by: David Pitman
Property values in Texas are up slightly. The State Comptroller's office says the total value of all land and buildings in Texas increased by a little more than 1 percent in 2011, to reach $1.67 trillion. Property values also rose in Harris County last year, but the people who keep track of those values don't expect much, if any, of an increase this year.
According to the Harris County Appraisal District, property values rose $5.5 billion last year to top $276 billion. That's a 2 percent increase, which is a healthier growth rate than the state as a whole.
Jim Robinson is the chief appraiser for HCAD. He says the relatively strong local economy has driven up the value of commercial properties like high-rise office buildings, oil refineries, and chemical plants.
"We have had investors that have been extremely interested in getting into this market, and they have paid some very good prices, some premium prices, in fact, for Class-A office buildings in the county. And that trend is still continuing."
More than half of last year's bump in property values came from the commercial side of the real estate market. Robinson says residential properties didn't contribute much to the increase because of a slowdown in new construction and the rise of foreclosure sales.
"Also, I think the fact that loans became more difficult to obtain. The national crash, that largely was due, I think, to highly speculative lending — that has put somewhat of a damper on the residential market."
Robinson says the dampened residential market will probably result in flat property values for Harris County as a whole this year. HCAD will finish its valuations at the end of April. Property owners will have until the end of May to file a protest. The final property value numbers for 2012 will be certified sometime in August.