Real estate broker offers seminars on protesting property appraisals

WACO, Texas (KWTX) – Property values increased more than 30 percent over last year on average in McLennan County, and that means a spike in property taxes as well.

Homeowners are able to protest their property taxes, and Mike Berlanga, a real estate broker from the San Antonio area, has been teaching seminars on how to do exactly this around the state for the last six years.

Berlanga’s seminars walk homeowners through the steps of filing a protest, what to ask for and what to expect. The process starts with filing the protest form, which must be done by May 15 in McLennan County. When filling out the protest, Berlanga said it’s important to request evidence.

The county will have to provide you with the documentation used to determine your home’s value. That’s based on measurements of the land and structure, value of neighboring properties and market sales. Homeowners can also request an informal hearing.

“You get to let them {the county appraisal district} tell you based on the evidence, they’ve already given you, how they came up with their number,” Berlanga said. “Now that gives you time to say, ‘Well wait a minute. You’re comparing me to a house in a gated neighborhood but I don’t live in a gated neighborhood.”

If homeowers are not satisfied with the informal offer, Berlanga said they can move on to a formal hearing. In the case of a formal hearing, Berlanga said it’s important to gather evidence as to why you believe your property value is incorrect, including photos.

Berlanga said statistically speaking, in his experience, less than 20 percent of people file for protest, but he said more should look into it.

“You don’t have anything to fear in trying and you just have to have a little bit of a thick skin,” Berlanga said. “Don’t attach yourself to the outcome before we’ve gone through the process, and you won’t necessarily be disappointed but you might be amazed.”

The McLennan County Appraisal District said last year, 15,000 protests were filed, and most protestors earned some reduction in their appraisals.

If you’d like assistance with protesting property taxes, there are two workshops in Waco this week. The first is May 2 from 6-7:30 p.m. at Carver Park Baptist Church. Bring your current tax year appraisal letter. Representatives from the appraisal district will make a presentation and there will be time for questions.

Another event is happening on May 5 from 6-7:30 p.m. at the South Waco Recreation Center. The workshop will be in both English and Spanish.

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