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  1. Every year HCAD tries to raise my market value from $285K to $323K, even though my house is nearly identical to most of the other houses on my street, which are in the mid to upper 200s, and every year I have successfully fought them through the ARB until this year. It is not just that I lost this year, but the actions of appraisers and ARB members that have me furious. On May 25,2012 at 10 AM I had an informal meeting with appraiser Alex T. Ton. As soon as the meeting started, Ton immediately spoke first, saying “no matter what the outcome of this meeting, your tax bill won’t change this year.” I pressed for more information, and he continued to say “even if we lower your market value, you will pay the same amount in taxes this year.” I had to continue to argue with him before he then said “because the difference between your market and appraised value is less than 10%, if I reduce your market value, your taxes won’t go down.” I pressed him for more clarification, and he explained (what I already knew) that my tax bill is based on my appraised value, not the market value, so if he lowered the market value, the appraised value would not change. That of course would only be true if I were arguing for a new market value between the current market value and the current appraised value. However, as Ton already knew, I was arguing for a fair market value well below the current appraised value, so his statement did not apply. His comments demonstrated: Ton was obviously and deliberately attempting to discourage and intimidate me before I had even presented my evidence. Ton had already prejudicially decided that he was not under any circumstances going to lower my market value below my appraised value, even before he had heard any of my evidence. Ton was also wasting the short time that I had to present my evidence by giving unclear and misleading information On June 21, 2012, at 8:00 AM, I had my ARB hearing. ARB members were Verdean Newton, Doris Butler, and Pauline Newman. The appraiser’s last name was Johnson. The hearing was uneventful until after the appraiser gave his testimony and it was my turn to reply. The appraiser had claimed that a comparable property I had highlighted was not in my neighborhood, and I was explaining he was in error, that the owner and resident of that property serves with me on the board of our neighborhood’s homeowner’s association. At that point the head of the ARB panel interrupted me and started defending what he said. She was out of order for interrupting me when I had the floor, rather than waiting until I was finished, a breach of procedure. She was also taking up my time to talk. Both her eagerness to interrupt me and her actively arguing the appraiser’s position for him show that she was not being impartial as she is required to be, she actively took HCAD’s side in the discussion. When the ARB were deliberating on the value of my home, Doris Butler stated “I voted to keep the HCAD value, because the value went down last year.” This statement was in error. In 2011, my market value was $285,000, in 2012 it is $323,491, so it actually went up. I raised my hand to point out this crucial error on which she was basing her entire decision (which I had already presented in my evidence), and the head of the ARB very rudely said “YOU have NOTHING more to say.” I tried to further explain, she would not even give me a chance. I think it is interesting to look up the makeup of the ARB members. I looked up their appraisal values on HCAD.org. Butler Doris 3025 DREW ST # 1. 2011 Value: $43,850. 2012 Value: $43,850 Bulter Doris 5423 MADDEN LN. 2011 Value: $48,572. 2012 Value: $38,217 Newman Pauline 943 S VICTORY DR. 2011 Value: $30,023. 2012 Value: $25,000 Newton Verdeen 11963 CONIFER SPRINGS CT. 2011 Value: $81,535. 2012 Value: $72,726 These were all the listings I could find on the HCAD website corresponding to the names of the members of my ARB panel. If these are not the properties of the members of my panel, then that means the members of my panel are not homeowners in Harris County, and have no business deciding the property values of actual Harris County homeowners. If these are the panel members’ properties, that is concerning as well. These properties are all significantly below the average Harris County home price of $130,000. This isanexample of why these panel members are not representative of Harris County property owners and at the very least, should not be placed together in an ARB panel. This information leads me to believe that these members may have a bias against homeowners like me whose property value is significantly above theirs, assume that we are wealthy enough to weather any tax increase, no matter how arbitrary. I also noticed that all of these properties save the first (which has remained steady) have all gone down in value by at least 10% from last year.There seems to be an interesting correlation between being a member of the ARB and receiving a favorable tax appraisal. Last, I should point out that all the members of the ARB panel were women. All members of the ARB panel were African-Americans, as was the appraiser in the hearing. It seems very odd to me that in a county that is 58.7% white, 50% male, and the median home vale is $130,000, that such a group of people that were so very much NOT representative of the demographic of Harris County in their makeup would be put together. I filed complaints, the complaint against Ton is still being investigated. The ARB sent back a very perfunctory letter saying they investigated and there was no wrong doing - did not even specifically address my complaints or provide quotations of written procedure to justify itself. Basically, a form letter. I have fired back with another letter demanding all documentation of ARB's alleged "investigation" I am sick of it. I have started a blog where people can submit stories of misconduct by HCAD appraisers and ARB members, at HCADWallOfShame.wordpress.com, and I welcome anyone here who has had similiar experiences to submit their stories. I am also considering going to the media with this while I await the outcome of the HCAD investigation and an answer to my demand for documenation of ARB's investigation.
  2. We bought our first home last year, and approximately 3 months later found out all of the remodel work was un-permitted and mostly completed by the previous owner's husband. (Using youtube as a guide, she told me.) Our issue is that HCAD is valuing our home approximately 1/8 more than what we paid. From what I understand of real estate laws, we must either redo the renovations to code with permits or disclose the un-permitted work to any future buyers. How can I fight the HCAD appraisal? Also is the previous owner/ real estate agent liable?
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