Appraisal protests near record levels in Brazoria, Galveston counties

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Each spring, property owners in Brazoria and Galveston counties receive notices from the respective appraisal districts outlining the estimated value of their property—and what that means for end-of-year taxes.

While districts across the state are tasked with appraising homes at 100 percent of market value, some homeowners may disagree with the appraised value.

Under state law, property owners have a right to protest their appraised value for several reasons, including if an exemption was denied, the home was incorrectly appraised above or below market value, the value differs from neighboring comparable properties or if land use has changed.

Both Brazoria and Galveston counties are on track to have near record protests in 2017, according to appraisal district data.

“As taxes go up, that’s something they can look at to save a little money,” said Al Baird, deputy chief of administration at Brazoria County Appraisal District. “We’re not perfect by any means. If we have errors, we will look at them and get them corrected.”

Appraisal districts calculate the market value by looking at sales data over the previous two years. Additionally, appraisers physically inspect home exteriors across the county every three years, according to the Texas Tax Code.

“There’s a lot to it. We don’t just pull numbers out of a hat; we actually look at data and sales and analyze them,” Baird said. “The values are increasing, which is a good thing if you’re wanting to sell and a bad thing if you’re not.”

Pearland residents consistently comprise roughly one-third of total protest notices filed with BCAD.

Friendswood residents typically comprise about one-tenth of protests filed with GCAD.

By far, the bulk of protests are settled informally with each appraisal district. However, residents can choose to have their case heard before an independent panel of appointed residents in the county called an appraisal review board­.

Galveston County has a high number of review board cases, hearing 4,452 cases in 2016 alone. Of those cases, about three-fourths of protests were denied, according to county data.

In Brazoria County, about 1,600 cases were heard by an appraisal review board last year, and 78 percent of those protests were approved, according to county data.

The last protest hearing for Brazoria County was scheduled for July 12, and protests will continue to be heard through October in Galveston County due to the high volume of protests.

“When you have the volume of protests that we have, they drag out,” Galveston County Chief Appraiser Tommy Watson said.

The rise in protests mirrors the population growth spurts and rise in property values in both counties.

Last year, the net taxable property value for Brazoria County was $25.83 billion, a 9 percent increase over 2015. And in Galveston County, the 2016 net taxable value for the county rose by 6 percent over 2015.

The population of Pearland, which has seen the greatest gains in Brazoria County, has skyrocketed from 105,200 at the start of 2014 to 119,700 in 2017, according to city estimates. As people continue to stream into the county, sales activity will drive up appraisals.

“It’s supply and demand,” Baird said. “We have buyers and not enough inventory.”