Sienna development

Homes are under construction in the fast-expanding Sienna development. Fort Bend County, like many places across the country, is facing a housing shortage amid unprecedented demand for homes. (Photo by Matt deGrood)

Sugar Land City Councilmember William Ferguson ignited a debate on social media last week when he shared a picture showing the appraised value of his home had increased almost $100,000 over the last 12 months.

His home appraised for about $471,870 in 2022 compared to $385,220 in 2021, according to the post.

“My house is not getting any bigger, but my county appraisal district appears to be out of control,” he wrote.

While a $100,000 increase in 12 months might seem jarring, it appears the elected official’s experience is hardly unique.

In conversation and written reports from the county’s experts on property values, the constant theme was one of a real estate market that was quickly growing, beyond anyone’s wildest imaginings.

The total notice value for residential property in Fort Bend County increased about 31 percent from 2021 to 2022, from about $76.5 billion up to $100.5 billion, according to a report prepared by the Fort Bend County Central Appraisal District.

“The market has gotten quite frankly irrational,” said Jordan Weiss, chief appraiser for the Fort Bend County Central Appraisal District.

The central appraisal district is a subdivision of the state that appraises property for a taxing unit within the boundaries of the district, according to the district’s website. It uses a standard formula for calculating the appraised value of a home.

The median increase for properties with a homestead exemption is about 28 percent, according to the district’s report.

“Some neighborhoods are up about 40 percent, while others are only up about 10 percent,” said Bill Rickert, the Fort Bend County treasurer.

Several factors are contributing to the rapid growth in residential property values, Weiss explained. Those include inflated construction costs, out-of-area relocations into Fort Bend County, corporate home purchases, a historically low supply of homes and more people working from home, he said.

“The dream of a $150,000 or $175,000 starter home continues to evaporate,” Weiss said. “It’s now $250,000 if you’re lucky or, increasingly, $300,000.”

The demand for homes continues to outpace even the record rate of new home construction in Fort Bend County, according to the report.

More than 10,000 new homes are projected to come on the market in 2022, compared to about 9,350 in 2021 – an increase of about 21.35 percent, according to the report.

As quickly as the cost of purchasing property in Fort Bend County has increased on a consumer side, county leaders are struggling to keep pace with the rapid rise in costs as well, Rickert said.

“From the county’s perspective, you’re looking at 8 to 12 percent inflation,” he said. “Yet, we have a cap of 3 ½ percent on the existing tax base and 3 percent growth on the new taxable base. That’s probably a 6 ½ percent growth in revenues, but costs are growing somewhere around 8 to 12 percent.”

The state provides several methods for limiting how much a person’s property tax bill can increase in a one-year period, Rickert said, regardless of how much the appraised value increases during that same period. For instance, the county is currently limited to a maximum 3 ½ percent increase per year without getting voters’ permission, Rickert said.

Texas property owners can protest their appraisal values if they file an appeal by May 15, or no later than 30 days after receiving an appraisal notice. Visit this site to learn more: https://comptroller.texas.gov/taxes/property-tax/protests/faq.php.

(1) comment

Tom Johnson

No mention of a tax rate cut for his constituents in SugarLand, or a call for a school district homestead exemption.

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