Property appraisals

Evan Barney, a first-time homeowner outside of Belton, said the value of his home increased by $5,000 just a month after purchasing it for $127,000.

Temple resident Saul Romo could not believe his father’s proposed property appraisal.

Their 7-acre property had a preliminary value of $201,704, while the Tax Appraisal District of Bell County valued the same property at $81,292 just last year.

Romo, 26, said he filed a protest and gathered the necessary evidence to argue against the proposed property value. “I actually did a PowerPoint presentation. I took pictures of the property and (documented) the issues that we have,” Romo told the Telegram. “The street is terrible and flooding can be an issue.”

The appraisal district has received at least 4,500 protests from property owners who want their appraisals decreased. Overall, Bell County values increased 8.11 percent to a preliminary taxable value of $21.5 billion, according to appraisal district data. Last year, that number was $19.9 billion.

Preliminary values form the basis of local governments’ budgets for the next fiscal year. The appraisal district only sets property values while taxing entities, such as cities and school districts, set the tax rates.

In 2020, the average home value is $149,929 — a 5.24 percent increase from last year. Valuations are expected to be certified July 25.

For residents such as Romo, documenting his neighborhood’s faults was key to his protest.

He also mentioned how the city of Temple has failed to pick up the trash located curbside in front of the property for over a month.

“They’re supposed to (collect trash) two times a month, and it took more than a month once,” he said. “I’ve seen the truck come through but they never pick it up.”

After delivering his presentation, Romo said he is relieved to have argued the property appraisal value back down to $81,292.

Addition raised property value

Stephen Hudson, 55, is another Temple resident displeased with his 2020 proposed property appraisal. His preliminary property appraisal was set at $318,680 — a $54,180 difference from 2019.

Hudson, who has lived on this same property for the past 16 years, said he never faced any issues with the appraisal district for the first 14 years. He believes the issue stemmed from an addition to their house completed three years ago.

“We added on to our house three years ago. We had the city inspectors come out, and the valuation went up with the addition,” he said.

But Hudson protested the proposed property appraisal last week, claiming the price per square foot had changed from the years prior. So Hudson evaluated similar properties in the area through the Bell County CAD website.

“I looked for houses for sale that were comparable to my square footage and then went into the Bell County CAD system and pulled those property’s valuations,” Hudson said. “And they were marked considerably lower than mine. You have to do your own homework or you will get ripped off.”

Hudson brought this evidence to the appraisal district, and managed to lower the appraised value to $289,199 — an adjustment he said was fair. Although his appointment began 30 minutes later than scheduled, he emphasized the courteous and professional nature that was projected toward him.

It took Hudson just 20 minutes to have the appraisal district lower his property’s appraisal for 2020 by $29,481.

Tug of war over values

Philip Krawczynski said the past two years have felt like a tug of war between himself and the appraisal district over the true value of his home.

Krawczynski, 58, said he was shocked last year to see the valuation on his home shoot up by about 75 percent in a single year — an increase of about $72,000, which he chose to protest. Krawczynski said he was eventually successful in protesting his valuation back down to a reasonable price.

This year Krawczynski’s home increased in value by more than $11,000, a more than 6.5 percent rise he said he views as the district just trying to make up for last year.

“They did knock it down some last year, but it is like they sort of tried to make up for it this year,” Krawczynski said. “It is sort of unbelievable and I don’t know how this is happening.”

Krawczynski said he knows his home, which borders Lake Belton, is being compared to the more expensive lake homes in other neighborhoods that don’t resemble his. He said the district needs to look at more than just home sales in certain areas when determining the value.

When comparing his Woodland Point Road neighborhood to the nearby newer homes on Arrowhead Point Road, Krawczynski said he knows there is no way he could demand a similar price.

“Even though we are near Temple Lake Park, it is not as developed as if you go up to Arrowhead Point,” Krawczynski said. “We have been in this area for 20 years and it has not changed. This neighborhood is not going to bring in the value (homes) right up at Arrowhead Point are going to bring in, it is just not.”

Krawczynski said he already has an appointment to protest this new increase next week.

New homeowner sees increase

First-time home owner Evan Barney — who lives just outside of Belton — saw the value of his newly purchased home rise one month after he closed on the property.

While Barney knows that the near $400 increase in valuation from the $331,620 he paid for his home is relatively small, he doesn’t believe the sudden increase reflects the home’s correct value. He wants to know how his home can increase in value in such a short period of time.

Barney’s home was valued by the district at $332,000, and he plans to protest the valuation, citing the home’s closing price.

“We are first-time home buyers, so this is all kind of new to us,” Barney said. 

Barney said the appraisal on his home — one of the first completed in his neighborhood — might be justified if the rest of the neighborhood were completed. But it is not.

The builders wouldn’t have sold it for less than the value, Barney said.

“There are not a lot of comparable (properties) yet, and we are still in a new development,” he said.