Last year, more than 140,000 Bexar County property owners protested the taxable value put on their homes and businesses.
An even higher number is expected before the May 16 deadline this year.
Officials at the Bexar Appraisal District say as many as 150,000 residents could submit appeals as they react to sharp increases in the appraised value of their property.
Local realtor Alex Perches is determined to protest the valuation on his 1,100-square-foot home, appraised at $200,000, just as he did in 2019.
He plans to prove it with photographs of wood rot on the patio, a broken planter and a 1959 kitchen that needs remodeling.
“There’s no way anybody would pay [that amount] for this house based on the repairs that need to be done,” Perches said.
The Appraisal District comes up with the value of a property based on sales prices of similar properties in the area. As the average home price in San Antonio has risen 19%, so did the average appraised value — by nearly 28% on the average single-family home.
The taxable value and the current tax rate are used to calculate the amount of property taxes an owner must pay to the County Tax Assessor-Collector.
But property owners who think the appraisal that recently landed in their mailbox doesn’t match up with reality can file an appeal and seek to reduce their tax burden.
Real estate broker Jim Hawkins said he has filed a protest on his Comal County home many times and recommends his clients in San Antonio do the same. If nothing else, it’s useful information to understand how the appraisal was developed, he said.
“At the same time, I think you need to do some homework,” Hawkins said. “You just can’t go in here and say, ‘I think my taxes are too high.’”
While two statewide constitutional amendments on the May 7 ballot, if passed by voters, could reduce taxes for some, the appeals process is already open to everyone.
Some property owners choose to do the work themselves in protesting their valuation. Others hire a property tax consultant or attorney who will do the legwork for you.
In many cases, consultants get a percentage of the savings as payment. To avoid being scammed, officials recommend asking for referrals from neighbors or a real estate professional.
If you decide to do it yourself, here’s a step-by-step guide to protesting the appraisal on your property:
File a notice of protest
To start the process of appealing the appraised value of your property, or if you suspect an error has been made, you should first file a Form 50-132 Notice of Protest.
This form is available online at the Bexar Appraisal District website in English and Spanish; click on the Appraisal Review Board (ARB) heading.
The protest form can be submitted online using the Bexar Appraisal District’s eFile system. Other options available include sending the form by email to firstname.lastname@example.org, by fax to 210-242-2454 or mail: P.O. Box 830248, San Antonio, TX 78283.
Forms also can be delivered directly to a dropbox at the appraisal district office located at 411 N. Frio St.
When completing the form, select your reason for protesting the appraised value. The most common reasons selected are “incorrect appraisal” and “value is unequal.”
Be sure to check the “evidence requested” box so that you can get copies of the data the appraiser will use if there’s a formal hearing for your case. Also make sure you provide a good email address and phone number.
Schedule an informal meeting
After your notice of protest has been processed, the appraisal district will send you instructions on how to schedule an informal settlement meeting.
These meetings are conducted by phone or on the video conferencing platform Zoom.
When Perches filed his appeal in 2019, he was able to reduce the appraised value on his home by about $20,000, which satisfied him. He also recommends making sure you have a homestead exemption, which is available if you own and live in your home.
If you are dissatisfied with the decision made at the informal meeting, a formal hearing at the ARB is scheduled.
You can attend the hearing remotely by phone or Zoom, or request to appear in person, but the remote options are given priority in scheduling.
Have a formal hearing
At the formal hearing, the taxpayer and chief appraiser present evidence to the ARB, a panel of 45 individuals appointed by a local administrative judge.
As the property owner, you can discuss your objection to the appraisal, using relevant information to make your case about the true value of your home. This could include photos of your property and comparable properties, receipts or estimates for repairs, sales price documents (such as listings and closing statements), affidavits and calculations, architectural drawings, engineering reports, survey and deed records.
As soon as Hawkins’ clients began to receive their appraisal notices in the mail earlier this month, his phone started ringing, he said. Many asked him for help pulling comparable home sales prices from the Multiple Listing Service that they can use in an appeal.
More information about presenting your case before the ARB is available at the State Comptoller’s website.
After the ARB rules on your protest, a written order is sent to you by email or certified mail. If you disagree with the ARB’s decision, you can appeal to district court, to binding arbitration, or to the State Office of Administrative Hearings.
The Bexar Appraisal District website also offers step-by-step videos on filing a protest here.
The San Antonio Board of Realtors recently produced a podcast episode discussing the ins and outs of appraisals. The episode is available here.