WAXAHACHIE

Over 61,000 appraisal notices were mailed out to Ellis County residents earlier this month – and that was just the first batch.

With tax season upon the state of Texas, many residents in the Midlothian, Italy, Maypearl, Avalon, Frost and Milford Independent School District’s have already seen an increase of over $1,000 in property values over the past year.

Those residents were mailed their appraisal notices on April 1 and April 15 of this month – and they have 30 days to protest their appraised value.

Ellis County Appraisal District chief appraiser Kathy Rodrigue stated that all properties are appraised on their current market value, which is the price it would sell for when both the buyer and seller seek the best price.

“We must reflect what is happening in the market each year,” Rodrigue expressed. “The laws of supply and demand continue to drive a very dynamic market this year. We have considered sales in each market area of Ellis County and we have estimated values to align with each area’s market.”

However, many residents feel their properties are appraised in well excess of what they are worth. Resident Seth Rowney is one such taxpayer that expressed his frustration in the process.

“At this point, I think I could sell my house to the highest of five offers, turn in the paperwork with every single offer in writing and the CAD would say that isn't good enough and your house is worth $75,000 more than what I sold it for,” Rowney stated.

If residents feel their properties were appraised incorrectly, Rodrigue said they could protest their appraisals to the district by accessing the protest form online.

According to the protest form, you can file your protest by signing and scanning your notice, then emailing it to at emailing it to protest@elliscad.com, along with any relevant supporting documents for your protest. A staff appraiser would then review your notice and submitted evidence, and respond via email either with similar property comparisons. The property owner can then either accept or reject the offer, in which if they reject the offer, they will be mailed a notice of a hearing before the Appraisal Review Board to make their case.

Or, a property owner could hire someone to do it for them.

Ellis County residents have several local options for legal help when it comes to filing a protest form. One such realtor, Neil Clements of the Keller Williams Realty group in Waxahachie, assists residents with their property tax disputes by providing comparable sales data to establish a market value for their home.

“Most people are seeing an increase of 10-30 percent,” Clements expressed. “They’re just tired of it. I’ve even talked to people who are wanting to sell their homes, move to other areas because they’re tired of the increase in taxes for the past three years. My personal one went up 30 percent.”

Others, such as Hardesty Law in Midlothian, offer a property tax service alongside their regular consultations. Attorney Rwan Hardesty stated that she never intended to get into property tax services whenever she first entered into practice.

In fact, the reason she ever did at all was personal to her.

“We started appealing for the property tax appraisals because we started doing our own – because our property taxes were getting out of hand ourselves,” Rwan remarked. “When I started the firm out here, I said I could offer this service to Ellis County.”

For their property tax services, the Hardestys start by assessing the value of your home personally. Once they have a good estimate, they will compare it to the tax appraisal office’s estimate and will begin negotiating with the appraiser in-person.

If a compromise is not met, they will then file the formal protest and attend the hearing on the property owner’s behalf.

“We’ll take it from the beginning to the end,” she expressed. “We pull the legal descriptions. We go and speak to an appraiser that sits with us for days on end dealing with all of the property back to back. We batch each neighborhood so we can do this for everybody. It’s kind of a package deal.”

Hardesty Law claims a 95 percent success rate in their cases, which means they’ve reduced their clients, appraised value anywhere between 2-30 percent. In one case, they’ve reduced the appraised value from $190,880 to $170,000 due to the condition of the home.

“It’s not that the CAD is necessarily appraising these properties incorrectly - it’s that they don’t appraise them individually,” her husband and partner, Tim explained. “They have a program they feed a bunch of data into, but they don’t come and look at your house. They don’t look at this particular property. The computer spits out numbers and they say 'okay, that seems reasonable.' But those are all based on sales costs.”

“We go in and say ‘Look, this house is 10 years old,’” he continued. “It’s got work that needs to be done before you could sell it for that value – if you could sell it for that value.”

Rwan said several things can help their case in protesting whether its individually or through a service. Some of those items are photos of your property, contractor estimates, environmental and land issues, building permits and unfinished construction.

But whether it’s two percent or 30 percent, Rwan said she’s grateful to have the opportunity to help other residents go through the protesting process – the same way she did several years ago.

“Out of all of the properties that we had in Ellis County, there was only two that we weren’t able to hit that 2 percent – and it was ours,” she chuckled.

To learn more about how you can protest your property, go on the Ellis Appraisal District’s website at www.elliscad.com. You can also call them at 972-937-3552, email them at ecad@elliscad.com or visit their offices personally at 400 Ferris Avenue from 8 a.m.-5p.m. throughout the week.