After offer, Travis Central Appraisal District and Austin Board of Realtors at market data impasse

The Travis Central Appraisal District will not increase home appraisal values this year. (Courtesy Fotolia)
The Travis Central Appraisal District will not increase home appraisal values this year. (Courtesy Fotolia)

The Travis Central Appraisal District will not increase home appraisal values this year. (Courtesy Fotolia)

After the Austin Board of Realtors offered what it called a possible solution to an ongoing dispute over market data access Feb. 27, the Travis Central Appraisal District said it would not change its decision to use last year’s home appraisal values again this year.

TCAD Chief Appraiser Marya Crigler in a Feb. 27 statement described ABoR’s offer to provide aggregate housing market data organized by ZIP code as “disingenuous."

“It would be illegal for us to change market values without having the data to support those changes,” Crigler wrote, adding aggregate data would not justify “across-the-board” increases on individual properties and that doing so would violate both state code and industry standards.

ABoR’s offer arrived after the appraisal district announced Feb. 12 that home appraisal values would not change this year after ABoR sent a cease-and-desist order in May prohibiting use of its market data in the appraisal process.

Texas is a nondisclosure state, which means real estate sales prices and other market data are not public record.

ABoR and other Realtor associations argue that the sales market data they collect is proprietary and copyrighted, and property owners may also expect privacy given the state law.

“Rather than offering direct use of ABoR’s proprietary [market] database, which would not serve the privacy interests of buyers and sellers and is not permissible under the rules and regulations of [our database], the data we have offered can be defined by zip code, but not at an individual property level,” the board wrote in a Feb. 27 statement.

However, the state mandates appraisal districts assess properties according to their market value, or what they would likely sell for on an open market.

Without access to this data, Crigler said her staff would be unable to accurately assess residential property values and so would use last year’s values again this year.

Not reappraising home values could negatively affect state funding that is allocated to the 17 school districts in Travis County, Crigler said.

“The impact on Travis County local entities will vary, but it will be measurable on all and, for the school districts, will ultimately adversely affect students, teachers and staff,” representatives from eight Travis County school districts wrote in a Feb. 19 letter to the TCAD’s board.

ABoR argues the TCAD is able to appraise properties without access to its market data and disputes that its decision to withhold access is harmful to area schools.

“ABoR’s actions in protecting homeowners’ privacy and the [market data] in no way caused TCAD to be unable to update residential property appraisals,” ABoR said in its statement. “TCAD inappropriately pointed blame at ABoR for not having the ability to do their job, and even worse, indicated that ABoR is at fault for the negative impact on school budgets.”

Crigler said if ABoR or another source is able to provide market data, TCAD would consider it.

“We would need to get it pretty quick,” she said.

Emma Freer


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