Did Travis County lower the typical homeowner’s property tax bill in the last year? It depends on how you look at it. Travis County took issue with a KUT story that said despite the county lowering its tax rate, most homeowners ended up paying more in county property taxes.

According to Travis County’s current budget, owners of an average-priced home (roughly $285,000) saved 4 cents on their property tax bill compared to the year before. But, the owner of a median-priced home (roughly $219,000) paid an additional $10 in property taxes this year. This difference doesn’t actually change your property taxes. It’s just about how the numbers are presented.

That raises this question: Which measure more accurately shows what’s happening for a typical homeowner? The answer requires a trip back to, say, fourth grade.

“When you get an average, you’re simply taking every home or every property in that classification, adding the values up and the dividing by the total number there might be,” said Rahul Patel, a property tax lawyer with firm Patel Gaines, which has offices in San Antonio and Fort Worth. A median, on the other hand, is calculated by stacking up the values and picking out the literal middle number.

Patel said he thinks there are more disadvantages to using an average home value, including the fact that an average is more easily swayed by outlying values.

“So you could have a particular segment where you have a few very, very high-dollar properties and significantly more lower-dollar properties, but you end up getting an average that’s somewhat in the middle or higher than that,” he said.

Charles Gilliland, who studies land value at the Real Estate Center at Texas A&M, said he is always more inclined to use the median home value.

“If you’re trying to describe what is typical for the housing stock,” he said, “you would probably focus on the median more than the average because the average is unduly influenced by those really large outliers.”

Gilliland said home values tend to be unevenly distributed, and because of that, a median value can get closer to a more real middle number.

But Deece Eckstein with the Travis County Intergovernmental Relations Office disagreed.

“We think that the average is a more helpful indicator of what’s going on in the quote unquote average person’s tax bill,” he said. He said he favors the average for its melting-pot approach to numbers.

“[Values] all get kind of blended together into a beautiful frappe of information,” Eckstein said.

Travis County Executive Jessica Rio said the county uses average because state law requires that tax notices published by taxing entities include average home values. The county publishes the median so the public can see both.

“Just for transparency issues,” she said, “I think it’s important to have both out there.”

The City of Austin, on the other hand, uses median home value when calculating the property tax impact of its budget on the public. In a statement, the city reiterated much of what Patel and Gilliland said.

“The City of Austin uses median over the average because we think it is more representative of the ‘typical’ homeowner. The average is going to skew higher because of very high-dollar properties, but this doesn’t necessarily represent where someone truly in the middle is at,” wrote Bryce Bencivengo, a city spokesperson. “Whereas, by definition, the median means that there are an equal number of properties valued both higher and lower and really provides the homeowner that is located right in the middle.”

Property taxes are a red-hot topic this summer across Texas.

More than 20 related bills have been filed for the Texas Legislature’s special session. Efforts to legislate tighter limits on how local property taxes can increase without a public vote have sparked heated arguments.

But a fundamental problem – the appraisal system – has been largely ignored. In fact, our state’s deeply flawed mass appraisal process is a major driver of the rapid increase in tax bills.

Fundamental Issue No. 1: The sheer volume of properties the appraisal districts must evaluate each year. For example, in Harris County there are approximately 5,500 plus parcels for each appraiser or analyst working for the appraisal district. That works out to about 22 parcels per day or almost three parcels per hour, year-round, for each appraiser or analyst working a five-day week. That is an impossible volume of work.

Is it any wonder that many appraisals wind up being wildly inaccurate? Establishing a realistic ratio of properties per appraiser would be a useful step toward increased appraisal accuracy.

Fundamental Issue No. 2: The appraisal system unfairly burdens property owners with the cost of proving their case even when the appraisal district’s assessed value is incomplete or inaccurate. And inaccurate appraisals are a direct result of Issue Number 1, because appraisal districts lump properties into categories, ratios, and valuations that don’t always make sense for a specific property.

So, if you don’t like the valuation assigned to your property, you can protest it or even sue your appraisal district. You either suck it up and pay the taxes on your overvalued property or pay to go through the protest process and potentially a lawsuit.

Essentially, you fund the appraisal district’s budget through your taxes and pay again to prove it when they overvalue your property. Seems like a stacked deck, doesn’t it?

Businesses and property managers are usually only taxpayers who can afford the costs of arguing their valuation. This creates a perfect opening for the common talking point that homeowners are forced to carry the burden when businesses fight their appraisals. But it’s the flawed process that forces businesses to fight for fairness and accuracy in the first place.

No property owner wants to go down the path of litigation. But litigation often resolves disputes quickly because it allows more time to evaluate the property and its specifics. The extremely rushed appraisal and protest process is simply too compressed to be of much use.

Fairness in the system would improve – and litigation would be reduced – with some real transparency in the appraisal review boards and processes. It’s time to hold appraisal boards accountable by making those positions elected, not appointed. It’s also time for these boards to include taxpayer representatives.

In addition, before we talk about rates, fixes, caps or anything else, we need to strengthen the requirements for serving on an appraisal review board. The boards are typically comprised of retired Texans with little or no experience in real estate, cap rates, expense ratios and national debt/lending trends. That needs to change.

Until reform happens, commercial and personal property owners in Texas need to use all the tools currently available. Filing a protest is one tool. But the protest process is inherently tilted in the appraisal district’s favor because of its far-too-cozy relationship with the review board.

When a protest doesn’t produce a fair and accurate number, the final option is to take the appraisal district to court. That’s a sure way to expose the deep flaws in the appraisal system and to put the appraisal districts on notice that taxpayers are ready to fight back.

Patel is the managing partner of Patel Gaines, a Texas-based law firm specializing in property tax issues. He is also an adjunct professor of law at the University of Houston and a frequent speaker on real estate issues.

Property taxes are a red-hot topic this summer across Texas. More than 20 related bills have been filed for the Texas Legislature’s special session. Efforts to legislate tighter limits on how local property taxes can increase without a public vote have sparked heated arguments. But a fundamental problem — the appraisal system — has been largely ignored. In fact, our state’s deeply flawed mass appraisal process is a major driver of the rapid increase in tax bills.

  • Fundamental Issue No. 1:
  • The sheer volume of properties appraisal districts must evaluate each year. For example, in Harris County there are some 5,500-plus parcels for each appraiser or analyst working for the appraisal district. That works out to about 22 parcels per day or almost three parcels per hour, year-round, for each appraiser or analyst working a five-day week.

That’s an impossible volume of work. Is it any wonder that many appraisals wind up being wildly inaccurate? Establishing a realistic ratio of properties per appraiser would be a useful step toward increased appraisal accuracy.

  • Fundamental Issue No. 2:
  • The appraisal system unfairly burdens the property owner with the cost of proving his case even when the appraisal district’s assessed value is incomplete or inaccurate. And inaccurate appraisals are a direct result of Issue No. 1 because appraisal districts lump properties into categories, ratios and valuations that don’t always make sense for a specific property.

So if you don’t like the valuation assigned to your property, you can protest it or even sue your appraisal district. You either suck it up and pay the taxes on your overvalued property or pay to go through the protest process and potentially a lawsuit. Essentially, you fund the appraisal district’s budget through your taxes and pay again to prove it when they overvalue your property. Seems like a stacked deck, doesn’t it?

Businesses and property managers are usually the only taxpayers who can afford the costs of arguing their valuation. This creates a perfect opening for the common talking point that homeowners are forced to carry the burden while businesses fight their own appraisals. But it’s the flawed process that forces businesses to fight for fairness and accuracy in the first place.

No property owner wants to go down the path of litigation. But litigation often resolves disputes quickly because it allows more time to evaluate the property and its specifics. The extremely rushed appraisal and protest process is simply too compressed to be of much use.

Fairness in the system would improve — and litigation would be reduced — with some real transparency in the appraisal review boards and processes. It’s time to hold appraisal boards accountable by making those positions elected, not appointed. It’s also time for these boards to include taxpayer representatives.

We need to strengthen the requirements for serving on an appraisal review board. The boards are typically comprised of retired Texans with little or no experience in real estate, cap rates, expense ratios and national debt/lending trends.

Till reform happens, commercial and personal property owners in Texas must use all tools available. Filing a protest is one tool. And when a protest doesn’t produce a fair and accurate number, the final option is to take the appraisal district to court.

Rahul Patel is managing partner of Patel Gaines, a Texas-based law firm specializing in property tax issues. He is an adjunct professor of law at the University of Houston.

Property taxes are a red-hot topic this summer across Texas.

More than 20 related bills have been filed for the Texas Legislature’s special session. Efforts to legislate tighter limits on how local property taxes can increase without a public vote have sparked heated arguments.

But a fundamental problem — the appraisal system — has been largely ignored. In fact, our state’s deeply flawed mass appraisal process is a major driver of the rapid increase in tax bills.

Fundamental Issue Number 1: The sheer volume of properties the appraisal districts must evaluate each year. For example, in Harris County there are approximately 5,500 plus parcels for each appraiser or analyst working for the appraisal district. That works out to about 22 parcels per day or almost three parcels per hour, year-round, for each appraiser or analyst working a five-day week. That is an impossible volume of work.

Is it any wonder that many appraisals wind up being wildly inaccurate? Establishing a realistic ratio of properties per appraiser would be a useful step toward increased appraisal accuracy.

Fundamental Issue Number 2: The appraisal system unfairly burdens property owners with the cost of proving their case even when the appraisal district’s assessed value is incomplete or inaccurate. And inaccurate appraisals are a direct result of Issue Number 1, because appraisal districts lump properties into categories, ratios, and valuations that don’t always make sense for a specific property.

So, if you don’t like the valuation assigned to your property, you can protest it or even sue your appraisal district. You either suck it up and pay the taxes on your overvalued property or pay to go through the protest process and potentially a lawsuit.

Essentially, you fund the appraisal district’s budget through your taxes and pay again to prove it when they overvalue your property. Seems like a stacked deck, doesn’t it?

Businesses and property managers are usually only taxpayers who can afford the costs of arguing their valuation. This creates a perfect opening for the common talking point that homeowners are forced to carry the burden when businesses fight their appraisals. But it’s the flawed process that forces businesses to fight for fairness and accuracy in the first place.

No property owner wants to go down the path of litigation. But litigation often resolves disputes quickly because it allows more time to evaluate the property and its specifics. The extremely rushed appraisal and protest process is simply too compressed to be of much use.

Fairness in the system would improve — and litigation would be reduced — with some real transparency in the appraisal review boards and processes. It’s time to hold appraisal boards accountable by making those positions elected, not appointed. It’s also time for these boards to include taxpayer representatives.

In addition, before we talk about rates, fixes, caps or anything else, we need to strengthen the requirements for serving on an appraisal review board. The boards are typically comprised of retired Texans with little or no experience in real estate, cap rates, expense ratios and national debt/lending trends. That needs to change.

Until reform happens, commercial and personal property owners in Texas need to use all the tools currently available. Filing a protest is one tool. But the protest process is inherently tilted in the appraisal district’s favor because of its far-too-cozy relationship with the review board.

When a protest doesn’t produce a fair and accurate number, the final option is to take the appraisal district to court. That’s a sure way to expose the deep flaws in the appraisal system and to put the appraisal districts on notice that taxpayers are ready to fight back.

Rahul Patel is the managing partner of Patel Gaines, a Texas-based law firm specializing in property tax issues. He is also an adjunct professor of law at the University of Houston and a frequent speaker on real estate issues.

Property taxes are a red-hot topic this summer across Texas.

More than 20 related bills have been filed for the Texas Legislature’s special session. Efforts to legislate tighter limits on how local property taxes can increase without a public vote have sparked heated arguments.

But a fundamental problem — the appraisal system — has been largely ignored. In fact, our state’s deeply flawed mass appraisal process is a major driver of the rapid increase in tax bills.

Fundamental Issue Number 1: The sheer volume of properties the appraisal districts must evaluate each year. For example, in Harris County there are approximately 5,500 plus parcels for each appraiser or analyst working for the appraisal district. That works out to about 22 parcels per day or almost three parcels per hour, year-round, for each appraiser or analyst working a five-day week. That is an impossible volume of work.

Is it any wonder that many appraisals wind up being wildly inaccurate? Establishing a realistic ratio of properties per appraiser would be a useful step toward increased appraisal accuracy.

Fundamental Issue Number 2: The appraisal system unfairly burdens property owners with the cost of proving their case even when the appraisal district’s assessed value is incomplete or inaccurate. And inaccurate appraisals are a direct result of Issue Number 1, because appraisal districts lump properties into categories, ratios, and valuations that don’t always make sense for a specific property.

So, if you don’t like the valuation assigned to your property, you can protest it or even sue your appraisal district. You either suck it up and pay the taxes on your overvalued property or pay to go through the protest process and potentially a lawsuit.

Essentially, you fund the appraisal district’s budget through your taxes and pay again to prove it when they overvalue your property. Seems like a stacked deck, doesn’t it?

Businesses and property managers are usually only taxpayers who can afford the costs of arguing their valuation. This creates a perfect opening for the common talking point that homeowners are forced to carry the burden when businesses fight their appraisals. But it’s the flawed process that forces businesses to fight for fairness and accuracy in the first place.

No property owner wants to go down the path of litigation. But litigation often resolves disputes quickly because it allows more time to evaluate the property and its specifics. The extremely rushed appraisal and protest process is simply too compressed to be of much use.

Fairness in the system would improve — and litigation would be reduced — with some real transparency in the appraisal review boards and processes. It’s time to hold appraisal boards accountable by making those positions elected, not appointed. It’s also time for these boards to include taxpayer representatives.

In addition, before we talk about rates, fixes, caps or anything else, we need to strengthen the requirements for serving on an appraisal review board. The boards are typically comprised of retired Texans with little or no experience in real estate, cap rates, expense ratios and national debt/lending trends. That needs to change.

Until reform happens, commercial and personal property owners in Texas need to use all the tools currently available. Filing a protest is one tool. But the protest process is inherently tilted in the appraisal district’s favor because of its far-too-cozy relationship with the review board.

When a protest doesn’t produce a fair and accurate number, the final option is to take the appraisal district to court. That’s a sure way to expose the deep flaws in the appraisal system and to put the appraisal districts on notice that taxpayers are ready to fight back.

Rahul Patel is the managing partner of Patel Gaines, a Texas-based law firm specializing in property tax issues. He is also an adjunct professor of law at the University of Houston and a frequent speaker on real estate issues.

Property taxes are a red-hot topic this summer across Texas.

More than 20 related bills have been filed for the Legislature’s special session. Efforts to legislate tighter limits on how local property taxes can increase without a public vote have sparked heated arguments.

But a fundamental problem — the appraisal system — has been largely ignored. In fact, our state’s deeply flawed mass appraisal process is a major driver of the rapid increase in tax bills.

Fundamental Issue No. 1: The sheer volume of properties the appraisal districts must evaluate each year. For example, in Harris County there are about 5,500-plus parcels for each appraiser or analyst working for the appraisal district. That works out to about 22 parcels per day or almost three parcels per hour, year-round, for each appraiser or analyst working a five-day week. That is an impossible volume of work.

Is it any wonder that many appraisals wind up being wildly inaccurate?

Fundamental Issue No. 2: The appraisal system unfairly burdens the property owner with the cost of proving his or her case even when the appraisal district’s assessed value is incomplete or inaccurate. And inaccurate appraisals are a direct result of Issue No. 1, because appraisal districts lump properties into categories, ratios and valuations that don’t always make sense for a specific property.

So, if you don’t like the valuation assigned to your property, you can protest it or even sue your appraisal district.

Essentially, you fund the appraisal district’s budget through your taxes and pay again to prove it when they overvalue your property. Seems like a stacked deck, doesn’t it?

Businesses and property managers are usually the only taxpayers who can afford the costs of arguing their valuation. This creates a perfect opening for the common talking point that homeowners are forced to carry the burden when businesses fight their appraisals. But it’s the flawed process that forces businesses to fight for fairness and accuracy in the first place.

No property owner wants to go down the path of litigation. But litigation often resolves disputes quickly because it allows more time to evaluate the property and its specifics. The extremely rushed appraisal and protest process is simply too compressed to be of much use.

Fairness in the system would improve — and litigation would be reduced — with real transparency in the appraisal review boards and processes. It’s time to hold appraisal boards accountable by making those positions elected, not appointed.

In addition, before we talk about rates, fixes, caps or anything else, take a look at the site here as we need to strengthen the requirements for serving on an appraisal review board. The boards are typically composed of retired Texans with little or no experience in real estate, cap rates, expense ratios and national debt/lending trends. That needs to change.

Until reform happens, commercial and personal property owners in Texas need to use all the tools now available. Filing a protest is one tool. But the process is inherently tilted in the appraisal district’s favor because of its far-too-cozy relationship with the review board.

When a protest doesn’t produce a fair and accurate number, the final option is to take the appraisal district to court. That’s a sure way to expose the deep flaws in the appraisal system and to put the appraisal districts on notice that taxpayers are ready to fight back.

Rahul Patel is the managing partner of Patel Gaines, a Texas-based law firm specializing in property tax issues. He is also an adjunct professor of law at the University of Houston and a frequent speaker on real estate issues.

Property taxes are a red-hot topic this summer in Texas. More than 20 related bills have been filed for the Texas Legislature’s special session.

But a fundamental problem — the appraisal system — has been largely ignored. In fact, our state’s deeply flawed mass appraisal process is a major driver of the rapid increase in tax bills.

First, there’s the sheer volume of properties the appraisal districts must evaluate each year. For example, in Harris County there are approximately 5,500 parcels for each appraiser or analyst working for the appraisal district. That works out to about 22 parcels per day — or almost three parcels per hour — year-round, for each appraiser or analyst working a five-day week. That is an impossible volume of work.

Is it any wonder that many appraisals wind up being wildly inaccurate? Establishing a realistic ratio of properties per appraiser would be a useful step toward increased appraisal accuracy.

Meanwhile, the Texas appraisal system unfairly burdens the property owner with the cost of proving their case even when the appraisal district’s

assessed value is incomplete or inaccurate. Inaccurate appraisals are a direct result of high-volume workloads because appraisal districts lump properties into categories, ratios and valuations that don’t always make sense for a specific property.

So, if you don’t like the valuation assigned to your property, you can protest it or even sue your appraisal district. You either suck it up and pay the taxes on your overvalued property or pay to go through the protest process and potentially file a lawsuit.

Essentially, you fund the appraisal district’s budget through your taxes — and pay again to prove it when they overvalue your property. Seems like a stacked deck, doesn’t it?

Businesses and property managers are usually the only taxpayers who can afford the costs of arguing their valuation. This creates a perfect opening for the common talking point that homeowners are forced to carry the burden when businesses fight their appraisals. However, it’s the flawed process that forces busin

esses to fight for fairness and accuracy in the first place.

No property owner wants to go down the path of litigation, though litigation often resolves disputes quickly because it allows more time to evaluate the property and its specifics. The extremely rushed appraisal and protest process is simply too compressed to be of much use.

Fairness in the system would improve — and litigation would be reduced — with some real transparency in the appraisal review boards and processes. It’s time to hold appraisal boards accountable by making those positions elected, not appointed. It’s also time for these boards to include taxpayer representatives.

In addition, before we talk about rates, fixes, caps or anything else, we need to strengthen the requirements for serving on an appraisal review board. The boards are typically composed of retired Texans with little or no experience in real estate, cap rates, expense ratios, national debt and lending trends. That needs to change.

Until reform happens, commercial and personal property owners in Texas need to use all the tools currently available. Filing a protest is one tool — but the protest process is inherently tilted in the appraisal district’s favor because of its far-too-cozy relationship with the review board.

When a protest doesn’t produce a fair and accurate number, the final option is to take the appraisal district to court. That’s a sure way to expose the deep flaws in the appraisal system — and to put the appraisal districts on notice that taxpayers are ready to fight back.

Patel is the managing partner of a San Antonio law firm and an adjunct professor at the University of Houston.

With property values skyrocketing, more and more Bexar County residents are appealing their Appraisal District’s states valuation on their homes and businesses, and many are leaving the appeal hearing dissatisfied and looking for the next step, News Radio 1200 WOAI reports.Attorney Rahul Patel of the local firm of Patel Gaines, who specializes in property tax issues, says, for many property owners, that ‘next step’ is cumbersome and expensive, and demonstrate the many reforms that are needed in the Texas appraisal system.

“The way the process is set up, is if the property owner is not happy with the results, they then have to incur the expense and take the lead in justifying their own value and negate why they think the Appraisal District’s value is incorrect,” he said.

He says the system itself means that mainly property managers and business owners appeal the results of appraisal reviews, and they have to spend their money to ‘prove’ that a government agency is incorrect, which is a burden, and often shuts homeowners out of the process entirely.

Patel says the main problem with the system is that under the current annual appraisal system, Appraisal Districts are simply overwhelmed.

“The Appraisal Districts are given a very difficult task,” he said.  “They are asked to value all property, commercial, real, personal, across the county each year, and as of January 1st.”

He says that sort of system is bound to cause problems, with appraisal figures often based on the sales of  ‘comparable’ properties which are blocks or even miles away, and which frequently misstate the basic features of a home, like square footage and the presence of value-adding amenities like a swimming pool.

Patel is co founder of a group called  ‘Citizens for Appraisal Reform’ and he says it is time to increase the fairness of the system.

First of all, he says binding arbitration would be a good way to reach a compromise without expensive litigation.  He says the advantage of the arbitration process is that it allows for the greater amount of time required for the arbitrator to fully examine the thinking that went into the appraisal, something he says frequently doesn’t happen in today’s hurried annual appraisal process.

He says there should also be basic reform of the Bexar Appraisal District and other Appraisal Districts statewide.

For example, currently the boards of directors of appraisal districts are made up of members of the school boards, commissioners courts, and city councils, appointed by those bodies, and who have an interest in higher appraisals, because that means more tax money for their boards and commissions.

There are proposals in the works to make Appraisal Districts independently elected, and to include taxpayer representatives.

Another proposal would strengthen members of Appraisal Review Boards, and guarantee their independence from the Appraisal Districts.

One proposal calls for the State Comptroller, and not the Appraisal Review Board, to be the avenue for appealing appraisal valuations.

Patel says skyrocketing property taxes, caused in part by unregulated appraisal districts, have placed the future of the state’s economy in jeopardy.

“Over the last couple of years, the appraisal districts have taken a very aggressive approach against commercial businesses and homeowner, especially relating to higher property taxes.”

Patel says homeowners also need to be better aware of the options that are available to them today to appeal what they consider an unfair appraisal, including arbitration and litigation.

“The arbitration process is a difficult one, and people tell me it is a ‘loaded game’,” he said.

Real estate and property tax law firm Patel | Gaines is counting on its future office building to do more than provide extra space. The firm’s partners hope it will change the way people look at law firms.

The firm, which represents many types of real estate clients, is stepping into the development game with the announcement of a 20,000-square-foot mixed-use building at 2030 N. Loop 1604 W.

Patel | Gaines hired Chesney Morales Partners Inc. to design the project and Metropolitan Contacting Company to oversee construction. Initially, Patel | Gaines will occupy 5,500 square feet of the building and lease the rest to what partner Rahul Patel calls “hip tenants.”

“The types of retail tenants we’ll have won’t be normal. We want hip,” Patel said. “Places like a high-end men’s hair salon, a local coffee shop, something that will attract hip, young people.”

The law office space will also be atypical, said Patel, who hopes the aesthetic will be more similar to Google or an Austin startup than a traditional law firm. One such design idea is an interior vertical garden.

Patel said the purpose of all this is to change the way clients and guests think about law firms.

“We really want to work hard to break down that barrier,” he said. “In most law firms, you’ll see all these diplomas on the walls. I have two diplomas in my office off in the corner. Most stuff on my wall is Spurs stuff, pictures of me running marathons, books I’ve read, but not even law books. All we’re doing is providing a service that will help you do business. It doesn’t make us any different just because we have a degree.”

Fernando Diego, a senior project manager with Metropolitan Contracting, said he met the law firm partners at an industry function and was excited about the project from the beginning.

“The project is really in line with what our bread and butter is: retail and office combo,” Diego said. “We’re very excited to be working with Patel | Gaines. They share the same values and same vision as we do.”

Patel | Gaines was recently named one of the Alamo City area’s 75 Best Places to Work by the San Antonio Business Journal, and with the firm’s new office, they hope to attract young, smart and energetic people.

“For us, it’s about the culture. That’s why people want to be here,” Patel said.

Preleasing for the office will begin in October with a target opening set for April 2018.