The median appraised value of homes in McLennan County took a more gradual jump this year that in the past two years, according to preliminary figures from the McLennan County Appraisal District.
The median appraised value of homes in the county increased 4.74 percent in 2019, compared to 11.99 percent last year and 5.95 percent in 2017, MCAD officials report. The 2019 figure does not include commercial properties, which are still being evaluated.
While the district is required by Texas law to appraise homes and real estate at 100 percent market value, their task has been made more difficult by a recent move by the Waco Association of Realtors to deny them access to sales price information.
Since at least 2008, the association has given MCAD officials access to its Multiple Listing Services, which includes information about how much homes are sold for. Because Texas is one of 12 states that does not require sellers or buyers to disclose home and property sales prices, the MLS was the best way for MCAD officials to get accurate sales figures when setting appraisals.
“We are required by the state of Texas to be at 100 percent of market value, and without market information, that makes it very difficult,” MCAD Assistant Chief Appraiser Joe Don Bobbitt said.
Jeannette Wills, association executive of the Waco Association of Realtors, said the association’s restricting access to the MLS was “just a decision that was voted on.” She declined additional comment, deferring comment to association President Daniel Tagle or immediate past President Trish Griffin.
Tagle did not return phone messages, while Griffin said only that “Texas is a nondisclosure state, and we do not release sales data to the appraisal district” before saying she was busy with “out-of-town buyers” and had no time to answer additional questions.
With access to the MLS data cut off, Bobbitt said MCAD appraisers rely on sales surveys the district sends to buyers and sellers, which is not that effective. Very few are willing to divulge the information, and not many respond, Bobbitt said.
“We can look at listings and get an idea, but we can’t really use that to justify increasing the value,” Bobbitt said. “But we can use it to see if we are in the ballpark. We also can look at warranty deeds for loan amounts, and based on the type of loans, we can determine what price it might have been.”
Matthew McLeod, a real estate broker and vice president of Synergy Realtors, said he and others have expressed concerns in the past about the Waco Association of Realtors sharing sales information with MCAD.
“Texas is a nondisclosure state,” McLeod said. “When real estate is sold, there is no mechanism that can compel a seller or a buyer to disclose the price that property sold for. I can only speak for myself, but I felt if that is the law, then the board of Realtors should not circumvent that rule and give the county access to that data without permission of the buyers and sellers. More importantly, it seems to be detrimental to our own clients because then the county can more aggressively escalate taxation.”
If the state requirement to appraise property at 100 percent of fair market value and the nondisclosure rule are in conflict, then that is an issue for the Legislature, not the board of Realtors, McLeod said.
Additionally, he said, just because a home or property sells for a certain value, it does not necessarily mean it is worth that price.
“I sold property that a buyer was willing to pay a number for, but the bank appraiser said it was worth far less. And so it was sold at the lower number,” McLeod said. “I’m not an expert on the county appraisal district, but they are appraisers and their job is to appraise real estate for what it is worth.”
According to preliminary appraisal figures, the average taxable value of a home in McLennan County in 2019 is $144,278. That compares to $131,676 in 2018 and $103,944 five years ago, a 39 percent increase since 2014.
Bobbitt said taxpayers wishing to protest their appraisals have until May 15 or 30 days after they receive appraisals to file a notice with MCAD.