you'll see a link for "uFile Online Protest." It will first prompt you for a PIN number; request that they send one to you via email.
When you file the form online, consider including your evidence and reasoning for why you believe your property assessment is wrong. In Dallas County, they can reach out to you online with a proposed settlement. You can lower your property taxes and never talk to a single person.
Once you file the form, they will send you a date for your hearing. But prior to your hearing, you can go to the county office and meet with an appraiser in person. It's an informal discussion. You don't make an appointment, simply show up. At that time, you can discuss your home and its issues one-on-one.
You can share information about any damages in your home and repair estimates of work you haven't had done. At that time, the appraiser may change the valuation.
If you don't get the decrease you want, you still have your hearing, and you'll be armed with the information you learned from the appraiser plus a better understanding of how the district assessed your property.
Some owners, particularly those who own large or expensive properties, hire firms to wade through the process for them. The disadvantage is that those firms take a cut, usually about 40 percent. But you're fully capable of getting this discount yourself.
Here's a recap of things to keep in mind as you work on your protest:
- Repairs. The county is guessing the value of your home. They've never been inside. Show them the things limiting the value of your home. It could be a ceiling leak in a hallway or a window where water comes through. A smashed drywall in the garage or spots where the hardwood floors are starting to buckle.
- Comps. Talk to a Realtor familiar with your neighborhood and get comps about how other similar homes are priced in the area. If those rates fall below your new appraisal, include them. If they're above, leave them out.
- Location. If you’re in a condo, don’t assume all of the units are valued the same. The valuation takes into account the view, how high up in the building, upgrades, etc.
DCAD has a video outlining the process. While you're at it, make sure you've filed for your homestead exemption; you can do it online. This caps how much the taxes you pay each year, limiting your annual increase to 10 percent.