Teresa McUsic

Want to lower your home appraisal? Try TAD’s online tool before a protest

Homeowners take note: You only have until the end of the month to protest the home appraisal that’s used to calculate your property taxes.

But instead of marching to the Tarrant Appraisal District office to speak with an appraiser, or filing an appeal with the Appraisal Review Board, you might first consider trying an online process offered by TAD at www.tad.org.

Paulito Dayrit of Arlington said he was able to lower his appraised value by $10,000 and save around $250 in property taxes in less than 30 minutes by using the online tool.

“I’m very pleased with the service,” said Dayrit, a retired financial analyst at Alcon. “Several years ago, I went into the TAD office to protest my increase and they turned me down. Now I’m on a fixed income, so I decided to try again. I called and they suggested the online option.”

Once you sign up for TAD’s online portal, eAccess, TAD provides property owners with comparable sales in your neighborhood as evidence of how the district came up with its appraised and market values.

Dayrit said he did a quick calculation to determine his own dollar figure per square foot and did the same with comparable sales. He used the lowest valuation among the comparable sales to come up with his own home valuation of $195,000, which was $23,000 less than TAD’s appraised value. He plugged his value into the “Discuss Your Values” option in the online Customer Convenience Center.

“In less than a minute, they came back with a counteroffer of $208,000, which I accepted,” he said. “I got a confirmation email of the new valuation a few minutes later. It was very streamlined.”

Jeff Law, chief appraiser for TAD, said the online service has gained activity since it was launched in 2010, particularly in recent years as market forces have been pushing up home prices by as much as 10 percent a year.

“We encourage property owners to use the online feature and hope differences in opinions of value can be resolved quickly through this process,” he said.

The feature is still not used by most who protest their appraisals, however. Last year, 13,700 property owners used the online feature, while 105,000 protested before the Appraisal Review Board.

Law said the “Discuss Your Value” option is automated, which is why TAD came back so quickly with a counteroffer in Dayrit’s case.

“The owner’s opinion is fed into a complex algorithm which compares the offer made to TAD against TAD’s collected sales data,” he said. “After review, the system will either accept, reject or provide a one-time counteroffer.”

It’s worth noting that if you try this process, you will not be dinged by getting a higher valuation, Law said.

“The system will not raise a property owner’s value,” he said.

If you’re wondering how TAD gets its comparable sales data in a state where property sales figures are not public information, Law said the values come from a variety of places.

“Some of those sources include sales letters we send to buyers and sellers of properties,” he said. “We also obtain sales information from closing documents, settlement statements, property appraisals, Multiple Listing Services and data provided at appraisal review board hearings.”

Although TAD provides both a market value and an appraised value on your property value notice, Law says homeowners should be sure to compare comparable market value sales information when coming up with a valuation.

“Market value represents what a property would sell for in an arm’s length transaction,” he said. “On the other hand, the appraised value is a mathematical calculation that represents [at the most] a 10 percent value increase limitation from the previous year. It is only calculated on residential homesteads and was established by the state Legislature as a way to limit tax increases as market values increased.”

Appraised value can differ from homeowner to homeowner because of various exemptions allowed on properties such as senior citizens (65 or older), veterans and disabled persons, Law said. Also, market value and appraised values on the same property can be different because of the 10 percent cap on annual increases, even if the housing market around you is increasing faster.

“For market value determinations, sales data should be used in order to determine an acceptable range of value, just as a Realtor would determine their listing price for a potential seller,” Law said.

He also noted that homeowners should be aware of the difference between two tools on the TAD website relating to making changes in homeowner values. “Discuss Your Value” is where owners can submit a value for automatic review and possible change, while “File a Protest” is another section where an owner simply files a protest.

“Selecting ‘File a Protest’ asks the owner to submit an opinion of value, but that value is not considered for the automated review,” Law said. Filing a protest signs you up for the Appraisal Review Board process where the homeowner meets and presents evidence to a board in an effort to reduce property value.

Teresa McUsic’s column appears Saturdays. TMcUsic@SavvyConsumer.net