Property values down in Liberty Hill

By JOSEPH GARCIA

More than 55 percent of homeowners within the Liberty Hill Independent School District received appraisal notices this spring informing them their property dropped in value since 2011.

The Williamson Central Appraisal District (WCAD) mailed 167,500 appraisal notices on April 2 with more than half signifying property values dropped in 2012. The numbers do not reflect new homes for 2012 since there was no value to compare against for 2011.

The notices indicate that 55.22 percent (1,824) of residential properties decreased in value by more than $1,000 within the LHISD while 33.88 percent (1,119) increased in value by more than $1,000 with 10.90 percent (360) staying within $1,000.

WCAD Chief Appraiser Alvin Lankford said the values are based on the actual market values that are determined by sales of property in the county during the last year. A decreasing market value can affect the sale of a home but mainly depends on how long the home remains for sale.

“If you are looking at the entire ISD, there are certain areas within Liberty Hill ISD that are going to be going up and other areas that will be going down because we use the sales within individual neighborhoods to fluctuate the values within those particular neighborhoods,” said Lankford. “We are a mirror reflection of what’s happening in the market. That is the sales transactions of individual homes and sales transactions of commercial businesses. So when the market dictates that the values are selling for more, then we will have a higher appraised price on those homes. And when the market dictates the values are selling lower, then we’ll do that as well.”

The WCAD appraisal notices indicated that 64 percent of the home values in Williamson County as a whole will remain the same or decline in value as compared to last year, according to the appraisal district.

The district shows only 36 percent of residential property values increased countywide this year and another 13 percent of residential properties remained within $1,000 of their 2011 valuation.

On average, the residential properties that dropped in value fell by 2.5 percent.

The preliminary average home market value in Williamson County is expected to increase less than one percent, from $186,416 to $187,451, according to the appraisal district.  More than 2,900 new homes were built in Williamson County.

New home construction along with 165 new commercial developments added up to more than $650 million in taxable value which assisted the offsetting of the $29 million decrease in market value of the existing properties in Williamson County.

Overall, the county tax rolls totaled $36 billion at notice time, including nearly 120,000 residential properties and about 7,000 commercial and business properties.

School district, county, city and emergency services district budgets are funded in part based on revenues generated from local property taxes.

LHISD’s net taxable totals have increased over the last few years which include anything from land to approved property, vacant land, homes and commercial business within LHISD.

Lankford said the net taxable value before freeze total is the most solid number to look at because it doesn’t fluctuate with the amount of freezes that still may happen up until the end of July.

“It’s relatively flat but it has gone up slightly over the last year,” he said. “What you are going to have in there as well as the individual values, is you are going to have new improved values which means new residential homes as well as new commercial businesses. And so with those new improvements come additional value and that’s going to be included in the net taxable freeze.”

In 2010, the net taxable value before freeze for LHISD was $998,348,297. In 2011, it was $1,094,697,882 and in 2012 it increased to $1,118,452,385.

Based on LHISD’s $1,118,452,385 net taxable before freeze total, along with the freeze, the district will be able to determine what value they have to set their tax rates with and from there begin to piece together a budget.

LHISD Business Manager Frank Watson was unavailable for comment at press time.

Lankford said the county tax rolls generally drop a small amount after property owners protest their appraised values. The 2012 Real Property Protest deadline passed on June 1.

The percentage of protest for 2012 is not yet available, but in Williamson County only 12-13 percent of property owners have protested from 2009-2011, which is down from years past.

“Prior to that, it was higher because the market was actually fluctuating up in 2008, so there was a higher percentage of a protest,” Lankford said. “But the market has been relatively flat for a few years now so the percentage of protest has dropped off slightly down to 12 to 13 percent. I anticipate about the same level of protest this year.”

While the majority of property values may be down in 2012, Lankford says there may be a positive trend in Williamson County that would increase values in the future.

“What I’ve seen countywide is the increase in the number of platted lots,” Lankford explained. “Those are lots that could potentially have a home on them. And generally when we see an increase in the number of lots that have been filed at the County Clerk’s Office, that indicates that the market is on the verge of recovering.”

Lankford said that the increase in platted lots means more homes, which is a good sign since investors don’t tend to invest money in an area unless they believe the market is about to go up or is going up.

“So, we’ve seen more platted lots than we have in the past,” he said. “We’ve seen about a 30 to 40 percent increase in the number of lots platted over the last year. So that indicates to me that the values are probably going to start trending up over the coming years. But as far as how much or what percentage I don’t know that until we’ve seen the market sales.”

The final average for 2012 home values will not be available until July.