SAN ANTONIO — In the last week, many county residents have received mail from the Bexar County Appraisal District indicating a rise in the appraised value of homes across the county.
Those residents have until May 15 to protest their property taxes.
Lorrie and Fred Martin moved to Leon Valley four years ago, and this is the first year they’re protesting their property taxes. The couple said the rise in their taxes will be a struggle for them.
“We were talking about how we’re going to do this. It’s either pay our son’s medical school tuition or pay the taxes,” Lorrie said.
But they’ve found the process to protest the appraisal value wasn’t as easy as they thought.
“It’s just a little mind-boggling,” Lorrie said.
Todd Thomas said he has been helping people protest their taxes for the last 15 years with O’Connor Tax Reduction Experts. He said that, to see results, you have to be prepared before you protest.
Thomas's first suggestion: Request your home appraisal card from the County Appraisal District. You can also request other documents the Appraisal District plans to introduce at your hearing.
Also, go the County Appraisal District website and research the information they have on your home. Thomas said that sometimes the square footage or amenities could be wrong.
Once you’ve collected that data, research the data on home sales in your area.
“You take in sales data to show, 'Here’s a home that’s very comparable to mine, or two or three sales that are comparable to mine, and this shows that my house should be at a lower rate,'” Thomas said.
He also suggests learning how unequal appraisal works. Essentially, it’s when people want to compare a home in the neighborhood that may have a distinct difference than the home they own.
“Here in San Antonio, we have neighborhoods where you have houses built in 1945 and you have one next door that could be built in 2017. They’re not comparable properties,” Thomas said.
He said to make sure you’ve gathered all the evidence before filing a protest online that includes your home’s condition; that may make you eligible for a settlement.
“If you have condition issues, please take photos and frame of reference,” Thomas said. “If you have a crack on the wall, take a picture of the crack on the wall and then take a picture of the wall so that appraiser can say, ‘Oh I see where that crack is.’”
Finally, Thomas suggests staying calm through the process.
“When most property owners go, it’s their first time there. They’re very upset,” he said. “My advice to all property owners is understand that most values are not set by the person sitting across from you at the table."
Mike Amezquita, chief appraiser with the Bexar County Appraisal District, said the rise in appraisal values has to do with 10 years of continuous growth.
“Taxes have gone up, but we know values have gone up,” Amezquita said. “The appraisal district is only charged with appraising property, and in Texas we pay taxes based on market value—that is what properties sell for. The market is very tight.”
Amezquita encourages people to come to the Appraisal District and they will help guide anyone who needs help.
“The most important thing is that for folks to feel like they can get our information, (then) they can come in and have a conversation,” he said.
The Bexar County Appraisal District has bilingual videos posted on their website with information on how to navigate the protest process.
“Eighty-eight percent of the taxpayers that come in concerned about their value end up with a settlement,” Amezquita said.
As for the Martins, they just hope they’re one of the lucky ones.
“When those property taxes start going up, it just cuts into the routine of the budget. It’s hard to catch up,” Fred said.
For more information on O’Connor Tax Reduction Services, follow this link or call Todd Thomas at 832-318-4427.