If you received your property valuation statement in the mail recently and felt a pang of surprise when you opened the letter, you are not alone. Property valuations across the state of Texas are soaring and are expected to continue trending upward.
In January 2020, the average home price in Texas was $277,913. As of March 2022, the average home price jumped to $408,827, a 68 percent increase in just two years, according to the Texas A&M University Real Estate Research Center.
In Liberty County, property valuations over the last year have gone up by at least 10 percent, though the full scope of the increase will not be known until after certified values are ready later this year, according to Liberty County Chief Appraiser Lana McCarty.
McCarty said an indicator of growth in Liberty County are areas where property sales are generally lagging, such as Hull and Daisetta. These areas are now seeing an increase in property sales.
“Normally we see less than 20 residential sales per year in Daisetta. In the last six months of 2021, we saw 87 different sales,” McCarty said. “Dayton and Cleveland ISDs’ taxable values are usually based on sales with most of the other school districts in the county being a mixture of sales and random samplings. This year the values were not a mixture for any of the school districts in the county. The values were based on sales alone.”
What this means for most property owners in Liberty County is that they should expect to see rising valuations on their properties, which, in turn, means more taxes assessed. The State of Texas’ tax code dictates that homestead properties cannot jump in assessed taxable value by more than 10 percent year over year; however, the market value may be higher and major improvements to a property may require a higher valuation.
“My job, as chief appraiser, is to make sure that everything is at market value. I don’t take taxes into consideration when assessing those values. My job is to put the market value on the property and then determine if you qualify for some of the exemptions for agriculture and homesteads,” McCarty said.
Some good news, McCarty said, is that the homestead exemption may be increasing from $25,000 to $40,000 based on voter approval.
“The biggest feat for my office is getting people to understand that we are taxpayers, too, and have nothing to do with setting the tax rates. I don’t remember taxes being such a burden before as they are now. Twenty years ago, I didn’t feel like I was paying so much in property taxes as I do today. It’s gotten to the point where a mortgage and the tax bill are identical. You are paying as much toward the principal as you are in taxes each month,” she said.
Property owners interested in appealing their valuations must submit a letter or form of protest to the Liberty County CAD by Monday, May 16, or 30 days from the time their letter from the Liberty County CAD was postmarked. To expedite the process, McCarty suggests sending in the protest forms as soon as possible.
“I think the best thing we can do is help people learn how the process works and educate them of their rights. They should also start showing up at public meetings for the taxing entities in their area,” she said. “If an entity suddenly comes up with a billion dollars of new revenue from new rooftops added to their area, then they should be able to lower the taxes for everyone.”
In order to be successful in protesting property tax valuations, McCarty suggests the following:
- Get written estimates from contractors of work needed at your property. For instance, if the house needs a new roof or needs to be leveled, provide an estimate of the costs.
- Take photos of the property and highlight areas that need repairs or improvements to bring them to full market value.
“We want people to protest if they feel their valuations are wrong. Show me what is wrong with your house so I can help you. Telling me you need a new roof is not the same as proving you need a new roof,” McCarty said. “People might not know they qualify for homestead exemptions and we will be happy to explain that to them as well.”
The Liberty County Central Appraisal District is hosting three workshops next week to inform and educate property owners of their rights. The dates, locations and times for the workshops are:
- Monday, April 25, 10 to 11 a.m., Cleveland Civic Center, 210 Peach Ave., Cleveland
- Thursday, April 28, 5:30 to 6:30 p.m., Dayton Community Center, 801 S. Cleveland St., Dayton
- Thursday, April 28, 2 to 3 p.m., Liberty City Hall, 1829 Sam Houston Ave., Liberty
Pre-registration is not required to attend any of the three workshops. All workshops are free.
“We will have homestead applications and protest forms on hand, and will be there to help in any way, shape or form we can,” McCarty said.
The Liberty CAD also has a link on its website that answers many of the frequently asked questions. Click here to see more: