Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Protesting my Property Taxes

It doesn’t seem to matter that home prices are dropping across the country - tax appraisals continue to inflate. I was surprised to see that the county had increased the appraisal value for my home. I knew it would never decrease, but at least I entertained the idea that it might stay the same.

A couple of weeks later I received a letter from a firm that wants to protest my taxes for me and take 50% of the savings. I had been considering a protest and that convinced me to file. I called the appraisal district and was told that they can not adjust valuations over the phone. I explained my case and the appraiser on the phone suggested that I file a protest in writing. Ugh. More time and work on my part required just to get a fair shake, a fair appraisal.

The following is the first draft of my letter of protest. The place names have been changed, but other than that this is the letter to be mailed.

Dear Appraisal Revew Board,

It is my desire to file a protest based on the valuation of my property being unequal to other properties. Valuation and property data is provided in the following chart for three homes located in my home neighborhood.

My property at 928 Home Road is to be compared against comparable homes at 927 and 930 Home Road. These two homes, at street #927 and #930, are the two closest homes to my house at 928 Home Road. My house is located between these two properties. All three of these properties have been re-valued for tax year 2008 and the figures in this chart reflect the most current values for 2008.

First in a comparison of the lots, it becomes apparent that my lot is more narrow with much less frontage than either of these other two properties. Both of these properties have a more functional and usable shape and consequently should be more valuable than my lot, yet my lot has a significantly higher land rate (cost per square foot of land). In addition, I do not have usage of the last 100 feet (North end) of my lot because it is under water. A city drainage ditch completely crosses my property. Using the rate (cost/square foot) for the lot that most closely resembles mine (930 Home Road), my total land value becomes 0.74*28907 = $21429.

Next, my home structure is valued at a greater amount than a larger home next to mine. Both homes are rated in good condition and are separated by only one year in age. The home at 927 Home Road has 153 square feet more living area than my house and a garage that is 180 square feet larger than mine, yet my house has a higher appraised dollar value. By calculating the cost per square foot for the home at 927 Home Road and applying the same rate to my own structure, the new value becomes: $53.41*1947 = $103,998.

In addition, my home has a large retaining wall that is in need of repair. Neither of these two other properties have a comparable retaining wall. The wall is approximately 11 feet tall and extends over 90 feet across my property. This wall provides support for my home foundation. The wall is constructed of used railroad ties that were installed in 1987. The railroad ties have deteriorated and need replacement. I have included a photo of the damaged wall and an estimate to replace this structure.

As is the case for any major repair work, a prospective home buyer would request that the cost of the retaining wall work be subtracted from the final selling price of the home. Given a market value of $125,426 minus the cost estimate of the wall ($19,722), the final market price becomes $105,704.

Please review the information that I have provided and reconsider the property valuation for 928 Home Road.

Thank you for your time,

I really don't expect the county to lower my property valuation to my recommendation. However, I do expect some relief and of course I am eager to read the logic behind any rebuttal.


  1. I just got my city tax estimate for next year and they lowered my property value by $3k. But, just last week the local paper ran a front page article titled, 'Adverage home prices drop by $20,000'.

    It's funny how the city had no problem increasing my property tax as fast as my house appresiated, yet have no intension of lowering them as fast as they are droping.

  2. With such a well thought out position and explanation, I have no doubt they will be rewarding you relief.
    Your financial proactiveness never ceases to impress me. =)

  3. they wont drop them if the house prices, or house values drop .. in fact if the values drop the taxes go up.

  4. @Mike - thanks for the link. It's quite the racket: if values decrease, the gov't increases the tax rate to cover the deficit.

    I eventually met with a count appraiser and did manage to get my house valuation lowered, but not the way I had originally planned! Here's the follow up post