Chief appraiser discusses property values, current market

June 4, 2013 at 1:04 a.m.

Victoria County's booming economy means more than incoming industry and more trucks on the road, one tax professional said. New construction, too, has joined the mix.

Construction in 2012 added more than $109 million to Victoria County's tax base, said John Haliburton, chief appraiser with the Victoria Central Appraisal District.

That's more than double an average year, he said, noting 2010 brought about $48 million.

"And that does not include anything from Caterpillar, anything else that is done at the (Port of Victoria), which is appraised by our contractor," he said of the most recent numbers.

Haliburton spoke Tuesday at the Victoria Economic Development Corp.'s Victoria Partnership meeting. There, he discussed the appraisal process and current market.

The appraisal district sent out about 32,000 real property notices this year and 5,000 personal property notices. The district's contractor later sent out 5,000 mineral and industrial notices.

Such notes only go out to new property owners or those whose values changed by $1,000 or more.

"Of the 58,000 accounts we have, we sent out about 42,000," he said to the room of business professionals and elected officials. "So those went out to our closest friends and neighbors out there. And many of y'all received mail from us."

Haliburton attributed appraisal numbers to ongoing market conditions. The process is all about basic economics, he said, or supply and demand.

While an average real estate market boasts about a six- to seven-month home inventory to sell, for instance, Victoria sits around three.

"I've been told by my Realtor friends that, unless a house has something really, really wrong with it, it's going to sell fairly fast," he said, relating a story about a friend who listed his home for $15,000 more than it was worth and had signed contracts three days later.

Still, Haliburton said, "One sale does not a market make."

The district doesn't base its decisions on one transaction in particular but examines the various sales within a subdivision, then uses that to determine an adjustment to the neighborhood. It then appraise all of the houses based on that adjustment.

When possible, the district appraises properties by comparing apples to apples and oranges to oranges, he said.

Omar Rachid, who owns Rachid Consulting and attended Tuesday's meeting, said Haliburton did not adequately explain the appraisal process.

"Do you have a book that says 'How to decode what John Haliburton said'?" he asked during the meeting. "I mean, you talked a lot about different things, but really, you touched very little on the property tax and how is that calculated overall."

Rachid, after the meeting, discussed a friend whose home cost $110,000 in 2010 and has increased in value each year, although no homes on the block have sold. The appraised value for 2012 hit $140,000.

"I'm just curious as to how these homes have been calculated," he said. "What's the method to the madness?"

Lou Svetlik, who sits on the appraisal district's board of directors and attended Tuesday's meeting, said Haliburton and his staff do good work for the community. The property tax system can be complicated, he said.

"If you have any questions, that's one of the great things about John's office," he said. "They're willing to listen, and they're willing to deal with each person as a customer."



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