Property appraisals jump again

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Homes rise 10%; almost a billion added to district market value

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Real estate values continued their march skyward after the latest round of appraisals by the Gillespie Central Appraisal District were released this week. Notices were sent out Tuesday to local property owners.

Values show a roughly 10% increase in average residential values in the county and an 18% rise in commercial property values.

The average home in Fredericksburg is now more than $328,000.

“Most of the properties will see an increase in appraised value for 2019,” said Chief Appraiser Scott Fair.

Appraisals from the GCAD, as dictated by state law, are based strictly on market appraisals, meaning high sales prices drive up valuations for all properties.

A concerted effort is made to appraise all property at its market value as required in the Texas Constitution and Texas Property Tax Code. Market value is defined as the price at which a willing buyer and willing seller can agree. 

“Sale prices are a good indication of this value,” he said. “Although many residents are not interested in selling their property, the district is required by law to appraise it at market value.

The rising trend led Fredericksburg last year to be named the “least affordable place to live” by financial website WalletWyse.com. Fredericksburg’s median home price topped those of even Austin in the website’s analysis.

The Gillespie County real estate market continued its significant upward trend of sale prices through last year. 

Fair said sales prices continued to rise throughout the year. The average residence with a homestead inside the City of Fredericksburg increased almost 10% to $333,078. 

The increases were not across the board, he said. Some areas or types of structures increased much more than the stated increases and some less.

Property information has been updated on GCAD’s website located at www.gillespiecad.org with the 2019 notice values and maps.  

This website has information regarding all properties such as values, square footages, parcel maps and more.

The State Comptroller’s Property Tax Assistance Division conducts a field study to determine if the district is appraising properties at market value, Fair said. This study determines the amount of state funding that the local school districts will receive.

Gillespie County saw a net increase in the number of homes by 196. Inside the city, the number of single-residence homes was down by 45, illustrating the conversion to rental properties by many owners.

 

Exemptions

Accounts with a homestead exemption that saw their valuation increase more than 10 percent will benefit from the state law that protects them from absorbing such a large increase in one year, Fair said.

“The law limits homeowners with the homestead exemption from paying taxes on no more than 110 percent of the appraised value from the previous year, unless something new was added,” he said.

For example, a homestead with a market value of $200,000 last year may be valued at $230,000 this year, but the appraised value (the value used to calculate taxes) would increase only to $220,000.

The remaining $10,000 of increased value, referred to as the homestead cap loss, would be added to the appraised value next year.

This homestead cap limit extends only to properties with homestead exemptions and does not affect additional residences, commercial properties or vacant land.

Residences with an over age 65 exemption may have their appraised value increase, but the amount of taxes paid to the city, county, and school district last year will not increase unless the taxpayer added new structures to the property, significantly modified the residence, or modified the use of the property to a non-residential use, such as a short-term rental.

 

Protest procedure

Property owners in Gillespie County have until June 14 to discuss and/or protest their 2019 property tax valuations.

Fair encourages taxpayers to carefully read their notices and contact the appraisal district office if they have any questions about their properties or notices.

The district is currently holding informal meetings with taxpayers to discuss their accounts. These meetings are held on a first-come, first-serve basis and typically take 15-30 minutes.

In these meetings, taxpayers and appraisal district appraisers might discuss comparable sales, possible exemptions, and other factors affecting property value. Taxpayers are encouraged to visit with appraisers any time before June 14.

Appraisers are available Monday through Friday from approximately 8:15 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

“A good portion of protests received by our office come from property tax agents or consultants. We encourage the property owners concerned with valuations or exemptions to come in themselves,” Fair said. “We are here to follow the Texas Property Tax Code, but we are also here to serve the public and provide understanding to the taxpayer.”

Due to state legislation, all of the district’s comparable sales are considered confidential and cannot be disclosed to a taxpayer or official agent unless a formal protest is filed. 

This is inconvenient for taxpayers with general questions. A formal protest will be required before actual comparable sales can be discussed. If the taxpayer or agent later agrees with the district’s value, then a “waiver” of protest can be filed and the formal protest removed.

The district has an on-line protesting process for some properties.  This year, a select number of residential properties with homesteads were issued an e-file PIN number located on their notice.  Additional instructions were included with those selected properties.  This will allow property owners to file a protest electronically on any account with an e-file PIN number.

If a taxpayer wishes to protest their appraised value, denial of an exemption, denial of a special-use valuation, or any other matter, then the written protest must be filed by June 14.  This protest can be a letter or the protest form included on the Notice of Appraised Value. If the matter cannot be resolved through staff review, then a hearing will be scheduled with the Gillespie County Appraisal Review Board (ARB). 

There are multiple ways a person can appear for an ARB hearing; in person, by written affidavit, or by giving someone written authorization to appear on their behalf.   In each case, a property owner should submit all evidence for the hearing such as pictures, written estimates, or other evidence deemed necessary.