The Devil is In The Details

When was the last time you did a deep dive into your Texas multifamily property taxes? Are you leaving money on the table? Read on. You might be surprised at how the process works and where the opportunities are to optimize.

God bless Texas. The Lone Star State has no state property tax or state income tax. Two very BIG reasons why investors and residents have always loved Texas.

With no state tax, the Texas state comptroller’s office does not collect property tax or set tax rates. That’s up to local taxing units, which use tax revenue to provide local services including schools, streets and roads, police and fire protection and many others. In Texas there are over 3500 counties, cities and other taxing districts.

According to the Real Estate Center at Texas A&M University, the definition of property tax is: “A compulsory monetary contribution imposed by governments to pay for governmental activities. A property tax is assessed according to the value of property a taxpayer owns. Because property taxes depend on value, they are called ad valorem, meaning “according to value.”

The property tax process in Texas is broken up into four phases, with each phase just as important as the next: Appraisal, Equalization, Assessment and Collection. Understanding how to investigate, navigate, question and manage this process for multifamily investments can be a significant contributor or detractor to a portfolio’s bottom line. As they say, “The devil is in the details.”

Property values presumably reflect its owner’s wealth; therefore, market value demonstrates an owner’s ability to pay. Knowing property values should allow governments to make impartial, fair tax assessments to individual property owners.

Multifamily Valuation and Tax Rate

There are two primary components to property taxes: valuation and rate. Valuation is supposed to be clinical, formulaic and apolitical. Rates are entirely controlled by the people, and their surrogate political appointees. A quick review of basic algebra proves that even if one goes up, and the other goes down sufficiently, your total tax bill can be less.

In reality, what any property is actually worth is simply what someone will pay for it. Theoretically, as sales happen, the value of all property becomes more clear. This, of course, assumes prices are openly shared – a rarity in Texas. According to Property Tax Policies and Administrative Practices (PTAPP), the Lone Star State is one of only 13 that do not require sale prices to be reported.  

Smart Business

A prudent multifamily property owner and their accompanying astute apartment property management company knows that reviewing, and periodically challenging your property appraisals is smart business. If you can successfully challenge the appraisal, and acquire a better rate via abatements and other strategies, you’ve cut a fat hog and is your right by law when substantiated with proper documentation. Appraisal districts are now more streamlined. In the past, it was relatively simple to keep sale prices confidential. Without real data, the disconnect between market value and appraised value can easily become distorted. In today’s digital age, there is little that does not escape the transparency of the internet. Recorded loan documents are easily mined by data companies that then sell information services to everyone, including appraisal districts. Now, even the government has figured out how to use FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) requests to obtain more hard data. Every time Fannie or Freddie is involved in multi-family financing, which is often, the records of those transactions are now subject to disclosure.

All this means that the gap between actual and appraised value will continue to narrow. This translates to fewer tax cost advantages unless your apartment property management and multifamily property tax advisors understand the intricacies of valuation and how to apply these to your advantage. When dealing with multi-million dollar apartment properties, this can quickly add up.

One might argue this will provide a windfall for taxing authorities, but even the taxing authorities recognize taxing someone out of business is neither desirable nor advantageous.

While property appraisal districts will continue to seek the real value of property, officials elected by the people still get to determine what the final tax bill will really be.

When was the last time you took an in-depth look at the details of your multifamily property taxes? Do you continue to go year after year without challenging your portfolio’s property tax assessments?

When was the last time you had a professional review of your multifamily portfolio performance numbers or review your apartment properties processes to assess for relevancy and accuracy?

Are you leaving money on the table?

The Better World Family of Companies: Better World Properties LLC, Better World Holdings LLC and Better World Consulting offer complete apartment life cycle solutions including apartment property management in Texas, multifamily financing solutions, deal generation, and apartment process improvement. All under one roof. Click here read more about our services.

We have great ideas born from over 100 years of collective experience in the multifamily industry. You don’t find this depth of experience in a textbook or in software. We’ve seen it, done it, walked it, owned it, sold it, improved it and have had a ton of fun along the way.

If you would like to learn more about where to look to improve your returns on your Texas apartment property investments, give us a call. Better yet, come visit. We’ll take you on a Lone Star and show you why Texas remains the destination of choice for multifamily owner and investors.

(713) 559-6975

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