Good time to protest your home's value

March 21, 2012 3:43:09 PM PDT
The majority of home owners in Harris County will not see an increase in their property taxes. However, experts tell us this is still a good year to protest your home's value. That's because it looks like the economic downturn may be coming to an end, and that may mean higher property values in the future.

There is good news for Harris County home owners. Property tax values for most are staying the same.

Harris County Appraisal District Assistant Chief Appraiser Roland Altinger said, "About 60 percent of those values are going to stay the same. There will be about 30 percent that will go down and less than 10 percent will go up."

Altinger says the biggest increases in values for home owners will be in higher end neighborhoods, like Bellaire and Spring Branch. But he adds right now industrial and commercial property and apartment complexes are seeing the biggest overall increases.

"There have been sales out there that on the commercial side that have shown an increase, apartment buildings and apartments and those will go up this year," Altinger said.

As for where values will drop, Altinger says those homes are scattered throughout the area. While most home owners have seen four years of falling or steady home valuation, experts say that may be about to change.

Paul Bettencourt with Bettencourt Tax Advisors said, "We are already coming back strongly from the recession. We have already created more jobs than we lost, so you can expect next year's values to be up substantially."

Bettencourt is a former tax assessor who now runs a property tax protest firm. He says because the area economy appears to be improving, this may be the last year valuations remain low.

"If you don't get a low value this year, you will not get one next year," he predicted.

The easiest away to protest values is by using HCAD's internet-based iFile system.

Altinger explained, "When they get their scheduling notice for the hearing, they can also get the information online for what will be presented in the hearing."

Homeowners have two deadlines to file protests. The first is April 30, but if you have not gotten your property tax valuation in the mail by then, you still have until May 31 to protest. You can do all of this online.

If you have any kind of damage to your home that HCAD does not know about, like a cracked foundation, that can be used to lower your value. Also, check the value of the homes around your house and any recent sales to see if your value is higher than it should be.

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