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Sticker Shock For Homeowners As Property Appraisals Skyrocket

Joey Palacios
Texas Public Radio
The Bexar County Appraisal District

A lot of Bexar County property owners say they're in shock after getting their property appraisals in the mail this week. The values of area homes are going up, which, in turn, means higher taxes are on the way. If someone isn’t planning on selling their home, they aren’t going to be happy.

Property owners like Ricardo Flores aren’t waiting to contest this year’s surge in property appraisals. Shortly after receiving his notice he headed for the Bexar County Appraisal District office to file an official protest. Flores says he was stunned to see the value of a San Antonio lot he owns jump from $40,000 to $61,000 in just one year. “It’s an empty lot, there’s nothing built on it, it’s clear, so I think it’s not worth that much.”

Flores is concerned about the property taxes that will be assessed based on the appraisal value.

Twyla Coleman is worried too. She says the appraisal on her undeveloped lot nearly doubled from $48,000 to $90,000. She was assessed for property improvements that were never done. “I’m just not happy. How can you tell me that there are improvements when there are no improvements? Now let me make improvements, I’ll be happy to pay,” said Coleman.

The Bexar County Appraisal District says the dramatic rise in the sale prices of homes is the reason for higher appraisals. Deputy Chief Appraiser Mary Kieke says a shortage in housing and virtually no foreclosures have driven prices up. And she says the district has to follow state law.  

“We are mandated by state law to be at market value. Market value is defined at what a property would sell for," she said.

On average, residential property appraisals in Bexar County increased by 11 percent this year. Appraisals went up last year too, an average six percent. Kieke says that comes on the heels of the housing crisis where values did not increase much at all.

“Our values have remained substantially flat since 2008, in fact they went down a couple of years in 2009 and 2010. They went up a little bit last year, not enough frankly, and have just gone up quite a bit more this year.”

Commercial property appraisals went up even more, an average 25 percent,  and apartment properties values increased over 30 percent.

Property owners with homestead exemptions will be taxed on a maximum appraisal increase of 10 percent a year, so they won't have to absorb all of the increase at once.  Those who think the increase is unfair can file protest with the Appraisal District through June 1. About 66,000 people filed protests last year.  

Joey Palacios can be reached atJoey@TPR.org and on Twitter at @Joeycules