NORTH TEXAS (CBSDFW.COM) - With home values on the rise across North Texas, homeowners likely received an unsettling piece of mail this month: their property valuation notice.
But with roughly two weeks until the deadline to file a property tax protest, homeowners need to swap out their shock for strategy.
People who wish to lower their appraised value can appeal to their appraisal district's review board. Of course, higher values mean higher taxes.
That's why homeowners flocked to the Tarrant County Appraisal District last week for the first day of protest hearings, armed with arguments.
Crafting a compelling argument can be an art in and of itself. The Ones for Justice compiled pointers to help property owners prepare for their protest hearing.
Above all else, preparation is key to winning over the review board, according to Bobby Ola.
Ola, the president of Ola Tax, makes a living off protesting property taxes.
"You need to make a convincing argument," Ola said.
#1: BOUGHT IN THE LAST YEAR? APPRAISERS WILL LIKELY MATCH YOUR SALE PRICE
Provide your closing statement to show what you paid for your home.
Remember, this tip only applies to regular "arm's length" sales, not homes purchased through family or foreclosure.
If your home was recently appraised by a third party, the board could also match your recent appraisal.
Jennifer Hemenway, of Keller, is in the midst of refinancing her home. The Tarrant County Appraisal District dropped the appraised value of her home by $24,000 after Hemenway provided the number she received from an outside appraiser. The review board ultimately agreed to match that value.
"If I never protested or didn't come in, I'd be spending another thousand, couple thousand more on taxes," Jennifer Hemenway said.
#2: PULL COMPS
Look for houses in your neighborhood with similar features and upgrades that sold in the last year.
Make sure the house is a similar size, too. Think within 200 square feet of your home's size.
#3: HIGHLIGHT YOUR HOME'S FLAWS
Take pictures of everything that's wrong with your home, from structural defects like foundation cracks to cosmetic issues.
Provide estimates how much it would cost to repair those problems.
One homeowner documented the damage in his home by using newspapers as a time stamp.
"Every picture that you have that can make it look in a negative light is valuable to me," Ola said.
Joyce and Larry Morgan of Colleyville did not hold back during their hearing in Tarrant County.
"It needs to be painted on the outside," said Joyce Morgan, speaking about her home in Colleyville.
"Some sheetrock damage inside," her husband, Larry Morgan, added.
#4: EXAMINE THE EVIDENCE
Homeowners are entitled to examine the evidence compiled by the appraisal district.
Request all evidence.State law requires the district to release all relevant information, including the comps they plan on using, two weeks before your hearing.
Jeff Taylor, of North Richland Hills, said he felt at a disadvantage during his hearing because he never received the evidence he requested from the Tarrant County Appraisal District.
"I had no idea what they were going to present," Taylor said.
#5: BE PROFESSIONAL
State your case without emotion. The review board members will not take kindly to angry reactions or outbursts.
Present your proposed appraisal value, then explain how you reached that number.
Ola says *never* repeat the following phrases that review members hear constantly:
-"You could buy my house for that price"
-"I could not sell my house for that price!"
Every hearing is different, but many homeowners share the same advice when it comes to keeping property taxes low.
"My advice is to protest every year," said Hemenway. "You never know."
Jeff Taylor convinced the board to drop to his value by $400,000 simply by proving his unfinished home is still under construction.
The appraisal from TAD reflected the value of Taylor's home when it was finished. But as of January 1, when the home was appraised, the structure was only 40 percent completed.
"I'm elated," Taylor said. "I think I just saved $12,000 in taxes.
Homeowners can even starting prepping for next year's protest hearings.
Hold off on non-essential upgrades and repairs until after January 1 when homes are appraised.
Before repairs, take "before" pictures to use at your hearing.
If you don't agree with the board's decision following your protest, you can appeal again.
The Ones For Justice shares tips on the appeals process in this episode of Behind the Lens.
Click on your county to learn more about your appraisal district and how to file for a protest.
for more features.