How to protest your property appraisal and lower your taxes

A step-by-step guide

HOUSTON – By now, most homeowners have received property tax appraisals in the mail. If your jaw hit the floor when you opened yours, you should protest your home’s market value with your county appraisal district. Here are some ideas to get your appraisal and your property taxes lowered.

In Harris County, there are three ways to protest.

  • You can mail in the protest form that came with your tax appraisal notice.
  • iFile: You can file a protest online at the appraisal district’s website.
  • iSettle: Put in what you think your home is worth. The appraisal district will either accept it or reject it. There is an iFile number that is in the form that you get in the mail. Just enter the number and submit the protest.

If you don’t like the county’s offer, you can fight it in person at HCAD’s office, or, because of COVID, you can request a protest hearing virtually.

No matter which method you choose to protest, you need to present evidence that proves your home’s market value is less than the appraisal district says it is. To gather that evidence, you can do one or all of these things:

  • Call a local real estate agent.

“Agents are the ones that have the data,” said Suzan Phenicie with Berkshire Hathaway Home Services Memorial office.

From market value to what your neighbor’s home is worth, real estate professionals like Phenecie have the information you will need to protest your property appraisal. Many will run a market report for free, in the hopes that you will use their services when you do want to sell or buy a home. The report will compare your home to similar homes in your area that have sold recently to get a good market value that you can present to your county appraisal office.

  • Talk to your neighbors.

What are their appraisals like compared to yours? If similar homes in your neighborhood just did a major remodel and your home is outdated, your value should be lower.

You can also see the properties the appraisal district is using as comparables for your home. In order to see them, you first have to file a protest. Then, you can either go to the appraisal district to see the comparable properties or wait. Those comparable properties are available online at least 14 days before your hearing.

  • Take pictures.

Pictures are good evidence that shows your home’s condition, its proximity to a business that is loud or somehow lowers the value of your property, among other things.

“If your home is falling down around you and your taxes went up, you need to take pictures of the holes and the problems that you’re having in your home,” said Phenicie.

Important things to know

  • The deadline to file your protest is May 15.
  • The lower the value of your home, the less you’ll owe in property taxes. Some people mistakenly believe claiming their home is worth less will hurt them later when they want to sell. That’s not true.

About the Author:

Passionate consumer advocate, mom of 3, addicted to coffee, hairspray and pastries.