Local home values going through the roof, appraisers say

Pandemic cited as factor for increase

TEXARKANA -- To some degree, the pandemic may have helped spur local homes sales earlier this year, Bowie County, Texas, chief appraiser Mike Brower said.

Brower said homes that would normally take a few months to sell have recently been selling in a matter of a few days -- and at higher market value prices.

"This hike in value started in about June of 2020, and it's been growing ever since," he said. "Now homes just stay on the market a few days before they sell. Right now, this higher home sales volume doesn't appear to be slowing down, and it's hard to say when it might slow down."

Brower attributed the hike in home sales at least in part to COVID-19, mainly because of the confinement to home that the virus caused.

"When people were suddenly being forced to stay at home, they began to feel too bunched up with each other and started thinking that their homes were too small," he said. "After looking around they started to thinking, 'Hey, we need a new home.'"

In February, Brower said both the cost to build new homes, as well as the price of existing homes on the market, increased dramatically in late 2021 and those increases are continuing in 2022.

"Since the time when I took over as chief appraiser in 2009, we've generally raised home appraisal improvement values at around just 3% to 5%, he said.

However, Brower said the district would be raising the appraisal improvement (home price) schedule for this year by as much as 15% to 20% owing to increases in home market value.

Brower added that one thing that confuses property taxpayers is the word "improvement."

"Improvement does not mean something 'new' or 'fixed up.' The word actually means any building , structure or fixture affixed to the land," Brower said. "The word is used to note that something is affixed to the land regardless of age or condition."

Brower went on to say that homes presently selling -- both at cost to build new, as well as existing homes -- are being sold almost as quickly as they go on the market.

"The increases in value are not just in homes, but also in land and mobile homes as well," he said.

Troy Gammoms, an appraisal manager for the Little Rock appraisal firm Total Assessment Solution Corp., contracted by Miller County, Arkansas, said he wasn't sure what effect COVID-19 may have on the home value rares. However, he said homes in Texarkana, Arkansas, are selling about as rapidly as those on the Texas side.

"The sales price rates have increased about as much for homes on this side of town," Gammons said. "I'm not sure about what effects COVID may have had on the sales price rate increase on homes, but my view is that it has more to do with a supply and demand issue."

Brower said the appraisal district is required to appraise all property by 100% of market value, according to state law.

"Market value is defined by the state as 'the price at which a property will transfer for cash, or at cash's equivalent, under prevailing market conditions,'" he said.

Brower went on to cite those sales conditions as:

• The sale must be exposed to the general public in the open market, for a reasonable time -- and not for just a selected audience.

• Both the seller and buyer have to know all of the uses for which the property is adapted.

• Both the seller and buyer seek to maximize their gains, and neither is in a position to take advantage of the exigencies (urgent or pressing needs) of the other.

Brower also said that if a taxpayer believes that the district has over-appraised their property, they should gather sales data of similar properties before they speak with an appraiser.

"This sales information can be acquired through consultation with Realtors," he said. "I would like for people to start doing their homework."

Brower also said he encourages property taxpayers who believe their property is over-appraised to talk to their appraiser before filing an official protest.

"We have to keep up with market value," he said. "We aren't trying to overvalue homes."

Brower further stated that Texas residents will be getting a chance to vote on a "homestead" tax exemption amount on May 7th.

"The current homestead exemption amount is $25,000, and the amount that voters will get to vote on raises the exemption up to $40,000," he said. "This is an attempt by the state legislature to help offset rising appraisal values."