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Officials say property values rising

By KELLI LEVEY

Eagle Staff Writer

A basic economic principle — supply and demand — is driving up property values around Brazos County, tax officials say.

In fact, it has happened for the past several years. This year, the increase reported to the county’s 10 taxing entities and to property owners was 10.5 percent overall.

“ When you’re in a market of supply and demand and the demand is higher than the supply for certain things — like certain types of homes or sizes of lots — the values are going to go up, plain and simple,” said Mary Landreth of the Brazos County Appraisal District. “It’s a good thing when you’re on the seller’s end of things. I don’t believe I’ve ever heard anyone complain of getting too much for their house.”

Last year, the median price of a home in Brazos County was $123,300 — the highest ever, according to Texas A&M University’s Real Estate Center.

Income growth and job creation drive the vitality of the housing market in a community, said Charles Gilliland, a research economist at the Real Estate Center who years ago worked in the office of a school district’s tax assessor.

The past few years low interest rates and an increase in out-of-town parents buying homes for their children who are attending school in this community also have contributed to the trend, he said.

Jack Harris, another economist at the Real Estate Center, said there is no mystery in deciphering the appraisals.

“ When they’re giving you higher appraisals on your property, they’re saying you’re living in a more valuable town, essentially,” he said. “They’re saying when you put it on the market, you’ll get more money for it.”

Property owners who have no intention of moving typically are the ones complaining the loudest about increasing values, said Buddy Winn, Brazos County’s tax assessor-collector.

“ I ask them to honestly look at [the amount] spelled out on that form and consider whether they would take that amount for their property,” he said. “In just about every case they say of course not, they’d ask for more than that. Then I ask them why they’re complaining for being taxed on less than they think their property is worth.”

The estimates are required to be within 5 percent of the market value, Winn said. Physical, in-person appraisals are done about every three years, but every year a property’s value is estimated based on comparative sales figures.

Taxing jurisdictions figure their rates based on those amounts, and state law stipulates that as the property values go up, the tax rates are supposed to drop so the burden on the property owners stays about level.

“ They are supposed to basically raise the same amount of revenue as last year [that’s called the effective tax rate], and if they want to raise it higher than that they have to hold public hearings and get input about the proposal,” Gilliland said. “If they raise it too high, the taxpayers can petition to have an election to roll that rate back. There’s always a chance for people to intervene in the process.”

To keep the tax rates affordable, Winn said, “People are going to have to go line up and speak up to get the attention of all those county, city and school district folks who set the tax rates,” he said. “They’re going to have to get the attention of the people who are spending the money.”

• Kelli Levey’s e-mail address is klevey@theeagle.com.

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