Travis County home values jump 11 percent

Home values in Travis County jumped by an average of 11 percent for 2015, reflecting Austin’s continued strong housing market, which is being driven by population and job growth, new figures show.

The average market value for homes with a homestead exemption rose to $355,312 from $320,032 last year, Marya Crigler, chief appraiser for the Travis Central Appraisal District, said Tuesday.

The average taxable residential value — the market value of homes minus exemptions — rose about 9 percent, to $262,462 from $240,139 last year, Crigler said.

How this year’s appraisals will affect Travis County homeowners’ tax bills remains to be seen. Individual taxing units will use the taxable values to determine the tax rates needed to fund their operations and the amount of taxes property owners will pay. For homeowners with a homestead exemption, state law caps a property’s taxable value increase at 10 percent per year.

Crigler said the role of the appraisal district is to “make sure we have equitable distribution of the property tax burden.”

“Our role is to slice the pie. We don’t make a determination of the type or the total size of the pie,” she said. “We’re doing our best to try to ensure that the system is as fair and as equitable as it can be.”

In 2014, the market and taxable home values in Travis County had risen 12.6 percent and 8 percent, respectively.

The new preliminary values could draw attention to housing affordability issues in Central Texas, where rising home values have prompted calls for reforms to the state’s property appraisal system. One bill working its way through the Legislature seeks to close what critics say is a loophole that results in commercial properties being undervalued.

“The basic economic principles of supply and demand continue to play a large role in increasing home values,” Crigler said. “The Austin economy continues to thrive, fueled by steady population growth.”

On the commercial side, values increased by 35 percent, propelled by more than $2 billion in new construction along with rising rents and occupancies in the region’s robust apartment and office markets.

Crigler said the Travis Central Appraisal District will mail its 398,560 notices to residential and commercial property owners this week.

In Williamson County, where notices went out last week, home values saw a similar jump, rising 12.7 percent, Chief Appraiser Alvin Lankford said. Williamson County’s taxable residential values increased about 9.7 percent.

Eldon Rude, a local real estate market analyst, said he isn’t surprised by Travis County’s 2015 values.

“With strong job growth in the Austin region for the last five years, we continue to have more demand for housing than we do supply,” said Rude, principal of 360 Real Estate Analytics, an Austin-based research and consulting firm. “In a market where the months of supply of resale homes remains below three months for nearly 2½ years, as they have in Austin, prices are going to go up.”

Austin’s inventory of single-family homes has remained consistently low, with only a 2.8-month supply presently. That’s the amount of time it would take to deplete the available housing stock at the current sales pace. A supply of six to seven months is considered a balanced market, tipped neither in buyers’ or sellers’ favor.

For the entire Travis County residential appraisal roll, the average market value rose 16 percent to $105 billion from $90 billion last year, Crigler said. The increase includes $1 billion in new residential construction, she said. The taxable residential roll increased to almost $80 billion from about $69 billion last year, she said.

Market values in areas in and around the urban core were slightly higher than in suburban areas, Crigler said.

Rude said that finding jibes with his data.

“In my 30 years of tracking the real estate market in Austin we have never seen this level of intensity for housing in the city’s core,” Rude said.

Property owners can protest their appraised value with the Appraisal Review Board. About 225,000 homeowners will be eligible to file their protest electronically this year. The deadline for filing a protest is June 1 — or 30 days after the appraisal district mailed the notice — whichever is later.

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