How to Find a Property Tax Advisor to Handle Your Assessment Dispute

What do you need to know about hiring a property tax consultant to protest your home’s assessment on your behalf? How to find a good consultant? What kind of fees do you have to pay? What are the red flags?

Let’s start with the red flags so we don’t get sucked into a contract deal based on dubious claims. I’ll give you an example of overzealous marketing.

Ownwell is the new kid on the block. The National Tax Protest Society is in its second year in the Texas market. Several readers have questioned the company’s marketing materials. After studying them, The Watchdog does too.

The company postcard sent to a Dallas landlord who shared it with me promises that the “property tax savings” will be $614. How would Ownwell know that this owner will save $614 in taxes? There was no protest hearing, no decision was rendered.

When I went to Ownwell’s website and plugged in my address, the website said that if I hired this newcomer, my “estimated savings” would be $1,677. Not at all. That’s five times what I saved last year. Unless this company has a crystal ball looking to the future, I find these promises misleading.

Linsey Wilaford-West, Ownwell’s marketing manager, told me “that’s our best guess on last year’s data.”

Keep in mind this is only the company’s second year in Texas.

I also spoke to the owner of Property Tax Lock, who sent me a letter offering his services. First, the name with the word “lock” implies that rating numbers will be blocked. But the numbers change.

In addition, the company’s slogan is “We care. We are preparing. We win.”

But the letter says the company has a win level of “over 90%”. So the slogan should say “We win most of the time”.

When I voiced my concerns to company owner James O’Day, he disagreed. “I think we can do better with this letter,” he said. “I’ll make an adjustment to our slogan.”

Fees of property tax advisors

You can protest without a consultant. But for people who want a licensed professional to handle their protest, including all the paperwork and attending your hearing, hiring a company might be the way to go.

The fee menu in the industry is hardly standard. You need to understand a company’s billing process, but it’s not always easy.

The best deal would be a company that only charges if it saves you money. Some companies charge nothing if they can’t reduce your value.

Beware of companies that charge hundreds of dollars upfront.

Some companies have different prices for different sized houses.

One company is offering two years for $295.

Beware of this tactic: some companies calculate your savings by ignoring property exemptions. These companies concoct their tax savings estimates without considering the rebates a homeowner gets from exemptions.

Some may charge fees based on the percentage of savings on market value reductions and not on the appraised value, which is what you are taxed on.

The Watchdog "Everyone files a protest" proposes two new strategies for 2022...

Tips on Hiring a Property Tax Company

Can you meet the business owners in person or talk to them on the phone? Many companies do not list a public phone number. How fast do they respond to email? Is the business local? What percentage of their clients’ audiences do they attend?

Don’t sign a multi-year agreement.

Look for a company’s online reviews.

In this booming home value market, if you have a Homestead Exemption, an agent may not be able to save you money because the numbers may not favor your cause.

Ask for a free first evaluation of your chances of winning.

Don’t believe companies that promise to save you a certain amount of money.

Licensed Property Tax Agents

One solution would be for the Texas Association of Property Tax Professionals to list all of its members on its website. This way we could see who is there.

The president of the association, Steve Laas, told me “that’s not really the goal of our organization”. His group is meeting with state lawmakers to work on changes to state tax laws, he said.

One last step: Check a company’s state license by visiting the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation website. Access TDLR’s “License Data Search” to verify a licensee.

Good luck with that. I had good and bad. One year, the guy I hired forgot to show up for my hearing.

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