If you thought you might get a break on your home valuation this year, think again.
The Harris Central Appraisal District said Thursday that home values in the Houston-area are up again despite what has been a shaky local real estate market over the past year.
"The average across the county for homeowners is about 16%," HCAD spokesman Jack Barnett said. "About 95% of the homes did increase in value."
Most valuation notices have been mailed to local homeowners over the past week.
District appraisers set the value of homes in Harris County as of January 1st. It is a complicated process, but HCAD bases its determinations mostly on what homes sold for over the past year. These values determine property tax rates. Although home prices have remained steady in Houston, sales have plummeted over the past 12 months and have yet to recover. Sales were down 11% in 2022, the first time that's happened since 2015. Barnett said that does not mean demand has gone away.
"There's a limited supply of property and there has still been a very high demand and there are still multiple bidders that are trying to get available properties, which then results in an increase in value," Barnett said.
Since the pandemic, home values in the Houston-area have increased significantly. Last year, the value of homes in Harris County increased by 21% on average. Local real estate experts say although there is still high demand in some areas of Houston, overall, there are no longer widespread bidding wars for homes like there were a few years ago. Many homeowners have had to drop their asking prices because of a lack of offers.
There are ways homeowners can lower their valuations. The first thing they can do it make sure they have all available exemptions on their property, including a standard Homestead Exemption that reduces a home's appraised value for property tax purposes by 20%.
They can also protest their valuations.
"When they do that, they have the ability to do that online, so they don't have to come in, using i-File on our website," Barnett said. "They can also use something else called i-Settle, so once they actually file, they can give their opinion of value. That can all be submitted online."
Barnett said homeowners can also simply ask for a hearing with an appraisal review board, which is independent of HCAD.
"These are Harris County citizens who are trained by the State Comptroller to do these hearings and listen to the property owner and really make a decision on who is right between the property owner and the appraisal district," Barnett said.
Despite what it seems like, valuations do occasionally go down. In 2018, they were flat. After the mortgage crisis 15 years ago, valuations in the Houston-area were down significantly.
What's Barnett's message to unhappy homeowners who feel like they can't catch a break when it comes to home values?
"We are required by the tax code, by the state, to appraise property at its market value and if that market changes, we have no choice but to follow that market."
The deadline to protest home valuations is May 15.