Like many other Travis County residents, I found myself staring at property tax appraisal bills this year that were over-valued. In September, the Travis County Appraisal District (TCAD) unilaterally offered a lower adjusted value for one of the properties before I even attended the informal hearing. I signed off on that and mailed it back in, which dropped the home from $196K to $172K.
But that left a couple of 1+ acre lots I own, which I purchased at the peak of the Austin real estate market in 2007, valued by Travis County at 63% more than I paid. At the informal hearing, I explained to the tcad representative that the lots in the subject neighborhood are not homogeneous, and therefore the comparable sales being used were apples and oranges. I also questioned the “size and shape” adjustment they were applying, which added 35% to their “base” lot value for the neighborhood.
When the developer rolled out this neighborhood in 2006, the lots were all sold to custom builders. Some are high up on a ridge with mature oak trees and distant views. Others are down in old meadowland, no oak trees, and with waterway and floodplain issues. The two that I purchased were the two cheapest lots sold in the subdivision. The runts of the litter. The leftover lots that none of the custom builders wanted because they were in the floodplain and only had 70ft and 90ft widths at the front while the rest of the neighborhood has 100ft to 150ft lot widths. I won’t go into the strategy or thinking that lead me to purchase these “problem” lots, but the fact is, they were the cheapest sold for a reason and now I was sitting in front of a TCAD bonehead who was telling me they were “better than average” for the neighborhood and therefore priced at a premium. He offered a token adjustment, which I declined.
So a month later, two days ago, I attended the Formal Hearing. This is a panel of three incompetent older people. More on them in a minute. How they are selected I know not. And a TCAD representative who was as equally unskilled in understanding facts and data as the informal hearing representative. Bottom line, I prevailed, but not to the degree I had hoped. Here’s how it went.