As notices of appraisal values arrive in the mail this year, many Friendswood homeowners have put off opening them.
And with good reason. Property values within the City of Friendswood increased this year by more than 14 percent – a $300 million jump, prompting “not so many questions as complaints,” as City Councilman John Scott said.
There has been a lot of discussion, input and comments regarding recent appraisals, city staff said, and the Galveston Central Appraisal District official recently visited City Council to give a presentation on the process.
The district collects sales data to value property at 100 percent of market value as required by law, explained Chief Appraiser Tommy Watson.
“We react to what the market is doing,” he said. “We’re required to be at 100 percent. Your taxable value can only go up 10 percent,” he said, “but the market value goes up to wherever it has to go to reach the market.”
To arrive at these values, the appraisal district looks at recent sales in each neighborhood, he said. A neighborhood can include a subdivision of “like” properties, he added.
“You don’t hit everything just right,” he said. “That’s why we’re in this period right now where people can come in and protest their values to make sure we have everything right.”
The district normally gets about 50,000 to 60,000 protests per year.
“I’m sure we’ll get close to 80,000 this year,” he said. “I know that our online system has been tied up and people are getting upset about that they haven’t been able to get in.”
The real estate market has changed drastically since January 2014, he said.
But even though many have complained about increases in values, “we’re still not at 100 percent where we should be,” said Watson, who has been with the Appraisal District for 11 years.
City Council members were among those who were shocked at more than 25 percent value increases.
“You can go back to 1995 since I’ve owned a house here, and it’s never been like this,” Scott said. “And it’s across the board with everybody I’ve talked to. It’s amazing.”
Councilman Steve Rockey said his values, too, had remained flat for years and then skyrocketed this year.
“Suddenly in one year, a 25 or 30 percent bump in the value,” he said. “I think something is wrong with the process.”