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The Travis Central Appraisal District has identified a new market data source that will allow it to reappraise residential properties in 2021 after a legal dispute with the Austin Board of Realtors prevented the district from doing so this year.


The TCAD board unanimously approved a new contract with Carahsoft Technology Corporation and TransUnion, which includes access to a new market data report.

"Given the information, we're optimistic that we'll be able to recalibrate our appraisal models for 2021," TCAD Chief Appraiser Marya Crigler said during a board meeting on Friday.

A hunt for data

Texas is one of 12 non-disclosure states in the U.S., which means real estate sales prices and other market data are not publicly available.

As a result, TCAD had previously relied on home-sales price data provided through third-party vendors. In 2018, the district signed a contract with CoreLogic, which had agreed to sell access to market data collected by the Austin Board of Realtors.

Last year, however, ABoR sent a cease-and-desist letter to TCAD, arguing that its market data was proprietary and preventing the district from accessing it further.

Although appraisal districts across Texas rely on other sources of data, such as sales questionnaires and title company inquiries, Crigler said TCAD was not able to gather enough information to recalibrate its models accurately without the ABoR data.

The district was able to access, on average, 95% of sales data between 2012 and 2019, according to data Crigler shared with the board. But in 2020 it could only access 15%.

In February, Crigler announced TCAD would not re-appraise residential properties in 2020 because it didn't have adequate market data to do so accurately and legally.

This was a big deal in a hot market. City budget documents show the median appraised home value increased more than 6% in 2019, and representatives from eight Travis County School districts said the decision would have negative effects on school funding, which is contingent upon property tax revenue. ABoR disputed this claim.

A new solution

Since then, Crigler told board members she has reached out to property appraisers "from Pennsylvania to California and all parts in between"—as well as some in Canada, the European Union and Asia—to ask about possible solutions.

An assessor's office in Cook County, Illinois, turned Crigler on to a new product from the Carahsoft Technology Corporation and TransUnion. Like the ABoR data, their market data report is proprietary.

After piloting a test of sample data to verify its accuracy over the summer, Crigler recommended that the TCAD board approve a contract with Carahsoft for the report.

"We feel confident that it is good market data that they are providing to us," she said.

The board voted unanimously to do so.

Because the state of Texas has pre-negotiated a contract with Carahsoft that includes this new product, Travis County will be able to purchase the product through the state.

The initial report costs $201,788 and TCAD estimates that subsequent quarterly reports will cost around $25,000 apiece.

This is significantly more expensive than the CoreLogic contract that TCAD had previously relied on, which Crigler said was around $25,000 annually.

But Travis County Tax Assessor-Collector and Voter Registrar Bruce Elfant, who is on the TCAD board, reasoned that the Carahsoft report is "a better product—and it's not a product that will get yanked from us."

Travis County homeowners can expect to receive their 2021 appraisal notices around April.

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