First-time Austin homeowner gets rude awakening after disputing appraisal

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AUSTIN (KXAN) — When someone disputes their property taxes, they usually expect the appraisal amount to be lowered or stay the same, but for one homeowner, the result wasn’t even something he thought could happen.

Chris Allgeier and his fiance Janette bought their first home in southeast Austin last May for $190,000. This year, when they got their appraisal in the mail from the Travis County Appraisal District (TCAD), their home was appraised around $170,000, which was around a $30,000 increase from the year before, but still less than the purchase price.

The couple decided to appeal via the e-file option and when the district came back with the same amount, Allgeier moved on to the the formal hearing. Armed with 90 pages of documentation and research, Allgeier went face-to-face with the three-member board. He showed them pictures of the home’s roof damage, rusted vents and prices of comparable homes in the area. The agency’s counter-offer came as a surprise.

“Not only did they deny my appeal, they increased it by another $20,000,” says Allgeier. “So, I had a total increase of over $50,000 which is just close to 40 percent of the property’s value.” The final appraised value they landed on was $193,575.

Needless to say, the formal hearing did not go the way he was hoping. “It was not an outcome that I thought was even possible.” Allgeier says the district raised his appraisal after reviewing recent sales data and the current market value for his zip code.

“I was left feeling almost punished for trying to stand up and do something about my property’s value.”

Chief Appraiser Marya Crigler says cases like Allgeier’s are few and far between, but it can happen when a property is bought at an undervalued price. “In most instances those are cases where the property owners most recently purchased the property higher than the value the Appraisal District had noticed,” explains Crigler. “Our goal is to be at market value on all properties and that makes the system fair when we are representing market value on all properties.”

Note to new homeowners: if you bought your home for more than the assessed value, it’s probably best not to protest your property appraisal.

Last year, 115,000 property owners protested their appraisal value. TCAD says only 40 of those individual saw an increase in their assessed value. So far this year, 85,000 people have protested but only two homeowners have left the office with an increased appraisal.

Home appraisals in Travis County increased by eight percent this year. If you want to protest your appraisal, you need to file your appeal by Wednesday, May 31. But homeowners should know that if you choose to e-file your protest and the department responds with a settlement offer and you reject the offer, your case will directly go to a formal hearing instead of an informal hearing.

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