When it comes to service, the difference between good and great is noticeable. Good service fits a need while great service exceeds expectations. Most of us have experienced both good and great service, and I am willing to bet that great service providers stand out to us, while good providers fall by the wayside. This is mainly because great service is much rarer, and we feel its impacts immediately.
A Great Agent is Hard to Come By
There are a lot of good property tax agents in Texas, but not many great ones. This is because the level of service a great agent can provide is often much higher than most groups are able or willing to offer. Great agents visit all the properties they represent so that they can intimately understand their clients’ assets. They also act as an extension of their clients and treat every appeal as if it were their own property being valued. They are considerate of their clients’ needs, expectations, and goals throughout the entire tax year, not just during appeal season.
A great agent also knows when to be aggressive with an appeal and push for a large reduction and when to work with an appraiser to come to a settlement. You can usually identify a great agent by their consistent large reductions and favorable reputation with the appraisal districts they work in. As a result, their clients benefit from lower taxes and elevated reputations in the communities they serve.
The Wayfinder Way
All multifamily property owners deserve great property tax services. To be sure you are receiving great service, download the Property Tax Agent Checklist and evaluate your current provider. If you find that there is some room for improvement, it may be time for a change so you can get the service you deserve.
How Can the Central Appraisal District Keep Raising My Value?
This Feels Illegal
You didn’t do any work on your property and yet the value still increased. The taxes are crushing you and you may have wondered, “How is this even legal?” It might seem unfair, unjust, and downright illegal to be taxed out of your property. Unfortunately, it may not be fair, but it is legal. It all has to do with how properties are valued on a large-scale using market factors.
Property Value Changes
Texas law does not limit the amount of an increase or decrease to your property value by the Central Appraisal District (CAD). The CAD is tasked with finding what they determine to be your market value. They achieve this purpose by gathering sales of similar properties in the market. Additionally, they gather market surveys regarding rents, expenses, and cap rates. Once they have this information, they look to see if the market values are trending up or down. They use this information to determine what happens to your value. Most often, the values in real estate trend upwards. This is likely why your value has continued to increase, even if you have not done anything to further improve the property.
CAD’s Limited Knowledge
The values determined are based on generalized models for the market. It is highly unlikely that your property is exactly in line with the model. You may have some deferred maintenance, or there may have been an issue with your property during the past year that has negatively impacted you. This information is what the CAD is missing when valuing your property. It is through your protest that you may provide the CAD with this additional information and seek a lower value. As you prove your property is not in line with the model, the value should be reflected to show it.
Here is a real-life example: one multifamily property owner I encountered had their property assessed and valued per the CAD’s model. The value increased. What the CAD didn’t know was the property had suffered a fire and lost an entire building of 16 units! The CAD was completely unaware that the property did not follow their model, and it appears the tax agent was unaware as well, since they did not file a protest. Unfortunately, the taxpayer was burdened with excessive taxes because their value was not reduced. Had an appeal been filed and the value reduced, the owner would have been able to use the tax savings to rehab the building in a more expedited manner.
Informal Appraisal Meeting v. Appraisal Review Board Hearing
When a taxpayer files an appeal of their property value, they are given a date that their protest will be heard by the Appraisal Review Board (ARB). This appeal will determine the final value of the property through the administrative process. However, before this hearing, a taxpayer may seek out an “informal” meeting with the county appraiser’s office in an attempt to settle the appeal. This allows both the appraisal office and the taxpayer to set the value for the property without the intervention of an ARB.
What to Do:
BEFORE THE MEETING
The first thing a taxpayer needs to do before their informal meeting with the appraisal district is examine their evidence. This should include the county’s evidence as well. After examining all the evidence, taxpayers must establish a justifiable value for their property and craft the narrative of their appeal (“My property’s value should be reduced because . . .”). Once they’ve done their homework, it is time to meet with the appraiser.
DURING THE MEETING
When having the informal meeting with the appraisal office, be sure to listen to what bit of evidence drove the county’s valuation. Where are they putting the most weight on in their argument? Was it a comparable sale in the market? Or maybe a new cap rate study? Be sure to listen to their argument; even if you cannot resolve the protest in the informal meeting, it will help you later in an ARB hearing. After meeting with the appraiser, try to rework your evidence using some of the data/numbers the county is using to bridge the gap between your valuations. It is ok to make concessions. If the number is higher than you find to be reasonable, then take your shot in front of the ARB. Otherwise, offer this new number to the appraisal district and see if that is agreeable to them.
The Wayfinder Way
These meetings can be extremely useful to taxpayers because they now know what the driving factor was in their property’s valuation. The meeting allows them to bypass a potentially risky ARB hearing to acquire a reduction in value.
You Need a Texas Multifamily Property Tax Specialist.
Why Your Taxes Keep Getting Higher
Property taxes are determined based on the value of your property and the tax rates set by local jurisdictions. Since Texas does not allow income tax, the property taxes are higher than in other states. With multiple inputs, there may be many reasons why your tax bill is high. We will address a few of them in this article.
How Property is Valued
Each year the Central Appraisal Districts (CAD) review and assess the value of your property. As you might expect, most often the value increases. If you have not been contesting your value, this would definitely impact why your taxes seem high compared to others. Even though the CAD attempts to value every property fairly and equitably with others, it is a very difficult job. They value thousands to hundreds of thousands of properties and cannot know your property personally. They use information they have gathered about the market to value properties en masse. Hiring a tax agent to properly review your valuation each year and contest the value when appropriate can help keep the market value reduced, and thereby reduce your property taxes.
Why Tax Rates Matter
Another component of the tax bill is your tax rate. Even if your valuation stayed the same from last year, the tax rates may have increased. This would increase your tax bill. In the fall, the local districts have meetings to discuss their budget needs and proposed tax rates. This is really the only time you can voice your opinion about the tax rate. If you are not attending these meetings and letting your district know you want to keep the rate low, they will likely move forward with their proposal.
Evaluating Your Agent
If you have an agent who has been appealing your valuation and you still feel like your valuations are too high, then download the Property Tax Agent Checklist and rate your agent. You may find out that it isn’t you, but it is your agent that is not giving you the representation you deserve. Evaluate their fee, if it is a bargain price, you are likely getting bargain service. Consider finding a Texas multifamily property tax specialist to take your results to the next level.
Anytime Of Year Is A Good Time To Get With A Property Tax Agent
Many Texas multifamily property owners already have representation concerning their noticed value protests. But not all. Whether you do it yourself–or even if you’ve never filed an appeal–you should engage with a property tax agent today to get specialized help with lowering your taxes.
2 Reasons You Need Specialized Help with Your Property Taxes
1. They can save you more than you can save yourself
If you do not have a property tax agent currently reviewing your properties’ values for potential protests, you should do so immediately. Agents specialize in property valuations–and in reducing them–to save you more on taxes. Doing these in-house may seem to save you money because you do not need to pay an agent’s fee, but you are most likely missing out on large tax savings every year that more than pays for the agent. In fact, most agents only charge a fee if they are successful in saving you money. Doing this work in-house creates more stress for you and your team members, requires the use of more resources, and often will result in suboptimal results. Getting expert representation is always advisable.
2. They can help you all year long
Now that you can see the value of a good agent, when should you reach out and engage with a firm for representation? The answer is: immediately. There is no bad time to start working with a good agent. If values have just come out, it means they can start preparing your case for appeal to an ARB and even court, if needed. If it has been months since your last appeal, an agent can review your portfolio for further reductions outside the normal appeal timeframe, or start prepping appeals for next year by doing site visits and learning your assets. Agents can, and should, even be providing you with tax estimates for budgeting purposes. There is no bad time to get with a great firm. A good agent can provide value no matter the season.
If you do not yet have any representation for your Texas multifamily property, please visit contact us today and see what a specialist can do for you and your portfolio.
You Need Someone in Your Corner Who Will Fight For You.
A Tax Agent is…
Licensed by the State
A Texas property tax agent is an individual licensed in Texas to represent taxpayers in the valuation appeal process. There are education requirements and certification exams proving a base level of competency in Texas property tax law before someone can become licensed. Once licensed, continuing education requirements ensure agents are staying up-to-date on Texas law and ethics. When evaluating an agent, first check to see that they are licensed and legally allowed to represent you.
Tax agents are meant to be your advocate and represent your best interests. They are an extension of you throughout the appeal process. Their goal is to reduce your property tax burden while preserving your relationship with the county. Your agent should communicate with you proactively and keep you in the loop. Unless you specifically state it, they should not be accepting valuations or settlements without your knowledge.
A Representative Who Works For You
Your tax agent should be working for you, not working around you. They should not file appeals on your behalf without your permission. Occasionally, you may find an agent who is overly aggressive and ignores your instructions. They may even threaten to drop your appeal if you don’t do what they say. These agents are acting beyond their authority, and you should review your rights to hire a more respectful agent. If you encounter a rude agent, you should run in the other direction! Agents like this run the risk of causing a rift between you and the county–and that could damage your future appeals. There are too many good agents out there; you don’t need to settle for poor representation.
An Extension of you
Ultimately, a tax agent should be an extension of you, decreasing your stress and fighting for reductions. They should handle the entire appeal process and keep you in the loop, while minimizing the burden on you. Hiring the right property tax agent will bring results to you and your property that can make a meaningful impact to your bottom line.
It is common understanding that not all physicians are created equally. Primary care physicians are wonderful at general care and can help with many problems, but a patient would be ill-advised to ask them to perform the specialized care of heart surgery. In medicine, it has long been expected that doctors specialize in order to learn the complexities of a specific area of the body so they can give the best care. Currently, there are over 159 specialties and subspecialties listed by the American Board of Medical Specialties.
ALL PROPERTY TAX AGENTS ARE CREATED EQUALLY
That is a common misunderstanding. For too long in the property tax world, companies have been told that property tax agents are all the same and can handle any property type in any market. This is not true. Properties and markets are very different. The belief that all are the same has resulted in many property owners receiving poor representation and care. Specialization has become more necessary with the advanced technologies and information available in the world. Tax agents who specialize in markets and property types are much better prepared to reduce property tax burdens than tax generalists. Just as the trained eye of the heart surgeon sees issues, conditions, and solutions specific to the heart, the specialized multifamily property tax agent understands issues unique to your property type. Wayfinder Tax Relief is the only firm specializing in multifamily property tax in the state of Texas.
SPECIALISTS GIVE BETTER CARE
Medical specialists spend nearly all their time within their specific field of practice and come to know the details of their expertise at a much deeper level. Understanding the details allows for better care and more accurate work. Tax agents who try to be a “jack-of-all-trades, masters of none” are usually overburdened with too many properties, too many different industries, and a lack of time necessary to give quality attention to each appeal. That is the opposite of what you want when it comes to getting reductions and filing protests.
Tax agents who specialize give more time to each appeal, have first-hand knowledge of the property, and even do additional research into surrounding properties to ensure they present the best, most substantiated case for their client. The end result of this specialization is the best possible outcome for the client.
Step 1: Find your property value. This can be found on your Notice of Value or on the central appraisal district website where your property is located. If you don’t know your property account/parcel number, you can often find it by searching by address or owner name.
Step 2: Determine the tax rates that apply to your property. In many instances, the tax rates can be found where you find your property value. Be sure to locate all applicable tax rates, which may include the Independent School District (ISD), county, city, hospital, community colleges, etc. A good check is to review the previous year’s bill to ensure you have located all the taxing jurisdictions.
Step 3: Multiply the property value by the total tax rate. Texas property taxes are calculated on 100% of the market value of the property. If the total value is $10,000,000 and the total tax rate is 2.5%, then the tax bill would be $10,000,000 x .025 = $250,000.
That wasn’t so hard, was it? The tax system can seem intimidating at first, but a few good tips from an expert will give you a good handle on the terminology and formulas used in your valuation, driving you to ask the right questions and know when you can go it alone and when it’s time to reach out for assistance.
Why Does it Matter?
When you know how to calculate your own estimates, you no longer need to take your tax agent or the taxing jurisdictions at their word. You can verify that your tax bill is correct, and you can calculate the tax savings you are receiving. You will have more peace of mind knowing you are not dependent on someone else’s work.
An Appraisal Review Board, or ARB, is a group of citizens authorized to resolve disputes between taxpayers and the appraisal district. Texas Tax Code §Section 6.41 establishes the process for appointing the members of a local ARB. The goal of the ARB is to settle valuation disputes between the appraisal district and the property owner. If you file an appeal of your proposed value and cannot come to an informal settlement with the appraisal district, you will be given an ARB hearing date. Although the guidelines used in the ARB manual are published by the Texas Comptroller’s office, it is important to note that the ARB is independent of the appraisal districts.
What Should Taxpayers Expect?
Now that we understand the ARB’s purpose, what should a taxpayer expect when they find themselves arguing a case before the board? At an ARB hearing, both the appraisal district and the taxpayer will have an opportunity to present their case, with the taxpayer given extra time to rebut the appraisal district’s evidence. However, ARB hearings are rather informal, and a board can take its time asking both sides plenty of questions concerning submitted evidence. Taxpayers should expect to have their evidence scrutinized and doubted when they present their case. Moreover, taxpayers need to understand that the appraisal district will be at the hearing presenting their own evidence to the board and arguing against the taxpayer’s positions and opinions. This process can be daunting and intimidating to say the least. However, there are a few things taxpayers can do to increase their chances of success at an ARB hearing.
Preparing thorough, relevant evidence to your case is the best way to position your appeal for a reduction to taxable value. Comb through the market and find comparables that support your value, or do a comprehensive analysis of the income your property can generate in the current market. Whatever evidence you find that supports your position, make sure to organize it clearly in the packet that you will submit to the ARB. The easier it is to understand and navigate, the better your chances of persuading the board.
Review the Appraisal District’s Evidence
As a taxpayer, you are entitled to all evidence the appraisal district used in setting your proposed value and plans to submit before an ARB. Request this evidence well in advance of your hearing and review it because you may find errors that need to be addressed. Raise any issues before the board.
I have seen many agents and taxpayers get upset before a board for many different reasons, but do not let this happen to you. Having an emotional response to your protest is ok, but remember that the appraisal district and ARB members are all just individuals doing their jobs. Being disrespectful or causing a scene will only serve to damage your reputation and put future appeals/hearings in jeopardy.
So really…that’s it! You can expect to have a ruling on your case at the conclusion of your hearing, and know that if you are upset with the ARB’s ruling, there is always an opportunity to further pursue your appeal through the court system. If you have any questions concerning your appeal, hearing, or ARB ruling, please reach out to our multifamily specialists.
The Cheapest Tax Agent Usually Costs the Most Money
Are You Getting What You Paid For?
Searching for the right Texas tax agent can be overwhelming. There are so many options, and everyone seems to have something unique. The most common criteria used to compare agents is the contingency fee they charge, and agents are typically paid based on the tax savings they achieve for their client. The major benefit to contingency is that the agent carries the risk and the client always comes out ahead by pocketing the difference from the original taxes less the agent’s fee.
Lower Fee or Better Results?
The property owner’s dilemma is whether to hire the agent with the lowest fee or the one with the best results. If Agent A charges 30% and Agent B charges 20%, it is logical that the owner would see the net 80% as a better deal. Unfortunately, experience shows that the cheapest agent usually is the most expensive.
Perform deeper market research to help them achieve greater tax savings
To illustrate the difference, let’s look at some real-life 2020 multifamily examples (with names redacted) in Midland, TX:
Agent A – 30%
Agent B – 20%
Net to Client
Agent B did not achieve any tax savings for their client. The fact that their fee was lower did nothing to help their client lower their property taxes. However, Agent A’s expertise and focus produced results that put money back into the client’s pocket. Remember, if you aren’t paying your tax agent, then they aren’t saving you money. The age-old adage rings true, you get what you pay for. The cheapest agent usually costs you the most in lost tax savings.