Your Home's Value and Texas Taxes -- What Is My Home Worth?

Q: How do I find out how much the recently sold homes in my area sold for? 
A: It is a very common question and the answer may depend on where you live. In Austin, and in all Texas cities, the correct answer to this question is from your local Realtor. You can find information on real estate related web sites that you may think is real sold data, but be warned! Texas sold data can not be published, so the information that you are looking at is actually something entirely different than MLS sold data. It's a fact. Ask your Realtor.


Q: But several web sites show what they claim to be "sold" data and comparable home values. Isn't this real market data?
A: No. Not if it is for Texas. It is not market value based on sold property data. Texas is a Non-Disclosure state, so MLS sold data is not public information and it is not published to the taxing authorities either. The only way the county taxing authorities can get sold home data is if the home owner volunteers this information upon request or upon dispute of tax value. So, there are some specific properties where the county has real sold data (not very much), but most of their information is based on a spread sheet analysis of home size compared to other homes in the zip code.

Q: When will the county come in and appraise my home?
A: In most cases--Never. Your local county only has a hand full of appraisers who report and analyze thousands of homes a year. These people mostly do their jobs in front of a computer--"assessing home values". Unlike the Appraisers who work for banks and come out to your home to assess it, measured it, take pictures and compare it to other homes that were sold in the community during the past 6 months (and have access to MLS sold data)--the job of the county appraisal districts is to create a spread sheet analysis of homes in the area and generate revenue for local taxing entities. 

Q:  Does the county have Appraisers on staff to do individual and personal appraisals on homes that sold this year?
A: The sheer numbers of Appraisers that would be needed to do personal appraisals for an area like Austin where over 25,000 homes a year sell, would be off the chart compared to the few appraisers that are actually on staff. There are approximately 60-70 homes a day that close in Greater Austin. The counties would have to employ at least 30-40 appraisers who worked 7 days a week--just to do this one function (which is not what they do for a living).

Q: What does that mean about the accuracy of information for the "tax value" of a home Vs the "market value" of a home?
A: It means that these are two different kinds of information and generally speaking--they are really unrelated data points. Market Value is what a buyer is willing to pay and a seller is willing to sell for--a given home, of a given size, age, condition, location and features. This number goes up and down, based on market conditions, inventory levels and desirability of the area on any given day. Tax Value is what the taxing authority has determined to be the taxing value for which a home owner is responsible for local taxes. Buyers and Sellers will very often have a completely different view of the properties value, based on a much more detailed look at market conditions.

Two big take-aways to consider here: 

1. All Real Estate markets are unique and are based on local laws, traditions and market factors. Ask your Realtor how it works in your state and city and what is happening in the local market that is affecting home prices. Don't assume that it is the same as Texas or here in Austin. And if you are moving to the Austin area, you should be prepared to learn what is different about the Austin Real Estate market that is different from where you have moved.

2. When you are buying a home--employ a REALTOR. It is free** to you as a Buyer to have a Realtor represent you and for such a big and important purchase--why wouldn't you want the best possible representation in your corner. 

If you are looking for a home in the Greater Austin Area, give me a call. Let's Talk.

**I suppose there may be some exceptions to this rule, but I can't tell you off of the top of my head what they would be; generally speaking, the Buyer's Agent fees are paid for by the seller, not the buyer--so, why wouldn't you hire a Realtor? It is free to you and if you don't use a REALTOR, the listing agent is probably going to get double pay in most cases because you choose not to use a Buyers Agent REALTOR.

When you are looking for a home, The Texas Real Estate Commission suggests that you read this one page document to understand who represent you! 

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