If you are a homeowner in Galveston County and recently received a letter about your home’s value increasing, you are not alone.
The Galveston County Central Appraisal District this year sent out 112,000 notices to property owners. Of those notices, around 79,000 people were notified that their appraisals increased by more than $1,000, said Galveston County Chief Appraiser Tommy Watson.
“The market is good in Galveston County,” said Watson. “If it wasn’t good, the values would be going down.”
But for individual homeowners in Galveston County, a strong housing market also means higher tax bills.
Property values for existing homes increased across the board, according to numbers released by the Central Appraisal District based on increases in each of the county’s independent school districts. The district began sending out property tax appraisals on April 15.
The highest increase for existing homes was in the High Island Independent School District where home values increased by 32 percent, Watson said.
The smallest per-home increases were in Friendswood where assessed values increased by an average of 8 percent, Watson said.
Some people who own houses closer to the Gulf of Mexico might see a higher increase than they’ve experienced in the past because the appraisal districts did full assessments of property values of the High Island and Galveston school districts, rather than simply using sales data, Watson said.
The assessments have led to some sticker shock for some homeowners on Bolivar peninsula, like Denise Lange who owns a home with her husband on Crystal Beach.
Lange’s assessed property values for a 1,700-square-foot, wood-frame house on the north side of Highway 87 increased to $540,000 from $423,000, she said.
“It’s ludicrous,” Lange said. It’s the biggest single-year value increase she’s seen in the six years she’s owned the home. “I think because we live in Crystal Beach, they’re taxing us at a higher rate because we’re a quote-unquote resort.”
Lange has already contacted an attorney to help her challenge the appraisal, she said.
That’s something many people do.
Last year, the appraisal district saw about 26,000 challenges to assessments, Watson said.
If she doesn’t succeed in decreasing her assessment, Lange is not sure she’ll be able to live in Crystal Beach much longer. Lange, who doesn’t have a mortgage, said the new appraisal will see her pay about $6,300 in taxes on the property.
“They’re pricing us out,” she said. “I can’t keep paying this.”
Watson called the increases typical. The appraisal district’s goal is to match the market values of homes in the county, he said.
“We follow the market demand,” Watson said. “We look at what properties are selling for, we get information from tax entities from all over the place, and study those to find out what the values are doing and try to arrive at the value that all the properties are, depending on where they’re at.”
Home appraisals are going up as Texas legislators have again promised to address rising property taxes by the end of their biannual legislative session.
However, the legislature’s efforts are largely focused on capping how much a taxing entity — like a city or school district — can increase their tax rates in a given year. A different bill that would put limits on the amount appraised values can increase in a single year has yet to move out of the committee stage.
Regardless of how the legislature acts, local homeowners will be dealing with the fallout of their new appraisals for months to come. The appraisal district staff, meanwhile, will deal with the surge of property value protests between now and August, Watson said.