Monday, August 8, 2011

What is Wrong With the Victoria CAD, Volume 1

As many people know, I have been quite critical of the Victoria Central Appraisal District in recent years. I won't go into what got me started down that road, mostly because it is irrelevant. Let's just say the more I looked into what they were doing, the less I liked it.

Most people make two simple mistakes when they encounter criticism of appraisals. First, they take it personally. They think that if you point out their property or someone they know as being undervalued, then you are making it personal. This logic is no more sound than the person whose property is overvalued, taking it out on those whose properties are undervalued. Second, they don't grasp the idea that we are all in this thing together. Property values not being assessed properly harms everyone whose properties are assessed properly. If the taxing entities are not collecting the proper amount of tax on a particular property, then that disparity must be made up somewhere else. Sooner or later, your property could be that"somewhere else".

There are many things I could say about the Victoria CAD, but this blog is only going to touch on one simple thing. I plan on doing a series of blogs on this subject, as there is so much to say. The main problem with jamming too much information into one blog is that everything I say is fact, verified by hard figures. Any time people look at numbers, the law of diminishing returns tends to kick in rather quickly.

It has long been an assertion of mine (backed up by hundreds of hours of research) that working-class homes in Victoria are valued by the CAD at a much higher percentage of their actual values than the homes located in more affluent neighborhoods. Let me be clear about one thing. This is not a witch hunt, and I do not engage in class warfare. However, what's right is right, and what's wrong is wrong. I have no reason to point out that certain property owners should pay more in property taxes, but I can no longer sit back and watch the working middle class of Victoria get squeezed.

For this particular blog, I performed a simple experiment. I logged onto Woolson Real Estate's website and performed two separate searches. Their search engine allows you to search properties by entering a multitude of criteria. For my two searches, I set the minimum price at $100,000 and $300,000.

Then I took the top 10 properties from each search, and looked up their assessed valued on the CAD website. What I found further confirmed what I already knew. The more expensive the property, the lower percentage of actual value the assessments seem to be.

On average, the homes listed from $100,000 and up had assessed values at 90% of the list price, with the low being 67% and the high being 122%.

The homes with $300,000+ price tags were only assessed at 76% of their asking price, with the lowest being 54% and the highest being 96%.

Now, some may be wondering why this is so important. Consider this - if the more expensive homes were valued at the same percentage of the asking price of the $100,000 homes, the difference in taxable value would be $399,620. Think about it. That is an entire $400,000 home that is not being taxed at all. But here is the really interesting part - this is only for ten homes, that were found in succession on one website. No cherry-picking here.

Now extrapolate that over the entire neighborhoods of Country Club, Country Club Village, Woodway, Benchmark, Springwood, Kingwood Forest, etc. Think how much we could lower all of the tax rates if property were simply assessed correctly in Victoria County.