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Preparing to make my case to lower property values

By John Toth

The Bulletin

The time had come to go to battle again. I prepared to head down to the Brazoria County Appraisal District to see what damage control I could do on my upcoming property taxes.

I’m no newcomer to this. I do it almost every year. Once or twice since we have lived here I missed the deadline for the protest and got stuck with the higher rate. Back in those days, the increases were not in the crazy range. This year, they blew the roof off of them.

You know what I’m talking about. Property values skyrocketed.

Our home and our hideaway suddenly were worth a lot more than a year before, even though I really didn’t do all that much to them. I did replace some security lights and had some trees cut back, but that’s about it.

So, it’s time to have an informal meeting with an appraiser to try to bring the value back down the Earth. I do this in a very friendly and diplomatic manner, and I even enjoy the conversations with the appraiser.

I know the official line. “But Mr. Toth, look at what these houses sold for near you.”

I have not done any extensive research on why the appraisal is too high, but I can just feel it in my bones - and wallet. Something just tells me that a 24%-plus increase in my property value in one year is just too much.

Appraisers have been very efficient when it comes to our house. When I converted my garage into an office, they immediately placed it on the tax rolls. When I put a shed in the backyard, they spotted it right away and added it on the rolls.

I’m not against paying property taxes, just against paying it on a much higher value than the previous year. That’s why I drag myself down to the Appraisal District offices each year and basically make the same arguments.

“No, I don’t have any documentation to prove that the value is too high. I have lived here for several decades, and I can just tell you from experience that it’s too high.”

“How much is your property worth in your opinion,” an adjuster asked me one year.

“It’s worth as much as it was last year, maybe less,” I replied. (That line never works, though.)

But there is new construction all around the city, and new subdivisions going up near you.

They are making values go way up. That’s the argument they usually give me.

“I can’t help what is going on all around me. I can just tell you that I have not made any improvements on this place all year.”

But that is only one factor we consider, comes the reply.

“To me it’s the main factor. I didn’t overpay for the house two blocks down. That was someone else’s decision. I didn’t jump into the housing bubble before it burst. Someone else did.”

I usually talk while the adjuster looks at his monitor and keeps typing on the keyboard.

“Look, Mr. Toth. I can adjust your value downward by this much. I can’t do any more without a formal hearing,” said the auditor last year.

“That’s still too high. Can you go lower?” I responded.

He started typing away again. “This is the very best I can do without a hearing,” he said.

It was still higher than what I had in mind, but I took it. I didn’t get my way, but we compromised as much as possible.

The process reminds me of shopping for a souvenir in Mexico.

“Come on, is that the best you can do? This coffee mug is not worth that much.”

“But senor, it’s handmade by a craftsman right here in town. How about 50% off?”

“I’ll take it.”

I’ll let you know next week how my trip to the appraisal offices turned out.


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