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Property tax bills rise with Austin's economic boom

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Property tax notices are in the mail and for the second straight year rates are going up.

You can blame it on the economic boom. According to the Travis County Appraisal District, Austin is the only city in the nation with a double digit job growth rate for the past five years. For property owners, that success has a cost.

Usually the only people who look a little shell shocked at the Appraisal District are property owners. But this year- when new tax values were calculated, Chief Appraiser Marya Crigler admits, even the number crunchers here were stunned.

"How strong our market is was a surprise to us. We didn’t expect it was going to be quite as strong as it has been and to be honest with you even looking at the sales that we see in the first part of 2014 it continues to appreciate,” said Crigler.

Tax values for commercial and residential property in Travis County this year totals $124 billion. That’s a 15 percent increase over the $107 billion amount for 2013. The first of nearly 400,000 notices were mailed out a week ago. According to a new release sent out by Crigler, the notice provides the market value, which is the price a property could sell for, and the appraised value for the property. For tax purposes the taxable value is calculated on the appraised amount minus any exemptions. Home owner, Winston Anderson is still waiting for his notice to arrive.

"About 10 or 15 years ago we went a year or two without having a tax hike but the last few years it’s always been, nickel and dime'n,” said Anderson who has lived in northeast Austin since 1975.

With a Homestead Exemption his annual property tax hike by state law cannot exceed 10 percent. For those home owners who do not have the exemption, it’s not too late to file for one. But even with that cap, Anderson is still worried about the cost of staying.

"My wife and I have talked about selling out and moving somewhere else, but where is that somewhere else?” asked Anderson.

For those who do stay and fight the deadline to challenge a new tax value is June 2. Last year 78,000 protests were filed with the Travis Country Appraisal District. The chances of protesting the tax and winning this year are slim because of the Austin real estate market is hot. According to the Board of Realtors, the volume of home sales in Austin hit a seven year high in March. The demand is outstripping supply and driving up prices."

"It’s not uncommon to see multiple offers on a property, and it’s not uncommon to see those on the day you list your property,” said Board spokesperson Stacy Armijo.

In March, according to the latest report by the Austin Board of Realtors, the median price for a single family home was $231,750; an 11 % increase above last year's rate. Condos and townhomes, while at $225,000 and a bit cheaper than the rate for single family homes, had a 24 percent price increase.

"We don’t think feel like we are in a bubble we feel like we are in a sustainable market but affordability is always a concern,” said Armijo.

Renting only provides a limited relief. According to the March price report, the median price for leases in the metro area was $1,400, five percent more than what renters paid last year.

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