Although we’ve warned you a couple of times, just in case you missed it — today is kind of a big deal if you own a home. Today is the deadline (unless you’re in Denton County) to protest your property taxes for this year.
If this has caught you unawares, don’t fret — one local company has come up with PropertyTax.io, a way to determine if you need to protest, compile your evidence if you do, and then download a complete report that you can file electronically with your county’s central appraisal district — in less than an hour in most cases (in fact, it took me about 10 minutes).
“The deadline (to file) is May 15 this year,” said Glenn Goodrich, Director of Technology & Property Tax at Goodrich Realty Consulting, said. “It’s one of those things that they voted on in the legislature.”
“The appraisal districts have been hitting record appeals year after year,” he explained. “And they have to certify by mid-July.”
Since launching the site last year and garnering the attention of the Dallas Morning News’ consumer watchdog Dave Lieber, Goodrich said the company has found itself becoming a resource for property owners, whether they purchase their report through PropertyTax.io or not.
“We are kind of the de facto customer service for four appraisal districts right now,” he said. Property owners have been utilizing the company’s online chat service to get questions answered quickly and accurately without calling their appraisal district.
“I believe we’ve had 2,000 chats over the past four weeks,” Goodrich said, adding that most people tend to visit during downtime at work when they’re looking for what he calls “productive distractions” like paying bills.
“We get lumped into that category because we’re so accessible,” he said. “Our busiest time is between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. and a lot of people sign up at night, too.”
So how does it work? In just a few seconds, you can log on to the website, put in your address, and register. The next screen will tell you if, based on the algorithms that factor in comparable properties using several data sets, including MLS data and appraisal district data, you’d have success in appealing your taxes this year.
You get all that information, and then you can decide whether you’d like to pay the $65 fee to generate a report you can use to defend your appeal.
“Each property is $65, and we’ll tell you before you pay if it’s worth it,” Goodrich said. “You can get a report in two minutes in our express mode.”
For those who feel they would like to fine-tune their report, a DIY mode allows the user to select specific comparable properties and upload photos of their house to bolster their claims.
And even if PropertyTax.io’s analysis reveals there’s probably not evidence to support a protest, consultants manning the chat tool have been helping people answer their property tax questions.
“They’re happy even when we can’t help them, because we have talked them through other issues,” he said. “The chat and the customer service we provide there is a direct line to our people, and you can get quick answers.”
Goodrich said the fact that PropertyTax.io will tell a property owner if they have a good chance of winning a protest, combined with the ability to chat with a consultant and ask questions, has meant that they see a lot of the best kind of advertising — word of mouth.
“The chat is a way to build trust with our people,” he said. “I think our technology is really cool, but what we’re really about is customer service.”
Goodrich said that they’ve helped people navigate the filing systems at the four appraisal districts they currently support (Collin, Dallas, Denton, and Tarrant counties), which can sometimes be less than user-friendly.
“So they chat in, and we help them with the process,” he said. Consultants help property owners through screenshots and step-by-step instructions, or property owners can try the tutorials offered on the site’s FAQ section.
But even after the deadline has passed, Goodrich said that property owners can still utilize the site — and the chat function — for help with things like figuring out how to file for exemptions (such as homestead exemptions).
“We are there for you year around,” he said. And if a property owner has already filed an appeal, the site can still help create that report you can use to defend your position.
“If you’ve already filed an appeal, you can still come to our site to get your evidence,” Goodrich said.
But most importantly, Goodrich reiterated, was the fact that his company is meant to be a help to property owners.
“It’s not about making money on everybody that visits the site, it’s about adding value to everyone that visits the site,” he said. “The goal of the chat — even though it is a good sales tool — is not to make money.”
“We mainly focus on old-school customer service, and we use technology to help us do that better,” he said. “What defines us is the customer service, and the honesty we provide to people.”
And when people are happy, they talk. “They go to NextDoor, and spread the word,” he said.
Goodrich said that when people get their questions answered through the chat tool, even if they find that the chances of winning a protest are not good, they rush to NextDoor and social media to tell friends and neighbors.
“We want to make people fans of our business, so that they’ll tell other people, so that they’ll come visit, too,” Goodrich said.