Peyco Southwest Realty
1703 N. Peyco Drive
Almost everyone who works at Peyco Southwest Realty loses access to the Arlington company’s conference room this time of year. It’s appropriated temporarily as ground zero for a few thousand property tax appeals as the Tarrant Appraisal District (TAD) mails out valuations of residential and commercial property.
In recent years those valuations have tended to go up-up-up, perhaps as much as 10 percent overall this time around, a costly reality not always accepted happily or without protest. Or appeal, which has worked into an interesting sideline for Peyco. It’s an old-guard Arlington company that has morphed from industrial and warehousing applications to more emphasis on commercial real estate sales, development, property management and – appropriate for this time of year — property tax appeals.
Peyco CEO Jim Maibach stands in the midst of the company’s conference room, the table covered end to end with appeal paperwork on behalf of assorted clients.
“There’s a great deal to do and not much time to do it,” he says, gesturing at the covered conference table. “Most homeowners have already received their new appraisals and most commercial property owners will receive theirs this week.”
That notice starts the clock ticking. There’s a 30-day appeal period or a May 15 deadline, whichever is more. After that, without appeal, it’s basically live with it and wait until next year.
What to do if you think your appraisal is excessive, even unfair? Maibach and the Peyco team have some tips. The big one is that there’s no percentage in venting anger at TAD.
Peyco Vice President Jordan Foster, who handles mostly commercial appeals, has a recommendation: Stay cool. Even when opening that TAD appraisal and looking over what seems to be an incendiary valuation increase.
“For individuals, the big thing is to believe in evidence over emotion,” Foster said. “For lots of people the first thing that happens is that they get angry, stay mad, pick up the phone and launch on TAD.”
News flash I: TAD deals with thousands of people – has already sent out more than 600,000 appraisals this year with more to come soon.
News flash II: TAD only makes appraisals. It’s the taxing entities – cities, school districts, county, et al – that set taxation rates.
“They’re immune to anger,” Foster says of TAD. “Evidence and data are what they key on. If you’re going to appeal, be professional about it. Or get a professional to do it for you.”
Those who do appeal will eventually appear before a three-person TAD Appraisal Review Board where both the property owner and TAD will present their evidence. It takes two of three votes to change the appraisal. As might be expected, professionals have a better track record in getting reductions.
For homeowners who want to appeal, Maibach offers what amounts to a double-edged strategy.
“For homeowners, the main two considerations are market value and whether the appraisal takes into account equal-and-uniform considerations. When appealing, be sure to mark down both.”
Maibach also finds that an astonishing number of homeowners don’t take advantage of basics like applying for a homestead exemption or making sure taxes are frozen at age 65 in jurisdictions that are applicable.
“Though an appraisal can increase dramatically, state law prevents an increase of more than 10 percent for homesteads,” he notes. “But there’s no such protection for second homes, rentals or commercial properties. Even so, an appeal might be in order.”
Although appealing residential tax appraisals are tricky enough – far beyond simply looking at neighborhood comparables —commercial appeals have even more considerations: zoning, platting, current use, access, income potential and more. Tricky enough for more than 3,000 individual property appeals to accumulate in the Peyco board room.
Generally speaking, Maibach notes, well-crafted, data-based appeals result in lower appraisals 70 to 80 percent of the time.
And yes, the Legislature is looking at setting limits on property tax increases, to which Maibach offers some advice amounting to this: Don’t hold your breath.
“The Legislature tends to want to tweak property taxes every session but usually does little because cities, schools and other property tax districts need a reliable source of income,” he said. “The money has to come from somewhere and if not property taxes it’ll either be higher sales taxes or a state income tax. When you live in a land-rich state like Texas it’s likely going to be property taxes. It’s not a bad system.”
O.K. Carter is a former editor and publisher of the Arlington Citizen-Journal and was also Arlington publisher and columnist for the Star-Telegram and founding editor of Arlington Today Magazine. He’s the author of the definitive book on Arlington’s colorful history, Caddos, Cotton and Cowboys: Essays on Arlington.