Liberty Hill property values up 8-11 percent
By WAYLON CUNNINGHAM
Liberty Hill residents are seeing an increase in property value assessments for 2017.
Williamson County Chief Appraiser Alvin Lankford called the increases significant, and attributes it to demand for houses in the area outpacing their supply.
From the website for his office, the Williamson County Appraisal District, a tool allowing visitors to survey land values in the county shows one home in the city limits worth $155,479, where it was worth $137,513 in 2016.
The roughly 3,700 homes in the Liberty Hill school district saw an increase of 7 percent in property values. The average price for a home there in 2016 was $338,018, but is now $361,442.
For the 295 properties in the city limits of Liberty Hill, assessments have risen 11 percent. In 2016, the average home in the city limits was $159,322, compared to $176,963 in 2017.
The effects belong to a wider current in Williamson County, where the Appraisal District reported an 8 percent increase in the countywide average. The Austin Board of Realtors puts the same figure at 9 percent.
The appraisal district compiles this information from a survey of home sales on the market made between January of the prior year to March of the current year. The Texas Comptroller’s Office audits the district regularly to ensure that its assessments are a mirror reflection of the market value.
Though the district does not examine why values rise, Lankford said that the answer is “basic economics.”
The supply, he said, has failed to keep pace with the demand.
According to information from the Austin Board of Realtors, if all housing construction were stopped in Williamson County, it would take 1.8 months for the existing homes on the market to be completely sold.
The rise in assessments affect more than those looking to buy a home, as assessments are also factored into the property taxes paid by homeowners to local tax collecting entities, such as the city, the school district, the County, and the Williamson County Emergency Services District #4.
“They can lower that rate to a point that individual property owners see no change in the taxes they pay,” Lankford said, “That’s called the effective tax rate.”
He continued that, “Anything over the effective tax rate means they are actually choosing to increase taxes.”
The property tax rate in Liberty Hill has remained $0.50 per $100 in property value for several years.
State law says that a more than 8 percent increase in property taxes opens it up for a citizen petition to call for a rollback election.
During the current legislative session, the Texas Senate passed a bill that would lower that amount to 5 percent, and would automatically trigger an election, rather than allow a petition for it.
The City of Liberty Hill, meanwhile, has engaged in informal talks that would re-structure what the municipal property tax pays for. Although it would not change the actual tax rate one way or the other, it would have the effect of triggering both the 8 percent and proposed 5 percent threshholds. This would occur even if property values had not increased.
Taxpayers have other means to protest, however.
If a property owner feels that their home has been unfairly assessed, Lankford said that they should collect the appropriate documentation.
“A feeling,” he said, “is just a feeling,” but proper evidence can back it up.
Videos demonstrating the proper method, alongside videos explaining how these values were reached in the first place, can be found on the County Appraisal District’s website.
The success rate of property assessment reductions can vary year to year, Lankford said, and might not necessarily match the amount desired by the property owner. Depending on how much market information is available, anywhere between 40 – 60 percent of protests can see a reduction in assessments.
First, he said, the owner should examine the sales figures for similar homes. These numbers are not available from the Appraisal District’s office, but they are available from local realtors.
The goal, he said, should not be what the lowest value was, but what homes are similar enough to the property in question.
“If it’s three doors down and it’s got the same floor plan, that’s good.”
Additionally, if there are significant damages to the property, that can also factor for a successful protest, he said. Property owners should come equipped with photos of the damage, and repair assessment figures from accredited firms, before contacting the Appraisal District office.