Liberty Hill area property values up 9%

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By Christine Bolaños

It is no secret that Williamson County is one of the fastest growing areas, not only in Texas, but in the entire country. There is now such a high demand for single-family homes that supply cannot keep up and is driving home values up.

According to the Williamson Central Appraisal District (WCAD), the average home value in the county went up 9.5 percent from 2015 to 2016. Last year, the average home value was $241,860. This year, the average value is $253,819.

“We report what market sales are in the area,” explained Chief Appraiser Alvin Lankford. “The demand of people moving into the area has not been met by the supply of builders in our area. There is a higher demand each year. It’s supply and demand economics.”

In the City of Liberty Hill, there was a market value increase of $143,038 to $160,490. This accounts for a 12.2 percent increase from 2015 to 2016.

Within Liberty Hill school district boundaries, there was a market value increase from $256,000 to $279,959. This accounts for a 9.36 percent increase from 2015 to 2016.

Similarly, the area that Williamson County Emergency Services District No. 4 services, which includes Liberty Hill and its extra-territorial jurisdiction, rose by 9.84 percent from 2015 to 2016. Specifically, the market value increase was $289,120 in 2015 to $317,574 in 2016.

“Our values at Williamson Central Appraisal District are a mirror reflection of market sales,” Lankford said.

He said the sales cover the time period from Jan. 1, 2015 to April 2016.

“Appraisals are utilizing sales within each market area or neighborhood to formulate values for that area,” Lankford said. “The increase is due to an increase in demand and limited supply of homes. Our population level continues to increase and our supply of homes have not met that increase in demand.”

He said the Austin Board of Realtors has reported a 10 percent increase for the entire Austin Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA). Lankford suggests that property owners look at market data and come equipped with that data should they choose to protest their appraisals.

“The best comparison would be within the same neighborhood of homes of the same quality, size and condition as their own,” Lankford said.

The county, school district, ESD and city will use the appraisal district’s certified value to set the 2016 property tax rates and determine how much property owners will pay in property taxes.

He said neighboring Travis County saw its home values go up by 9 percent so Williamson County is in line with the area.

Lankford said new construction and valuation in new properties is driving home values up.

He said about 40-50 percent of homeowners who protest their property value see it reduced. While a property’s value may decrease by say, $10,000, it is more common for it to go down by $300-500.

“If that’s considered successful, that’s a question I would ask back to the property owner,” Lankford said. “It’s hundreds of dollars all the way to the thousands of dollars.”

He said state law requires that appraisal districts be at 100 percent of market value.

“There are misconceptions by people who move here from other states that we do not have to be at 100 percent of market value,” Lankford explained, “That is not correct. We are audited by the Comptroller’s Office for compliance with that law.”

New to the WCAD website is a market data dashboard. The feature contains information on general market trends for Williamson County, gathered from third party sources, as well as property specific market area data for most residential properties.

To use the feature, a property owner should visit wcad.org, search for a property using the search box, and click on the “Market Data” button.

As of April 3, property owners can also view their notice of appraised value on the Details page of a property search result. Users can search for a property by using the search bar on each page of the website.

Appraisal district staff is available to discuss concerns with property owners Monday through Thursday from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. this month.

There are videos available on www.wcad.org that help walk property owners through several processes, including the protest phase, residential valuation and how to file a protest.

Lankford said the WCAD is among a small percentage of appraisal districts that makes these types of videos available.

According to a video, titled “The Protest Phase,” scheduled formal meetings occur between May and July. The property owner meets with an appraiser to review the property and go over material. If an agreement is reached, the protest is finalized. If an agreement is not reached, that property owner next meets with the Appraisal Review Board.

Common evidence, or material used, are sales documents of the property, sales prices of similar properties in the same area, construction cost documents, repair estimates, appraisals and photos.

These documents are welcome at informal and formal meetings.

Sales information considered usually encompasses January of the prior year to March of the current year.

Quality, age and size are a few of the common characteristics considered.

According to state guidelines, a protest of determination of value or inequality of appraisal, is valid when “the appraised value of the property is equal to or less than the median appraised value of a reasonable number of comparable properties appropriately adjusted.”

To file a protest, a property owner is required to indicate the reasons why they are protesting, sign and date before the date listed on their appraisal notice.

Property owners may protest online at www.wcad.org using the online protest ID on the appraisal notice, mailing the protest form by the protest deadline or hand delivering a written protest to the office by the protest deadline. WCAD is located at 625 FM 1460 in Georgetown.

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