Property Tax Protests: What Condition My Condition Is In

Property Tax

Photo courtesy Pixabay

So you’ve gotten that property tax valuation, and in the process of slamming it down on the table, you notice a giant crack on the ceiling.

“Surely,” you think, “if I take a picture of this, it’ll help me argue my case that the appraisal district did me wrong!”

Yes, and no.

See, it’s April 17 now, and that wear and tear you want to use to argue that the condition of your house does not match your valuation? That needed to be present on January 1.

“The value assigned to your property, by law, is the value the appraisal district estimates your property would sell for on January 1st of that year,” explained Glenn Goodrich, Goodrich Realty Consulting’s Director of Technology & Property Tax. GRC created PropertyTax.io last year to help people DIY their property tax protests, and this year, they’re debuting a second product that helps consumers argue condition issues when protesting their valuation.

And while the January 1 rule is hard and fast, there is a bit of a grey area. Say you discovered wood rot under the house or didn’t realize that you had a leak in your roof until a rain after that date. If you’re confident those items would’ve been found in an inspection of the home on January 1, then it’s a good idea to include it.

But that hail storm in March that ripped off some shingles or cracked a window? No dice. You won’t be able to use it as evidence, because it wouldn’t have appeared on that all-important January 1 date.

What if it was an issue that happened prior to January 1, but you also fixed it before then?

“In this case, the condition issue did not exist on January 1st, therefore cannot be used as evidence to lower the value,” Goodrich explained. “If an issue was fixed prior to January 1st, it is no longer a factor in the value of your property on January 1st.”

But that isn’t true for every repair. “You could, however, make the argument that getting rid of mold (as an example) would negatively impact the value of the home because it would have to be listed on a seller disclosure document,” Goodrich added.

The new condition tool, which carries a lower price tag, too, divides conditions into two categories — cosmetic and repair damages. Based on GRC’s experience, cosmetic issues tend to carry less weight than repair issues, although no appraisal district has ever said this is official policy.

“In general, think of cosmetic issues as items that a potential buyer would identify when viewing your house as something they would prefer to have fixed prior to moving in or would use against you to bring to the price of the home down,” Goodrich said. Things like minor cracks in walls, ceilings, or flooring; outdated kitchens or bathrooms; or old fencing would be cosmetic conditions.

Repair issues are things that would show up on an inspection report performed by a professional. Things like foundations, roof damage, mold, or plumbing issues would fall under a repair condition. Repair issues are usually also accompanied by estimates from contractors or other professionals.

How do you appeal based on condition alone? You simply go to PropertyTax.io, scroll to the bottom, and choose the $25 Bronze package, which offers the Condition + Equal & Uniform Tool. From there, create a new cosmetic or repair issue and verify the issue existed on January 1st of this year. Then upload your photos. You can crop, zoom in or out to show the part of the picture you think best represents what you are trying to describe. Describe your issue, input the cost of repair, upload an estimate, and add up to four photos. You can also add descriptions under each photo to provide better context.

From there, the tool organizes the information in a professional-looking report that is ready for submitting to your appraisal district.  

With the Equal & Uniform tool, you can compare your property to other properties in your neighborhood, selecting up to nine properties.

“We will show you all the important information from the appraisal district’s perspective so you can see how those properties will look in their system,” Goodrich said.

“The Bronze Package is great for properties that can use condition issues or that can show they are valued unfairly when compared to other similar properties in the neighborhood,” he added.

If you choose to use the entire PropertyTax.io valuation Silver package for $75, you also get the Condition + Equal & Uniform Tool as well. The Gold Package, at $99, offers full-service representation, with your appeal and negotiations handled by GRC.