Want to make make friends and win new business? Help people save money on taxes.
Realtor Chandler Crouch has become something of a local hero for helping legions of Texans cut their property taxes in the last month.
Real estate agents have long helped homeowners challenge property taxes. But Crouch, who owns Fort Worth, Texas-based Chandler Crouch Realtors, has found a way to do this on a massive scale, saving close to 1,000 local homeowners hundreds of thousands of dollars and turning a few into clients.
$500 in tax savings: Like saving $5,000?
Agents can use Crouch’s techniques or new technology, such as TurboAppeal, to burnish their brand and drum up new business.
“Man, I wish I could show you how bonkers these people go when we save them money,” Crouch said. “For some reason, when they save $500 in tax money, it’s like saving $5,000. They just go nuts.”
Boasting what he says is an almost-perfect success rate, Crouch says he’s helped trim property assessments by $21,000 on average, typically saving homeowners at least a few hundred dollars.
The effort has helped him win at least three new listings, gain local media coverage, get 29 endorsements on Nextdoor (up from zero a few months ago) and receive several speaking requests.
“There’s no advertisement on earth that would have this kind of effect,” he said. “This is the biggest ego stroke of my life. I can’t believe it.”
Crouch said he helped one owner lower her assessment from $870,000 to $670,000, meaning she will pay more than $5,000 less than she might have otherwise.
Another borrower who received his help will save more than $2,000. He said he helped her lower her assessment from $400,000 to $324,000.
Crouch knocked $37,000 off Cheri Copeland’s assessment, saving her a few hundred dollars, she said.
“I had several friends that had done it [protested their assessments] but we had just always had too much on our plate, and it seemed like a very daunting task and nerve-racking, and I was scared of messing up,” Copeland said.
Crouch, she added, made it “super easy and painless. He kind of did it all for us.”
Expediting a cumbersome process
Tarant County homeowners began receiving notices of their 2017 property assessments in April, and have until May 31, or 30 days from when they receive a notice, to challenge the assessments, he said.
To protest a property assessment, homeowners must collect evidence that supports a reduction, such as comparable sales and photos and then present the evidence at their local county appraisal office, request a formal hearing, or in some counties, file a protest electronically.
Crouch helped a handful of people do this in the past, but this year he decided to publicly offer the service for free on Facebook. He was trying to execute on a commitment he made to invest in his community, rather than traditional marketing.
Overwhelming demand spurred Crouch to figure out how to streamline the process, post a now-viral explanatory video and host many webinars. He scoops up a borrower’s information through an online form, spits out a recommended counteroffer and then, if the borrower agrees, submits the counteroffer through the Tarrant Appraisal District’s website.
“People weren’t following instructions perfectly in the webinars so they were screwing up their protest and the whole thing was a little bit of a hassle for the homeowner,” Crouch said.
“Then, I discovered if we just got an access code, we could actually do the entire process for them. We got their involvement down to filling out a simple form.”
By reviewing data from local title companies and analyzing both the county’s automated valuation model (AVM) and the results of his protests, Crouch says he’s developed a formula that can be used to come up with the lowest counteroffer that will be approved by the appraisal office’s office online.
“We’ve tested what happens when we go $1 below what we believe the formula to be,” he said. “The result is rejection.”
Crouch said homeowners are notified within two to five days of the reduced assessment after they spend two minutes filling out his request form.
Many agents may not live in a county where homeowners can file assessment appeals online, let alone have the means to crack their assessor’s AVM code.
But agents can still streamline the process by inviting homeowners to fill out a request form and then using comparative market analysis (CMA) software to curate comparable sales that support a lower valuation and invalidate suspect comparable sales that the appraisal office may have used.
Crouch also advises homeowners to provide photos and repair cost quotes from contractors if they make the case for a lower valuation.
Another option for agents looking to help consumers save on property taxes is to use technology such as TurboAppeal, which was recently acquired for at least $10 million by Paradigm Tax Group.
The software automatically collects favorable data including comparable sales, additional information from homeowners, such as photos and videos, and creates a property assessment “appeal package” that can be mailed in or presented in person.
Real estate brokerages can partner with TurboAppeal to offer these packages for $25 a pop to prospective clients and take a cut of purchases.
Property taxes have skyrocketed in Crouch’s market due to rapid home price appreciation, so homeowners really appreciate his help, he said.
“They might be building wealth or net worth, but their income is not necessarily increasing at the same rate as their taxes,” he said.
Everyone has a niche and this Texas Realtor has found his.