Fighting the property tax man

HOUSTON The protest deadline of June 1 falls on a weekend this time, so we all get an extra day to file. But before you protest, here are a few tips to make your protest more successful.

You'd never know it by looking at the lobby of the Harris County Appraisal District (HCAD), but fewer homeowners are protesting their values this year. The reason is that 45% of home appraisals in Harris County are lower this year and another 39% did not increase. Still, that still leaves plenty of people concerned about increasing values. Herbrich Walter is protesting because his home's value went up nearly $30,000.

"Since the economy as it is now, everything is going down, I just thought I would stick with that," he told us.

Walter got the appraisal down by $12,000 basing his protest solely on the economic downturn. He had hoped for an even greater reduction and might have gotten it, but he failed to bring evidence showing his home's value was not in line with others in his neighborhood. Bringing at least four comparable home values can help make your case and get your property values lowered.

Brandie Sadberry hoped to get her home's value lowered based on existing damage.

"We needed to bring in more documentation, more pictures of the home, the condition, because that's basically it, the condition of the home and what they feel the value is," she revealed.

Sadberry will get pictures of her home's damage and take them to the formal review board. Bringing pictures of damage to the informal hearing is essential to getting a lower appraisal if your home needs repairs.

Rita Nerocker went to the HCAD offices helping a friend with her protest. Nerocker herself skipped the face to face meeting and handled her protest on line using iFile. She says her neighbor's home with the same square footage has a lower taxable value than hers. That information was most likely the key to her winning protest..

"I was very happy with it, it went down by $20,000, I was very happy," Nerocker said.

There are still some homeowners who have not gotten their appraisals yet, but they don't have to file yet. If you have not gotten an appraisal you will have 30 days from the day you get the appraisal. Around 20,000 homeowners who saw damage from Hurricane Ike are still waiting on their assessments. Generally speaking those appraisals will be lower because of the damage.

If you want to protest your property taxes, you can file the protest online and even choose to have your case settled online too. We have links to the Harris County Appraisal District's Web site on my consumer blog.

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