Perhaps you’ve heard the horror stories. Property appraisals spiking so much in one year that mortgage payments rise hundreds (even thousands) of dollars. Chances are, it has happened to you, whether you’ve lived in this neighborhood for two years or 40 years.
Now is the time of year to do something about it. Every May, the offices of the Dallas Central Appraisal District (DCAD) see traffic increase exponentially as irritated — and sometimes irate — homeowners filter in to protest their property appraisals. If you’re not happy with the way your home and lot were valued, you too can head to the DCAD.
“What’s the point?” you might wonder, thinking a protest won’t get you anywhere. Or perhaps you’re intimidated. Or maybe you just think it’ll be a gigantic hassle for little property tax relief. The good news is that protesting your property appraisal is a whole lot easier and less scary than most people think.
“A lot of people who’ve never used our system may fear it, think that it’s big government and you can’t beat big government,” says DCAD community relations officer Cheryl Jordan. “That’s not true with our organization. Once they’ve used the system, they will see that it is fair and just. And many actually find relief.”
Though the DCAD doesn’t keep statistics on how many people protest successfully, estimates that “anywhere from 30 to 50 percent get some kind of reduction or relief. It might even be more,” she says.
Pretty good odds, eh? But keep one thing in mind: Protesting just because you don’t want to pay increased property taxes is not a good idea. You need to have legitimate reason to believe your home has not been properly valued, such as structural damage — a roofing problem or a cracked foundation — that the DCAD is unaware of. Or maybe your friend on the next block has a house similar to yours, and they’ve been appraised comparably, but you know they’ve added on a bathroom or done other improvements you haven’t.
“That’s the purpose of the protest process,” says, “to allow homeowners the right to bring something to our attention so that we can adjust our records appropriately.”
If you still believe you have rightful reason to protest, start with these steps:
n Indicate your intent to protest in writing. You can contact the DCAD at 214-631-0910 and tell them that you need a Notice of Protest form. Or you can simply jot down your name, property address, reason for your dissatisfaction and intent to protest on a piece of paper and mail to: Appraisal Review Board, 2949 N. Stemmons Freeway,
n Meet the deadline. There is no wiggle room. If you want to protest your property appraisal, then you must inform the DCAD by May 31 or 30 days from receiving the Notice of Appraisal.
Next, you’ll receive notice of the date, time and location of your hearing from the Appraisal Review Board (ARB) at least 15 days in advance. In the meantime, start compiling evidence that will help you get a fair review, and increase your chances of success:
n Contact a neighborhood Realtor and ask for sales data on three to four comparable homes in your neighborhood. Most Realtors will do this for no charge, says, in the hopes that you’ll remember them when it’s time to sell your home or buy another.
n Get repair estimates for any structural damage in your home that the DCAD is unlikely to be aware of. Again, the estimates shouldn’t cost you anything, and they should be on professional letterhead.
n Take photos of problem areas, including roofing damage or a cracked foundation, inadequate plumbing, flooding problems, etc.
n Finally, you’ll need to bring a signed and dated closing statement for your home. A copy of the sales contract and the volume and page number of the deed filing will be required in some cases, so you should know where these are before starting the protest process.
If the notion of a formal hearing is intimidating, there’s good news.
“We suggest to people that they take advantage of the informal hearing process,” says. “That simply means that any day prior to the hearing, they can come in informally and meet with an appraiser to review, discuss or present any information and documentation to try to resolve it one on one.”
The informal process doesn’t have any time constraints (at a formal hearing, the homeowner and the ARB each has five minutes to present its side and then two minutes rebuttal time), and if homeowners aren’t happy with the results of an informal hearing, they can still proceed to the formal hearing.
Finally, offers this piece of advice: Avoid going to the DCAD offices in late May, particularly May 31.
“We get about 400 people a day,” she says. “It’s a madhouse.”
For more information about protesting your property appraisal, or to research appraisal records, go to www.dallascad.org.