At Wayfinder, one of our main goals is to make an impact for good in communities and for families. Back in February of 2021, an opportunity to do good presented itself in Texas with Storm Uri. Storm Uri hit Texas very hard and impacted millions of people. The freeze hit for almost seven days and it affected the electrical grid, so there were many people who did not have food, could not heat their homes, and could not even get gas for vehicles because the systems were down.
Evaluating the Situation
When we heard about the situation, immediately our hearts broke. We called down to our properties in Texas asking if they were ok and if they needed anything. The regional director expressed that they really needed food. The H-E-B was almost completely out of food, save for a few remaining lunch meat packages. They were concerned that their tenants would not have enough food to get through the weekend. It was really scary. We sat there with that news and said, “Well, we can’t necessarily write a check. It’s not really going to help to just write a check for this one.”
Seizing the Opportunity
After some brainstorming, we called the regional director back and said, “Hey, if we got a truck and filled it with food and brought it, would that help you?” She broke down in tears, and she said, “I can’t believe you would be willing to help, that is amazing.”
Taking the next step, we found out that we could rent a refrigerated truck. We then took it to Costco and Sam’s Club and asked if they could waive their limits on some of their products to help us, and they said, “Absolutely.” The staff at both places all jumped on board to help us. It was pretty amazing.
When we got the truck down to Texas, there were about 30 people waiting there for us to help us unload the truck. We then worked with our client and their team to unload the truck. They had boxes ready so that as we unloaded the truck, we began to make food kits that would get a family through the weekend.
Treating Every Property Like Our Own Home
The fingerprint of Wayfinder, what makes us unique, is that we treat every property as if it was our own. In this situation, if that was our own property, we absolutely would do anything we could to help. If we are looking for opportunities to do good in the world, they will come. All we have to do is be willing to say yes.
At Wayfinder, it is our goal to always say yes to opportunities to do good.
The Importance of Local Expertise in Your Property Tax Agent
Why Local Expertise Matters
One of the low points in my career was when I had a case in Kentucky. I had done everything I could to prepare for this case. I did my CoStar Comps and reviewed the property on Google Earth. I did everything I knew how to best prepare myself… all except for a site visit because I was stretched too thin at my former firm to be able to do that. There was no time to visit the property in person; I wasn’t able to dedicate more than a few minutes to this case. Little did I know, my lack of preparation was about to change everything.
I arrived in Kentucky, at my hearing, and went in to present my case. After I presented my case, the response from the board member was something I had never heard before. Much to my dismay, he said, “Boy, you’re not from around here. Because if you were, you would know that no one would ever compare that part of town to the one that you’re in right now.” And that was a game-changer for me.
If At First, You Don’t Succeed…
I thought that the properties looked similar in the aerial shots. I thought they looked similar on CoStar Sales, but my sales were low because they were in an area that didn’t warrant the same kind of sales as my subject. Well, needless to say, I walked out of there having lost my case. I felt dejected and determined that I would never feel that way again. Because of this experience, at Wayfinder, we visit every property we represent. We always know what we’re talking about in that market, because we…
Visit the equity comps
Drive around the neighborhood
Visit our sales comps
Perform exhaustive market data research
Interview people and business in the area
The Wayfinder Guarantee
That is what makes Wayfinder different from other agencies. We guarantee to visit your property. We never give our agents more than they can handle, so that they always can fulfill that guarantee. In most agencies, an agent has hundreds or thousands of properties they represent every year. It’s a quantity game. At Wayfinder, ours is a quality game. We never have more than 100 properties per agent, because that allows us to give days, not hours, for every one of our properties. I learned my lesson in that wonderful hearing in Kentucky where I got slapped upside the head and realized there is a better way to do property tax appeals.
Are you ready to experience the difference local expertise can make for your property valuation? Connect with one of our agents today!
Wayfinder was founded from a desire in our hearts to do some good in the world through the process of appealing property values. When we began sharing this idea with others, the first reaction that we got was, “Yeah, that’s not gonna work. That’s a nice idea, but it is not really how life works.” But in spite of that advice, we still had to give it a try and ask the question: What could be possible if we had the position of making a difference and doing good through our work?
The Start Of Something New
So, we created Wayfinder. It was really exciting to see what we could do even in the first year. We were able to work with our clients, successfully reduce their property values, and take some of that money and give it back to charitable causes that our clients cared about. For the organization Feed My Starving Children, we were able to go as a team and help make food packets to give to children that are in dire straits all around the world. That was one of the first blessings of being able to start Wayfinder.
One of the most surprising parts of this adventure has been discovering the many opportunities to go above and beyond when we intentionally seek to do good. I remember hearing from a company that received their tax bills and the boardroom conversation turned into, “Who are we going to let go in order to afford our property tax bill?” That was sadly the only option that they could think of to free up money to afford their tax bills. We fought for our client and got their property values reduced so significantly that their conversation changed to, “We can give our property managers and employees bonuses this year!”
Sometimes property valuation appeals get a bad name. Some people say that by protesting your value, you end up hurting communities and families. The media will say that you are taking away from schools and hospitals. However, the reality is that you are not taking away from any of that when you appeal your value. You are simply helping the process be more fair and equitable. The government will collect all of the money that they need to collect for the schools and they’re gonna get it through property taxes which allows it to be paid fairly based on the value of your property.
We take that a step further by asking our clients what causes they care about and donating to those causes. A lot of times they care about giving back locally because they know that a strong community is crucial to everyones success. For multifamily owners, they know they are protecting homes and they value the fact that they are helping some of the most vulnerable to have a place to live. Owners care about making that place the best it can be with amenities and a safe neighborhood. Together we are able to give back to your communities.
Making An Impact
These stories are just part of what makes going to work amazing. We are so thankful to be part of the process of making a positive impact in communities and on families and individuals. The impact is above and beyond what we could have ever imagined when we created this company. In the beginning, we were questioned if we could really make a difference. Years down the line, we now know that the work has improved communities and our ability to give. It is truly a result of the desire to make an impact. People may have mocked it at the beginning, but look at what we’ve been able to accomplish alongside our wonderful clients!
At Wayfinder, we have seen so much good already… and we are just getting started.
You Absolutely Can, But What Are the Pros and Cons?
Texas Believes in Property Rights
Texas believes in property owners’ rights and has set up its system to allow property owners to appeal their own properties. This means you can absolutely appeal on your own. Doing it yourself means you will need to prepare your evidence and be ready to present it to the Central Appraisal District or the Appraisal Review Board. If you are not satisfied with the results at those levels, you can hire an attorney to pursue more in litigation. If your property is small enough, you may even be able to represent yourself in arbitration rather than filing in court and hiring an attorney.
Pros and Cons to Doing It Yourself
Things to consider when deciding to appeal your own property valuations.
You don’t have to pay anyone based on your tax savings
You know everything that is happening and you don’t need to rely on someone for an update
You care deeply about your property
You know the story about what is happening in your market
You are alone in the process and it isn’t your full-time focus
Limited or no access to valuations tools that require costly subscriptions
Limited market data revolving only around your property
Limited time and a need to work on other responsibilities
Frustration dealing with slow processes
Researching and understanding the nuances of the property tax law.
Hiring an Expert can Ease Your Burden
Appealing on your own has its benefits, but in many cases, the frustration and time spent are not worth the reward. In most cases, it is better to reach out and ask an expert for help. They are able to focus their time on your case and help you achieve great results. The results far outweigh the costs for their services.
If you have questions or would like to see what an expert could do for you, the specialists at Wayfinder Tax Relief are ready to help
How can the Right Property Tax Agent Simplify My Life?
Increased Results, Decreased Stress
Extending Your Reach
Tax agents may seem like they are a dime a dozen, but if you want a tax agent to simplify your life, you need to dig a little deeper. Tax agents come from a wide array of firms, experiences, locations, reputations, and client experiences. It is important to ask yourself what you are looking for in an agent? Do you want someone you have to constantly check on to make sure they are meeting the deadlines? Do you want to feel like they are just another person you must supervise? Or maybe, your agent cuts you out entirely, doesn’t give you updates until you beg enough, and then only tells you about their successes while leaving out all your other properties.
From my experience, that is not usually what a client wants but it is often what they get when they hire the average tax agent. It is easy to see why an agent who cuts you out or needs your constant monitoring would not simplify your life. It could even seem like more work to hire an agent, after all, if you need to monitor everything why not do it yourself?
If you feel burned out from previous agents, I’m sorry to hear that. An agent should extend your reach. Allowing you to do more with your limited time. The right agent figures out a customized plan with you for how and when you want reports so that you don’t need to ask. They don’t make last-minute requests, causing you to drop everything to answer in time. And they certainly don’t need you to remind them of deadlines. If anything, it should be the reverse where you are being reminded by them because you are so confident they have your back that you can move on with other responsibilities.
The right tax agent will also simplify your life by having experience in your property type. They will be a specialist, not a jack-of-all-trades. They will know the best valuation approaches for your property and market and will use them to secure you the best possible reductions. A large part of experience comes from visiting your properties and the local market. Actual boots on the ground, asking the right questions and documenting the right facts. If your agent is too overburdened to visit your property, then they are missing a critical piece of the valuation puzzle. They may secure you a reduction, but it’s like slinging mud against the wall to see what sticks.
The right specialist tax agent will deliver you the best results possible. Does that always mean a reduction? No, an agent can’t guarantee a result. But, if they have done everything they should be doing, they will come to you and let you know the results with confidence. Knowing they left no stone unturned, and no argument omitted. The results of a specialist in your property type are usually better than the average agent and that can give you confidence when you report the results.
A tax agent may not simplify your life, but the right specialized tax agent will. If you are tired of begging for reports, supervising your agent, or only getting part of the story, it sounds like it may be the perfect time to reevaluate your agent and find the right one to simplify your life!
In multifamily property tax appeals, great tax agents work for a percentage of the tax savings. This means that unless they are successful in reducing your property valuation, you won’t pay them anything. This takes the risk off you as the owner and places the burden on the tax agent to perform. As long as a tax agent is working on contingency, you will always come out ahead.
Great tax agents take a personal interest in you and your property. They visit it every year and build relationships with those at the property and the Central Appraisal District. The results you experience are much better and lasting than those of a volume agent.
The Cost of a Bad Agent
A bad agent can cost you more than just the current year tax savings, they can cost you your reputation, which could impact future deals and tax savings. Just because an agent is working on a contingency fee does not mean they are getting you the best results. They may even be getting you small reductions every year, but if they are only taking those small reductions because they are too busy to know your property, you may be losing out on thousands in tax savings.
A bad agent may save you $10,000 a year on a single property, but a great agent may save you $20,000. If the great agent’s fee is 30% instead of the lower 20%, you will still net $14,000 rather than $8,000 each year by choosing the better, higher fee agent. If they were to average those same results over the next 10 years, you would net $140,000 in tax savings vs. only $80,000. All of that savings is on one property. Imagine if you had 10, 50, or 100 properties; the difference in those results add up quickly.
Don’t Shortchange Yourself
Unfortunately, too many multifamily owners unknowingly undervalue themselves and undercut their success. They think they want the cheapest agent believing it will save them money on fees. The cheap agents are sly and promise them all sorts of things to get the deal, but the client quickly finds out that it was a smoke show to get them to buy. The deliverables are less shiny than advertised, the results are subpar, and appeals are being churned out of a volume machine, with little human interaction or judgment.
Quality representation takes time and personal attention. Multifamily owners with the mindset of long-term success choose agents that specialize in their property type. They choose to pay a higher contingency fee to ensure their properties are visited annually and treated individually. There is a lot of money on the line in property taxes. It is, after all, usually the number one expense for the Texas multifamily property. Successful owners choose quality over quantity. They don’t want to be a number, unable to speak to a live person when they have questions. The value is in the relationship with their agent, and knowing their agent truly cares about their properties gives them peace of mind. And peace of mind is something we could all use more of in the world today.
As a prudent multifamily owner, managing costs is very important. If you hire a roofer, you will want to know and approve the contract cost upfront. Property tax agents sometimes present a tempting offer to cap fees, but there is a hidden dark side when you play that game. You may worry about how much a tax agent without a fee cap will cost, and that is a valid concern. From experience, I have seen that capping an agent far outweighs the benefit to the client. I would like to pull back the curtain for just a moment and help you glimpse the danger lurking in such a deal.
Compensated based on success
Property tax agents are typically compensated based on their success. This means that you always come out ahead if you are paying them a fee. When there is no cap, excellent agents do their best to examine every angle and opportunity to reduce your property taxes. They know that the better they represent you, the higher your savings and their fee.
On the flip side, you may see agents with a contingency fee plus a cap. This means that no matter how good they do, they will only receive the maximum cap amount. Agents under such a deal know exactly the amount of reduction they need to hit the cap and the temptation is to do just enough to hit the cap. Anything above that they are doing for free. The true danger to you, as a multifamily owner, is that you don’t get the lowest value and tax bill. You only get it low enough for your agent to max out their cap. Thousands of dollars of additional tax savings may be readily on the table, but since there is no upside to a capped agent, they aren’t asking for it. You ultimately lose tremendous tax savings, which usually far outweighs the cost of removing the cap.
You become a volume client
Another danger with using caps with your property tax agent is that you become a volume client. There is hardly any incentive for them to visit and know your property. They can likely secure the reduction necessary to hit the cap with minimal effort. Your property is just one of the thousands that churned out with little thought about the property itself. Getting an update on your property will likely be difficult if you can get one at all. Volume clients usually hear from their agents a few times a year. Does the following communication sound familiar?
1. When they need something signed by you.
2. When they need information, usually last minute.
3. When you get their invoice.
Your company and properties are unique and important to you. Hire an agent who treats them that way. The agents who give excellent service don’t have fee caps, and you wouldn’t want them to. I want you to have confidence you are getting the best representation possible. We have put together an agent checklist that helps you evaluate your current agent. It is valued at $1,000, but I want to gift it to you and my expense today so you can make sure you are prepared for the 2022 Texas appeal season. I hope you will take advantage of reviewing your agent and securing your maximum tax savings next year.
Can your tax agent get you bigger reductions than you can on your own?
If not, it’s time to reevaluate your agent
Property Specific Knowledge
Knowing the subject property is one of the first rules in valuation. As an owner or property manager, you likely have visited your property and know the difficulties it is facing. This is critical to determining an accurate value. For an agent to secure a greater reduction than you, they should know the property as well as, or better than the owner. This can only be achieved through site visits where the agent puts boots on the ground. First-hand knowledge by a dedicated agent allows them to find valuation issues that even a very diligent owner may overlook. Online maps, street views, and satellite pictures can never replace a real visit.
Valuation Knowledge and Time
The next critical step is knowing standard valuation methods, and which ones are most appropriate for your property type. For Texas multifamily, the income approach is usually the best method for determining value. In the case of new construction, cost would be more appropriate. As an owner, if you have experience with the approaches and the time to research market income conditions, you might do fine appealing on your own. However, if like most owners, you have dozens of other important issues demanding your attention, it may be difficult to devote the necessary time and resources to a valuation appeal. Your time would be far better spent doing that which only you can do and utilizing a professional specialized in Texas multifamily property taxes.
The right property tax agent has the time and resources to focus on your valuation appeal. They have extensive experience in the approaches and market. By utilizing a dedicated agent, you can free up your time to accomplish your vital priorities and still secure results. Thereby increasing your productive output, without becoming overwhelmed.
Relationship with the Central Appraisal District
As a final point, it is critical to remember that relationships matter. If you plan on owning the property for any length of time or want to keep doing business in the county, you should consider your relationship with the Central Appraisal District (CAD). They are trying to do their best with their limited time and resources. Approaching them with an aggressive attitude usually will result in the same behavior right back. When both sides begin by entrenching themselves in their position, it is hard to make progress. Unfortunately, some agents take this approach. Not only does is it hurt your potential valuation, but it can also harm your company’s reputation in the county. Whether you appeal on your own or seek a tax agent’s help, find those who are good at building bridges.
How Can I Reevaluate My Agent?
If you have an agent but wonder if they are getting you the best results, use the Tax Agent Checklist to evaluate your agent today. The insights you will gain from these 10 easy questions will help you determine if your agent can really get you a bigger reduction than you can on your own. You shouldn’t have to go it alone or settle for mediocre help. With something as important as your property taxes, you should Experience Excellence.
Imagine you are traveling and you come to a fork in the road. Both routes eventually lead to your destination, which makes you wonder if it matters which route you take. So you ask yourself this question: Which route will get me to my destination in the fastest, most enjoyable way? If you are going to make the drive, you might as well enjoy it.
So it is with property valuation appeals. Whether you appeal it yourself, or you hire a property tax agent, the goal is to still settle with the Central Appraisal District (CAD) or have a hearing before the Appraisal Review Board (ARB). The destination may appear the same, but the journey and results can be very different.
Course 1: Doing it Yourself
When handling your own protests, it is common that there are many projects and important tasks that pull you in a million directions, because property taxes are usually only one of the hats you wear. They are easily put on the back burner for another day down the road, while more pressing sales tax issues or real estate deals are considered. Since property taxes on Texas multifamily are the number 1 or 2 expense item, it is clear that affecting that expense can have a tremendous benefit to your bottom line. Yet, it is still easy to be overwhelmed with all the specific deadlines and valuation evidence. Successfully appealing your valuation involves arguing valuation concepts and knowing the market. It involves studying comparable properties, documenting adjustments to their valuations, and attending meetings with the CAD or ARB. In the end, your simple appeal may take many more hours than you anticipated or wanted to give it.
Course 2: Hiring a Property Tax Professional
Hiring a property tax agent can alleviate most if not all of the above stress. An agent takes on the responsibility to ensure filing deadlines are met, evidence is gathered, and hearings are attended. Because agents focus on property valuations, they can give dedicated time to knowing your properties and aiming to secure you the best reduction. They are familiar with the laws and the markets. Following this course usually results in better outcomes for you, with a lot less time commitment and stress.
So How Long Will My Protest Take?
The ultimate answer depends on the course you choose. While both will typically last about the same number of calendar days, doing it yourself will involve substantially more time and commitment from you. If freeing up your time for other important projects, and potentially securing greater tax reductions is appealing to you, consider hiring a property tax professional to handle your appeals.
How Does Filing an Appeal Make a Difference on my Property Taxes?
Don’t assume that the Central Appraisal District is correct
What types of issues can be corrected by filing a protest?
One of the simplest reasons for filing a protest of your noticed value is to correct misinformation. This could be from incorrect building size, land size, construction quality, ownership, or other reasons. Additionally, contesting the noticed value can allow you to provide property-specific facts that are not accounted for in the mass appraisal valuation method, and thereby change your taxable value.
Is the system set up for me to fail?
Texas has a wonderful property tax system that is designed to ensure taxpayers are heard. Part of this process revolves around evidence supporting the noticed value. As a taxpayer, you need to prepare and bring your own evidence, but unlike most other states, the Appraisal District is not presumed to be correct at your hearing.
Under the Texas Tax Code §41.43(a) the Appraisal District bears the burden of proof to support their value. In other words, they need to prove why the value they set is accurate. This unique system is not set up for you to fail. Come with evidence supporting the correction you are seeking and present your case before the Appraisal Review Board.
How does any of this make a difference to me?
Your Texas property tax bill is determined from your taxable value multiplied by the tax rate. When you protest the noticed value and the result is a reduced valuation, your tax bill will be lower. Additionally, under Uniform and Equal provisions, others can be helped by your protest. Placing checks and balances on government taxation and overreach is a freedom we hold dear in this country. While we are subject to property taxes, filing an appeal of your valuation is one way you can exercise your freedom to ensure that you are not being overtaxed.
Here is an example of just what protesting your taxes can look like to you.
The noticed value was $2 million and after the taxpayer’s appeal the value was reduced to $1.5 million. The tax rate in the jurisdiction is 2.5%. The $500,000 reduction in the noticed value would reduce the taxpayer’s property tax bill $12,500.
Wayfinder offers taxpayer representation and assistance
If understanding and filing your own protest feels overwhelming and complicated, don’t worry. Wayfinder’s property tax experts offer personalized service to know your properties and help you achieve the lowest legal value for your property. We help liberate capital for our clients so they can do what they do best without stress.