A First Timer’s Guide to Contesting Your Property Value

We’ve seen a huge increase in people signing up for our complimentary consulting sessions this year over last year. That tells me many homeowners are starting to pay attention to how much they’re paying in property taxes. Our first week’s sessions are already filled and those are just the early birds.

Some homeowners contest their Collin County Appraisal District (CCAD) property value every year and many, many more have never done it. This article is for those who have never done it and need some advice.

If you’re planning on contesting, here are some tips you might find helpful.

  • Thousands of Collin County property owners will be contesting their valuations this year, just like every year. They CCAD will be prepared for it, but they want to get satisfied property owners in the door and out. They are public employees and have performance guidelines so there’s some pressure on them to get these cases closed without too many getting kicked up the line to the appeals process. They aren’t going to give away the ship, but my experience is they will bend over backwards to be fair if you have a good case.
  • It behooves you to be courteous and respectful in your meeting with the assessor. They are trained to be the same way with you. They have a tough job and believe it or not, they’re not trying to take advantage of you. They’re tasked with establishing the fair market value of your property and have to start somewhere. They’ve never been in your home and will never know it as well as you. It’s up to you to provide them with the information they need to make an adjustment. Common sense says they’ll be much more likely to work with you if you make your case in a calm, matter of fact manner and keep emotions out of it rather than attacking them for just doing their job. Even if you can’t convince them to agree with your position, remain calm. You still have the right to appeal their decision.
  • Be reasonable in your expectations. When I contested my property value, I negotiated a sizable reduction, but I also didn’t hold out for the home run. I was satisfied with the result and had no desire to take it to the next level, an appeal. It all boiled down to my opinion and my sale comps vs their opinion and their sale comps. The only debate was which comps were more representative of our home.
  • Don’t walk in empty handed and expect a reduction Just because you think it’s too high. They’ll turn the monitor on their desk around and show you how they arrived at the valuation. They’ll talk algorithms, depreciation schedules, and show you the sale comparables they used. And yes, they have access to the Multiple Listing Service. If you go in with absolutely nothing to support your opinion, how are you ever going to argue with that kind of firepower? You need to be prepared with your own sale comparables and bring other documentation to support your case.
  • The assessor cannot ask to enter your home, but by the same token, they won’t just take your word for it when you tell them your interior is dated and in poor condition. If you see they’re comping your home against others which have sold in your area after undergoing major renovations, you have to support your case with pictures of the interior of your home.
  • Chance are, they already know about your new deck, pool, tennis court, or out building even if you never filed a building permit. Every year they pay a service to fly all of Collin County. An assessor is assigned to every commercial and residential property in the county and part of their job is to compare the prior year’s aerials with the new aerials looking for new structures. You might get away with something one year, but eventually they’ll catch it. Improvements might be hidden from the street, but nothing escapes the eye in the sky.
  • Bring quotes from reputable contractors on any work you believe negatively impacts the value of your home. It might be repairs needed on the roof, gutters, garage doors, foundation, concrete driveway, pools, septic system, retaining walls, etc. What would you do to your home to prepare it for the market to sell? Start with that.

So there you go. I waited about 15 minutes max to see the assessor and met with her for another 15 minutes. I signed off I was satisfied with the new valuation and that was it.

One last thing. If you wait until the very end to contest, May 15th I believe, you’re going to be sitting there in a crowded room with a long wait. It’s always better to get in early than later.

Good luck, and again, if you’d like to take advantage of our complimentary consulting program, just sign up. There’s no obligation and we’re happy to do it. Hopefully you’ll remember us some day when you’re ready to buy or sell a home. Here’s the LINK again.