A version of this post originally appeared on The Kinney Company blog.
It’s nearly January 1st, the day of the year we feel empowered to consider a life-changing plan or resolution for the new year. Out with the old and in with the new. Many years we start exercise regimens, declare a change in behavior, or go on a diet, but have you ever resolved to be prepared to defend and possibly lower your property tax assessment?
In Texas, January 1st is the day real property values are set. This snapshot in time will be the basis for determining your property tax bill, courtesy of your county appraisal district. Yes, while we are all making resolutions, resting from our evening of revelry the night before, or enjoying football on television, the county appraisal district is setting your property values in their ledgers. Of course a single day is not enough time for the county agents to determine the value of every property in the district, but the law does say January 1st.
Later on in the year, usually in April, the districts send out notices letting property owners know what values were chosen and providing an opportunity for owners to appear and dispute the value. Remember, the true physical condition of your property on January 1st is the basis to determine its real property value. As a property owner, it is critical to have detailed notes and documentation of your property’s condition on this particular day.
So, if your house is in a state of disrepair on January 1st, it will be worth less and your tax bill will decrease accordingly. If you are in the throes of remodeling your house on that date, it’s worth less—especially if it is all torn up. Take pictures to document the work. If there are issues that make your home less valuable such as a cracked slab, rotted areas, roofing issues, or anything else in disrepair, take a picture of it. If the landscape is dead, the garbage cans are out front and the place looks simply awful, take a picture of it! If the old junk car happens to get in the photo too, well, so be it. You may need this evidence later if you think the county has over-valued your property. Successful arguments that your value is lower than the county appraisal district has determined may depend on these photos.
So grab your camera, turn on its date stamp, and take some pictures of your property. Instead of trying to make your photos look great, think about doing just the opposite – think about photographing your house in the worst possible way! When you’re done, sit back, relax, and feel good that you’ve done something to help yourself down the road in 2015. And with that, let me be one of the first to wish you a happy New Year!
~Lazan Pargaman, Realtor®
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