COMMENT OF THE DAY: A PROPERTY TAX PROTESTOR’S GUIDE TO HCAD BUILDING GRADES “There is no process to request that a home be considered an economic misimprovement. When a neighborhood has changed to the point that the original homes are no longer the norm, either by new construction or remodeling, HCAD can deem the remaining original homes as econ improvements.
On to grade — Grade is set when the home is constructed. There is usually a discussion between the builder and the appraisal district as to what level of customization is going into the property as it’s being built. Think of a typical Pulte starter-home as a C+. For every level of better materials or customization, the grade will be increased up to a maximum of X+. This is, for the most part, impossible to change on a permanent basis. Especially after the construction is complete. The key here is to get in either during construction or immediately after. It helps if your home is exactly the same as the rest on the block, but for some reason, your grade is higher. Bring in floor plans and show which houses are similar.
On to Condition/Desirability/Utility (CDU) – This is the one you can play with. A home with a reasonable amount of un-repaired deferred maintenance should be in Average condition. In the old days, all new homes were put on at Excellent condition, but HCAD has since changed that policy and puts most new homes on in Average condition. This is the one you need to work on with signed written repair estimates and pictures. Every year. Big stuff — electric, plumbing, foundation, windows, storm damage, etc.
Finally, Level of Remodel — None, partial, extensive, total, new/rebuilt. This causes a great deal of angst to many people, because there is no real written explanation of what each one is, and how long a remodel actually lasts. There are homes from the early 90s in West U that are still being considered New/Rebuilt, and, as such, are being compared to brand new construction. Additionally, HCAD does not know about every remodel — they only started getting the building permits about 6 years ago. So, your neighbor with the spectacular new kitchen who did it under the table may still be listed as having no remodel. Unless you want to bring in pictures of their kitchen from the last BBQ, there’s not much you can do, other than show that yours is in worse shape than HCAD shows. Additionally, many ARB boards and appraisers have different ideas as to what makes a remodel — putting new cabinet doors up in the kitchen? I’ve seen that called a partial remodel. Replacing knob and tube wiring without increasing capacity to avert a possible fire? I’ve seen that called a repair, and not an improvement.” [BrewWench, commenting on How Do You Get on HCAD’s ‘Cheap’ List?] Illustration: Lulu