Recession Hits Property Values

Harris County homeowners should receive their property appraisals in the mail this week. Many of them will be shocked by the numbers — which show tax values have dropped about four percent since last year. Laurie Johnson reports.

The phones have already been ringing at the Harris County Appraisal District with calls from homeowners about why their property values are dropping.

HCAD Chief Appraiser Jim Robinson says the overall drop in property values represents about $11 billion in lost tax revenue.

"This really is the first time since 1989 that in Harris County we've seen declining values, though there have been spot situations in certain subdivisions. But this is the first time since then that there have been general declines, not only in residential values, but perhaps even more significantly in commercial values and apartment values and also in the values of industrial properties."

During the 1980s, appraisals were lowered for three consecutive years.  Robinson says he doesn't anticipate a repeat of that scenario. And though thousands of homes will be appraised lower this year — Robinson says he estimates about 400,000 people will protest their valuation.

"We've got 1.8 million properties in Harris County and I can't pretend that we would not have an error — we certainly don't know the interior condition of those properties. You may have termite damage, you may have settlement problems that we've not been made aware of. And if we have not taken that into account, it would be to somebody's advantage to protest."

Robinson says about 60 percent of protests work out to the advantage of the homeowner.  The early deadline to protest is April 30th, but there's also an extended deadline of June 1st.

Bio photo of Laurie Johnson

Laurie Johnson

Local Host, All Things Considered

Laurie Johnson is the Houston host for All Things Considered at KUHF NPR for Houston. Before taking the anchor chair, she worked as a general assignments reporter at KUHF, starting there as an intern in 2002...