Central Texans have a couple of weeks left to protest their property's tax assessment
Residents from Hays County to Burnet County are not happy with their 2023 property tax assessments.
"The day all these assessments came out, my phone was blowing up from former clients," said Bill Cafferata, realtor with CaffGroup | Keller Williams Realty.
It wasn’t just former clients experiencing sticker shock. Comparing 2023 to 2022, Cafferata’s assessment for his Dripping Springs home increased by about $150,000.
"It kind of almost knocked me right off my chair," he said.
Austin resident Matt Ball owns multiple pieces of land in Burnet County, many of which are still undeveloped.
"Almost all of them since 2018 have gone up at a minimum of 200% to 600%," he said.
One property went up by 10,429% over the last five years, according to his assessment from the Burnet Central Appraisal District.
"My goal was to buy all this stuff and develop it with my construction company, and now I can't afford it. I have to get rid of it," said Ball. "One of my neighbors in particular, he's very upset. He was wanting to retire soon, and he's…just so stressed, he's like, ‘I'm never going to get done.’"
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Colton Pace, founder and CEO of Austin-based company Ownwell, walked through possible explanations for steep increases along with a growing market. His company helps residents protest assessments.
"Maybe new construction, an exemption fell off, there are a lot of different scenarios," said Pace.
Numbers from Hays County, for example, show that the county added over 5,000 new homes and more than 20 new commercial buildings, adding more than $2 billion in taxable value in 2023.
But Cafferata said from what he’s seen, assessed values and home market values listed on real estate websites are not comparable.
"We've seen housing prices go back down to where they were because 2020 and 2021 saw massive jumps in the price of homes. Once we get into 2022 and now 2023, it's leveled off, cooled off a bit," said Cafferata. "But we're not seeing that, the county just kept that roller coaster going up in that direction for their assessments, which is why it's imperative that every single property owner in the state of Texas protest their taxes this year."
Cafferata recently partnered with a company that helps people protest their tax assessments and also has a podcast where he discussed the issue in a recent episode.
"The key piece is that property taxes have to be uniform and equal. So not only do they have to be representative of a fair market value transaction, but they also have to be fair," said Pace. "You can compare tax assessments to tax assessments - so if your neighbor with a very similar home has a lower tax assessment than you, that is not uniformly equal, and that's one of the ways in which we can reduce your property tax assessment."
Residents can also protest property tax assessments on their own through the county’s appraisal district. In Burnet and Travis County, the deadline to file a protest is May 15 or no later than 30 days after the assessment has been mailed out. In Hays County, the deadline is May 18.
The Travis Central Appraisal District is hosting a webinar on protesting assessments on May 3 at 11:30 a.m. To register, click here.
Some pieces of legislation up for debate during this session address property taxes in Texas.
House Bill 2 would tighten up the cap on yearly assessments. Senate Bill 3 would raise the state’s homestead exemption — the amount of a home’s value that can’t be taxed by school districts.