Property Tax Pointers By Jeff Stewart, CCIM, SRES

By Jeff Stewart, CCIM. SRES

Year-end is when we are often reminded of the importance of contemplating income tax strategies. One can usually find an abundance of articles with pointers about how to avoid making a major income tax blunder in December, but what about property taxes?

Many do not realize that ad valorem taxes in Texas are based on the value of the real property on exactly January 1 of the given tax year . . . not January 2 . . . not July 1. If that sounds unimportant, consider the difference of a vacant lot versus a custom $500,000 home. The tax consequence can be considerable. Armed with the knowledge that January 1 is the “judgment day” it may be possible to legitimately minimize the taxes in some situations.

My first suggestion is to take quality, dated photos of any property and improvements on January 1. Irrefutable documentation is critical when protesting tax values at the appraisal district. Second, postpone any major remodel or addition until after January 1. In fact, I would be hesitant to take out building permits until after January 1. If a building project is underway, document the exact stage and financial investment as of January 1. When I was building homes in Hays County, the tax appraiser usually asked me for a printout of my cost sheet for each job as of the first of the year.

The photo documentation may seem silly on a property that has not changed in several years, but things happen. Improvements due to falling trees, hail storms, or perhaps a desire for a new pool might lead to the attention of the appraisal district. It is also important to document major defects before they are repaired . . . a severely cracked slab would be an example. Again, another example of something I would repair in January – not December.

Finally, property owners need to remember to file for their property tax exemptions. New homeowners are eligible to file for their homestead exemption once they have owned the property on January 1. Just a little planning and effort may save thousands in taxes. For more information on property taxes or real estate in general, I can be reached at


Jeff Stewart, CCIM, SRES

Stanberry & Associates, REALTORS