HARRIS COUNTY, Texas - If you own a home in Harris County, your property has likely gotten more valuable in the last year. The Harris County Appraisal District has started mailing this year's property appraisals, and some describe the numbers as 'unprecedented'.
Appraisals determine how much homeowners have to pay in property taxes, and the red-hot housing market has been driving those values up across the board.
HCAD crunched the numbers on 1.3 million residential properties, and more than a 100,000 commercial properties, and found 97% of them increased in value. Often, by a lot. Single-family homes rose an average 21%, apartments are up 24%, and warehouses are appraised 20% higher. The appraisal district says demand for homes and limited supplies have pushed prices higher.
"By state law, appraisal districts throughout the state are required to appraise properties at 100 percent of its market value," says HCAD's Jack Barnett, "Basically, what that house would sell for on the open market."
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State Senator Paul Bettencourt also runs a business protesting property taxes for clients, and says, "I've never seen anything like it in the 40 years I've been in Harris County." He reminds that there 'is' a chance to lower appraisals if there's evidence an increase doesn't match the rest of the neighborhood.
But even if the numbers remain high, state law 'does' limit the growth of property tax revenue you can be charged. As property values increase, school districts and governments may have to make cuts.
"There will be some cavalry come in, literally, with some major tax-rate reductions, because of some bills that were passed in the 2019 legislature for both county and city taxes, as well as school taxes," says Bettencourt.
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While Harris County is sending out its appraisals now, neighboring counties will follow suit soon, and there may be similar increases. Meantime, there are two Texas constitutional amendments that are up for a vote May 7. One would increase the homestead exemption by $15,000. The other would limit property taxes for elderly and disabled homeowners. Each could reduce property taxes for those who pay them.