No break for many Harris Co. homeowners

November 12, 2008 4:35:52 PM PST
Your property tax bill is in the mail, and this year, expect to pay a little more here in Harris County. The tax assessor-collector's office says countywide, tax bills are up, all because appraisals are up. [SIGN UP: Get headlines and breaking news sent to you]

Overall, the average property tax in Harris County is up nearly 6 percent this year. But that's just the average. But wait until you find out why.

Take a look at the map. In all the areas shaded red, appraised property values are up considerably, between 10 and 26 percent over last year. In orange, they're up 4 to 10 percent.

"If you look at any neighborhood within the 610 Loop or almost any neighborhood inside the 610 Loop, it's gonna be up," said Harris County Tax Assessor Paul Bettencourt. "The question is how much."

And the single area with the greatest increase is zip code 77484, near Waller in the far northwestern part of Harris County, where property values due to new construction are up nearly 26 percent.

Bettencourt says the values are so high in the area because of construction, new homes and rebuilds and remodels of existing ones.

And though you might expect lower values because of the state of the economy, you'd be wrong. Values were set well before the economy really started to falter.

"The tax system is always about a year behind because we're taking snapshots based on January 1, 2008," said Bettencourt.

Homeowners like Julia Koivumaa of the Heights dread getting that bill.

"Frustrating," she said. "My husband and I are scared every time we open the property tax bill."

Koivumma says sales don't support the appraised values, noting a neighbor who she says had to sell recently for $50,000 less than the property was valued at.

"I think we pay exorbitant taxes for the service we get in the neighborhood," said Koivumma.

We should note that property values are not up everywhere. There are about a dozen zip codes on the north side near the Beltway where foreclosures led to lower values.

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