When Highland Park resident Stephen White got his property tax bill this year, he was sure the amount was too high. What he didn’t know was that he was being charged extra for a view of a golf course he can’t even see.
In July, he took his case before a four-member review panel at the Dallas Central Appraisal District (DCAD). White, who works as a Realtor, argued that his appraisal value was not in line with other area sales. After a few minutes of discussion, the DCAD panel representative said he might agree. Buried in the data on White’s home was a note that his property appraisal had been increased by 10 percent because he had a “view amenity of the Dallas Country Club.”
“That’s when I started to get a little upset,” White said. “I have no view.”
White lives on busy Mockingbird Lane directly across from the Dallas Country Club. When nearby traffic signals halt the stream of cars, he can look across the road and see a 14-foot high wall of bushes. Behind them is presumably a golf course, though you wouldn’t know it from his driveway.
According to Chapter 23 of the Texas Property Tax Code, amenities and views are factors an appraiser may consider when calculating property value. However, what exactly constitutes a premium view or amenity is at the appraiser’s sole discretion.
“Our goal is to determine, ‘What is the value?’” DCAD spokesperson Cheryl Jordan said. “It’s not an exact science, and every year stands alone.”
When property owners get their tax bills, they see a new value and a market adjustment percentage. This information is also available online. However, DCAD’s website does not include notes from the appraisers on what may have determined the adjustments. That requires a trip to the DCAD offices on North Stemmons Freeway.
According to DCAD’s records, appraisers added 10 percent to their property value assessments of White’s home, and all the homes on Mockingbird Lane across from the country club, in December 2006. White’s home was built in 1977, and had practically the same view then as it does now.
“It makes no sense at all,” White said.
The Mockingbird Lane residents did not receive a break for being on a busy street, when homes on Preston Road did.
Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones received a 25 percent decrease on his Preston Road home for living on a busy corner.
DCAD’s notes show inconsistencies in other areas as well. Homes on Beverly Lane on the country club’s southern boundary were charged ten percent for a golf view, while homes on Golf Drive at the clubs’ western perimeter have not been assessed a view premium thus far.
Many homes that abut Turtle Creek are charged for the view, including some that can only see it from their alleys.
“When I learned about this I felt like they were trying to hide information from me and that’s just not right,” White said.
Jordan cited privacy concerns as the reason appraiser notes are not available offsite.
“We are not trying to hide anything. All of that information can be accessed right here,” she said.
Jordan added that residents should not worry as much about the details in the notes but rather how their home value compares to other properties in the area. She advises those who have issues to contact DCAD and speak with a representative.
“The bottom line is that we want to get it right,” Jordan said.
As for White, he declined a settlement offer from DCAD and plans to continue fighting his bill.
“I want more people to know about this because they are getting hosed and they don’t even know it.”