'Unprecedented': Property tax bills have reached double value for Texas homeowners

Mycah Hatfield Image
Friday, June 17, 2022
Property tax bills reach high values leaving homeowners shocked
Some Texas homeowners got the shock of property tax balances that are astronomically higher than what they paid last year. And according to one agency that protests the tax bills, some of those people say they can't afford to pay.

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- Unprecedented rises in property valuations in Texas have stunned multiple homeowners receiving their tax bills.

Shannon Nash owns four acres in Smith Point in Chambers County. In 2021, his property was valued at about $65,000. One year later, it increased to almost $382,000 in value.

"I was mostly just in shock," Nash said. "I called a number of people that I know around here and they were already in shock. They had gotten their bills before me."

In 2021, Nash owed about $1,700 in property taxes. In 2022, he will have to pay Chambers County more than $10,000.

"As unfair as the blow may be, we can sustain the blow," Nash explained. "People that are not going to be able to sustain the blow are the people who work hard and try to earn a small piece of land here."

A chief appraiser with Harris County, Roland Altinger, called the property valuation increases "unprecedented."

"In my almost 40 years, I have never seen such massive increases in market values," Altinger said.

According to Altinger, 95% of the county is seeing an increase in their property valuation by an average of 20%

Harris County is the largest appraisal district in the United States, meaning they cannot value each property individually.

Instead, a mass appraisal is used, in which groups like properties use data and statistical analysis to determine the valuations.

Nash is in the process of protesting his property value and said he is hopeful but does not expect it to happen.

"We are not seeing as much movement as we would like, to put it mildly," Sam Pack, a property tax consultant with Rainbolt and Co., said.

With the shocking increases to tax bills comes an increase in unhappy property owners seeking help from Rainbolt and Co. to protest their valuations.

Pack said they have heard some people say they will not be able to afford the increase in taxes.

"It's just an unfortunate situation for a lot of people," Pack said.

The challenge they face when fighting to lower the value is the difference between the appraised value and the market value. The appraised value considers homestead exemptions, which cap the increase at 10% yearly.

That determines how much a homeowner pays in taxes. Market values are determined by the amount the home could sell. In many cases, those numbers are different because of the housing boom.

To save clients money, Pack and his colleagues have to get the market value down past the appraised value before there are savings.

"When you go in to argue, your starting point is $550,000, but you have to get below $440,000 before you see one dime of savings and that's confusing to a lot of people and discouraging," Pack explained. "Looking at the data, they might lower the $550,000 down to $475,000, and based on the data, that could very well be a good number. It doesn't save you money, but it puts you in a better spot for next year."

Pack anticipates that 2023 tax bills will look drastically different with the change in interest rates.

"The odds that it will come down and not stay on this trajectory is 100% because it is already coming down," Pack said.

The deadline to appeal has expired.

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