Appraiser: Williamson County home values soar 10.6 percent

Home values for 2014 shot up 10.6 percent in Williamson County, reflecting a sizzling residential market where demand continues to outpace supply, chief appraiser Alvin Lankford said Wednesday.

The Williamson Central Appraisal District mailed more than 175,500 appraisal notices to property owners in the county, which saw the average market value of homes increase to $214,682 from $194,072, Lankford said. In 2013, market values for homes went up 2 percent on average.

The taxable residential value of homes — the market value minus exemptions — jumped 11.5 percent on average to $209,402 from $187,747, Lankford said.

It’s too soon to say what the appraised values will mean for individual homeowners’ property tax bills. City, county, school districts and other local taxing units — more than 90 entities in all in Williamson County — will use the taxable values to determine the tax rates property owners will pay, Lankford said.

For homeowners with a homestead exemption, state law caps a property’s appraised value increase at 10 percent per year.

The appraisal district’s appraised values won’t be final until July, following a protest period in which property owners can contest appraised values. The averages typically will go down slightly after that time, Lankford said.

Lankford said he wasn’t surprised by the jump in appraised values in Williamson County. A housing market tilted strongly in favor of sellers in Central Texas is driving prices higher, Lankford said.

“We’re definitely one of the hottest, if not the hottest, markets in (Central Texas),” Lankford said, noting that some houses are selling the same day they hit the market.

Amid strong demand, the region’s supply of homes has been dipping into two-month territory, short of the six-month supply that is considered a market where supply and demand are in balance, favoring neither buyers nor sellers.

Williamson County has been attractive for new homebuilding activity, in part due to its access and desirable school districts, among other factors, said Madison Inselmann, regional director of the Austin market for Metrostudy, which tracks the housing market.

“Second only to the lakefront property out west, builders and developers are rewarded for quality developments with high sales volumes for product that is priced above the market average — a pace that has overwhelmed the market’s ability to replenish lot supply in this recent expansion,” Inselmann said. “As a result, when you have high demand and limited supply, prices push upward.”

Home sales in Central Texas, including Williamson, Travis and Hays counties, jumped 19 percent last year, according to the Texas Association of Realtors.

Central Texas home prices rose 9 percent from 2012 to 2013, according to the Austin Board of Realtors, and Williamson County homes followed a similar trend, Lankford said. Some areas saw a higher jump, while others saw a lower increase, he said.

State law requires appraisal districts to value property at 100 percent of what the property would sell for as of Jan. 1, Lankford said. Values are reviewed by the state comptroller’s Property Tax Assistance Division for compliance.

The various taxing entities will send out tax bills late this year, and rates could go up, down or stay the same. To collect the same amount as in prior years, he said, rates would have to come down because values increased, Lankford said.

Although rates sometimes are lowered, “it’s more common for taxing units to keep them the same or raise them” because of increased demand on services due to population growth, he said.

In contrast to this year’s double-digit spike, the majority of Williamson County properties declined in value in 2010, 2011 and 2012, Lankford said.

“That trend started to reverse course in 2013 with a majority of properties going up in value, and that trend has continued with the increases seen on the appraisal roll for 2014,” he said. “Williamson’s appraised values are a direct reflection of what buyers and sellers are doing in the marketplace.”

For all properties on the 2014 appraisal roll — both commercial and residential — the total market value went up 9.5 percent, to $51.2 billion from $46.7 billion. About 4,100 new homes and 150 new commercial buildings were built last year, Lankford said.

The total taxable value for commercial and residential properties rose about 8.5 percent, to $41.5 billion from $38.3 billion in 2013, Lankford said. The increase was led mainly by homes and commercial properties selling for more in 2013 than they were in 2012, as well as new growth, he said.

The deadline for filing a protest is June 2, or 30 days after the appraisal district mailed the notice, whichever is later. The Williamson Central Appraisal District mailed its notices April 2 to 175,572 property owners.

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