Updated 3/16/18, Originally published 5/24/16
- Pay attention to your tax appraisal at BellCAD or CoryellCAD. You could be overpaying $1000s.
- Appealing your taxes requires evidence of your home’s value. The appraiser will want to see real sales data.
- You can only appeal your taxes once a year during May, after the Notice of Appraised Value letters have been sent out by the appraisal district to homeowners.
Why Appeal Your Property Taxes?
Ever get frustrated when your mortgage payment goes up? Your property taxes are usually to blame.
BellCAD reassesses your home’s tax value every year in the spring. In late April, they will send you a new tax assessment along with 30 days to appeal (the deadline is usually May 31st). When your tax assessment goes up, your taxes go up (and therefore your mortgage payment). The new tax bill is due in October. Usually your lender pays your taxes for you. If you don’t have a lender collecting estimated taxes monthly, you’ll have a lump sum due in October.
It would have saved that homeowner $1000+/year to appeal their taxes earlier.
You might find out you’ve been paying too much in taxes when it’s too late. Sometimes, when pricing a home for a seller, they learn than their home is actually worth $10,000s less than the tax record says. It would have saved that homeowner $1000+/year to appeal their taxes earlier. Now it didn’t matter as they were selling anyway. It pays to pay attention to your tax appraisal.
Search Your Home’s Property Tax Information
The Bell County Tax Assessor does not actually assess or collect property taxes. That job was outsourced to BellCAD in 1987. Don’t remember getting anything in the mail? Wondering what your property’s tax assessed value is? Search here:
Killeen, Temple, Harker Heights, Belton, Nolanville
Copperas Cove, Gatesville
What I Thought Would Happen
I appealed my taxes in 2016. I was going to appeal my taxes, whether they were overpriced or not – just so I could learn how to do it and write this article. But when I got my Notice of Tax Appraisal in April, I did a CMA on my home and learned they overvalued my home by over $20,000! It was no longer just for learning purposes. It was war!
I assumed very few people appeal their taxes, and that the county would quickly buckle simply because I asked. I also assumed I had to mail in the appeal with some supporting documentation, and I would hear back from them in a month or so that they had dropped my tax assessment. Voila! Too easy!
I printed out my CMA and was ready to send it off with the price I thought it should be, as a market savvy Realtor. Then I called the tax appraisal district to ensure I was doing it right, when I started to learn about the actual process.
What Actually Happened
I was right – not many people appeal their taxes. But I was totally wrong about the tax appraiser giving up quietly.
Very few people appeal their taxes every year. My tax assessor is responsible for 16,000 homes and had about 15-20 appeals that year. He also deals with some tax accountants who blanket appeal their clients’ property tax assessments every year, and that’s about it.
My first surprise was when I called Bell County Tax Appraisal District and was put through to my tax appraiser himself instead of just a receptionist. And instead of being grumpy and confrontational, the tax appraiser seemed genuinely interested. I learned that the process does not yet involve sending in my written appeal, but rather doing an informal appeal with the tax appraiser. More surprising to me, we scheduled a time to do it in person. The county clearly wasn’t a push over.
A week later, he and I met, and the battle began!
Very quickly I figured out the problem in my tax assessment – the appraiser was using builder sales in my neighborhood to value my home. He said his first tries to go to non-builder homes, but there were none in my phase of the subdivision. So then he went to builder sales.
After our discussion and the appraiser looking into my neighborhood more deeply, he did agree that my appeal was valid. The ultimate fix was an adjustment to ALL the homes in my subdivision phase with the same builder, adjusting the assessments down. So all my neighbors on my side of the street owe me a holiday turkey or something!
The appraiser was friendly and reasonable the entire time. It was not confrontational and just an issue of working through their process and seeing where my data fit in.
How it Works
Every fall, the assessor’s office goes out and does an assessment on every new home that had permits initiated in the previous year. Some are built and sold, others still being built. The assessor gives each an initial tax assessed value, as well as a classification rating between 1 and 8. The classification depends on the upgrades and quality of the home based on a guide sheet. Killeen’s high end custom homes would be 8s, with most newer construction between 5 and 7, and less upgraded homes below that. Classifications do not change from year to year, even as the home gets older or worn down. The higher the classification, the higher the price per square foot adjustment. Fancy homes pay fancy taxes.
In spring, the appraiser reviews the previous year’s sales data and adjusts home values by subdivision and phase. E.g., the tax value for 2017 only considers sales from 2016. Those adjustments are not home by home (remember, one tax appraiser is responsible for 16,000 homes), but by subdivision phase.
The appraiser also incorporates obligatory county wide fluctuations that go up with items like rising building costs.
Finally, depreciation is factored in as homes get older. Beginning when a home is 5 years old, a 1% reduction is applied, and applied again every two years after that. Note that assessments can still go up, but the amount they go up is reduced by 1%.
These new assessments are mailed to every homeowner, initiating a 30-day window that they can be appealed. Appeals are evaluated on a case by case basis. Usually, the appraiser shows comparable sales that validate the tax assessment. Other times, as in my case, he is persuaded and makes minor variable changes to bring a neighborhood more closely align with actual sales data.
BellCAD and CoryellCAD are third party websites that eventually update with the new tax assessments in late May or early June with the current year’s tax assessment (BellCAD just updated with 2017 tax assessments about a week ago, even though still in the appeal window).
If a homeowner is dissatisfied after the informal meeting and any adjustments, they can file a formal appeal, which is the actual document you get in the mail on the back side of your Notice of Appraised Value. An appeal goes to the Appeal Review Board (ARB) who will look at the homeowner’s information and the tax appraiser’s information and make a judgment in July. Extremely few cases get past the informal meeting and to the ARB.
What you Need to Appeal Your Taxes
A Realtor. The tax appariser is using actual sales comps, you will have to come prepared with actual sales data (not just Zillow screenshots) if you hope to have a chance. A Realtor like myself can provide that information for you to maximize your chances of successfully challenging your assessment.
Specifically, the appraiser looks for homes in the same subdivision phase, plus or minus 200 sq. ft. and built within 5 years. Unlike normal market analyses like a Realtor would do, however, the appraiser only looks at the previous calendar year (e.g. 2015) instead of the previous 6 months or so.
An alternative to a Realtor, you can have an actual appraiser appraise your home, but at $400 or so an appraisal, a Realtor is probably a lot cheaper (I’ll do them for free).
Killeen, Temple, Harker Heights, Belton, Nolanville
Copperas Cove, Gatesville
Tax Assessments Don’t Equal Your Home’s Value
Contrary to Realtor myths, the tax appraiser actually has access to the Fort Hood MLS. The tax appraiser was fair and using real sales date, but one of my main takeaways was to reinforce that the tax value is not equal to your home’s actual market value. For example, I managed to get my tax assessment reduced by over $10,000, and yet it is still $10,000 more than what I know I could get for my home (and I’m a really good Realtor!)
The tax assessment is especially suspect if the appraiser is using builder sales for comps. My tax appraiser did say resale is preferred, but in my case, every comp was a builder sale. Builders can get about $20,000 more than equivalent non-builder homes in the same neighborhood.
The tax assessment is also based on the previous calendar year. So, as recently as this month (May, 2017), the most recent tax assessed values in BellCAD were based on sales from 2015. So the tax assessment is usually very dated.
Of course, tax assessments also can’t take into account the condition of your home and how it might impact the price.
If you would like to determine your home’s market value and see if appealing your tax assessment makes sense for you, contact me with your name, phone number, email, and address. I can quickly get you sales data from our MLS for free. Remember the deadline to appeal is May 31st!
The deadline to appeal is May 31st!
I won’t need as much information about your home as I would with a normal seller home valuation, (I won’t have to see it in person, for example) to come up with sales that may be useful in challenging your tax assessment.
[text-blocks id=”2276″ slug=”blog-post-signature”]